Merrick Garland says little, but sets the record straight on Trump ‘raid’
Garland claps back against days of fevered criticism claiming that the search was part of a politically motivated scheme to discredit the former president.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said little during Thursday’s news conference, held three days after FBI agents removed boxes of federal documents from former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate.
But if you listen closely, Garland spoke volumes.
“The [Justice] department does not take such a decision lightly,” Garland said of Monday evening’s search. “Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search, and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken.”
Put plainly, teams of federal agents earlier this week executed a legal search, signed off on by a federal magistrate judge. But they wouldn’t have had to take that extraordinary step had Trump simply given them what they’d been asking for — for months — in the first place.
Garland’s comment claps back against days of fevered criticism and misinformation from Trump, the GOP and the right wing, all claiming that the extraordinary search was part of a politically motivated scheme to publicly target and discredit the former president.
And we’re not talking about a former president who absconded with a few trinkets or letters from school children collected during his term.
The boxes of documents Trump was ordered to return last February contained information that was classified, Garland said then.
Every American who cares about the rule of law should hope that Garland’s latest actions, and the search itself, are the first steps in finally holding Trump accountable.
‘We’re taking what you haven’t returned’
The feds believe Trump failed to return several boxes of likely classified material improperly taken from the White House when his term ended in 2021, in possible violation of the Presidential Records Act.
The Justice Department and the National Archives and Records Administration sought the items for months, and some boxes were given back to the government earlier this year.
But allegedly not all. A subpoena for the remaining items was then issued, according to the Washington Post.
The concern, sources told the Post, is that the classified documents Trump took from the White House and stashed away at Mar-a-Lago are related to national security.
Why Trump held back on returning the sensitive items, particularly in the face of a subpoena, is anyone’s guess.
Luckily, the Justice Department isn’t in the guessing business when it comes to Trump and the documents. The agency got a judge to sign off on a warrant allowing them to enter Mar-a-Lago and get back what it believes was taken.
And even that could’ve been done quietly. But Trump himself blabbed it out: “My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” he said in a statement Monday evening.
Trump got what he wanted out of it. While supporters dressed in Trump paraphernalia flocked to the streets outside Mar-A-Lago, former Vice President Mike Pence — the man pro-Trump protestors wanted to hang during the Jan. 6, 2021 siege on the U.S. Capitol — joined right-wing critics of the search.
“[Monday’s] action undermines public confidence in our system of justice and Attorney General Garland must give a full accounting to the American people as to why this action was taken and he must do so immediately,” Pence tweeted.
But as Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University, told NPR, the reason behind the search is clear enough.
“The Justice Department is saying, as I read this, ‘We’re fed up. We don’t trust you to be responsive. You’re playing games with us, and we’re going in and we’re taking what you haven’t returned, that you promised to return,’” he said.
Search warrant to be unsealed?
In his news conference, Garland said the Justice Department has asked a judge from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida to unseal the search warrant served at Trump’s residence, and also a redacted property receipt detailing what was taken. Garland also said that he personally approved seeking a judge’s permission for the search, and also took aim at overheated critics from the “law and order” party who have slammed the FBI and the DOJ since the search.
Trump has until Friday afternoon to object to Garland’s motion, or not.
The public deserves to see the warrant, given how much noise — and in some cases, threats — Trump and his supporters have made over it.
And an objection from Trump would potentially throw him back on his heels, in the court of public opinion at least. He wanted the search publicized, so why turn silent now?
Because releasing the warrant might very well show there was no FBI or Justice Department overreach in obtaining the documents — nor any proof that the agents planted evidence during the search, as Trump and his toadies ludicrously claimed.
It’s only Trump, once again, being a bad actor who uses bombast, threat and deception to get his way, while throwing red meat to the rabble and political opportunists who cover for him.
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