Analyse: Pretty soon we will learn who is telling the truth
It was all over and done with rather quickly, so it was easy to miss.
But in announcing on Thursday that the Department of Justice had asked a court to unseal the warrant given to the FBI to raid Mar-a-Lago, Attorney General Merrick Garland also did something else – he called Donald Trumps bluff.
“The property receipt is a document that federal law requires law enforcement agents to leave with the property owner,” Garland said, speaking at the Department of Justice in Washington DC.
“The Department filed the motion to make public the warrant and receipt, in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, some of the surrounding circumstances, and the substantial public interest in this matter.”
Or to put it another way, either put up or shut up, Mr. Trump.
Since the former president announced that his “beautiful” property south of Palm Beach had been raided by dozens of agents on Monday, Trump and his supporters have sought to portray the episode as an example of stark government overreach.
How could agents storm into the home of a former president just to recover some documents he may have taken from the White House when he left in Jan 2021 and the National Archive had been seeking, his friends have been asking on Fox News. If they can do it to a former president, they can certainly do it to you and me.
A fact often missing from the story was that the DoJ, in an operation we now know was approved by Garland himself, had obtained a warrant from a Florida judge that detailed what they hoped to find. A copy of the warrant has been in the hands of Trump’s lawyers since Monday, but they have chosen not to release it.
The reasons for such a decision can only be speculation, but it it turns out that the documents being sought were not only classified, but were of interest to national security officials, then it might he harder for Trump to claim agents were breaking into his safe simply to search for a draft plan of his Infrastructure Week plan, or some other policy document he had hung on to.
It even makes it harder to think they even came in search of the so-called “love letters” Kim Jung-un had sent to Trump, items that are not by law his personal property but rather that of the nation.
Such letters ought to be back in the National Archives, but the suggestion has been they would not have come looking for something in such manner had it not been important. Remember, a counter-terrorism official had previously visited Mar-a-Lago as part of the documents investigation, and Trump had been previously sent a subpoena, another detail revealed on Tuesday.
Garland, 69, who spent more than 20 years as a judge and might have ended up on the Supreme Court but for the antics of Mitch McConnell, looked sober and calm. His dark suit and navy tie looked lawerly, his words were measured.
“First, I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter. Sekund, the department does not take such decision lightly," han sa.
“Where possible in a standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search and to narrowly scope any search that has undertaken.”
He also wanted to protect the integrity of the FBI, an agency whose offices in Ohio were attacked by a gunman på torsdag, and which has been verbally attacked by Republicans all well.
“The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are dedicated, patriotic public servants. Every day they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights," han sa. “They do so at great personal sacrifice and risk to themselves. I am honoured to work alongside them.”
Garland spoke for a little under six minutes. As he left the podium, it appeared he was going to respond to a question, but quickly thought better of it and left the room.
Trump can try and get ahead of the story by releasing the warrant and revealing what the Feds were after. But let’s not bank on it.
He responded by again insisting he was trying to help. “My attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully, and very good relationships had been established. The government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it,” he said in a statment.
It is far more likely the information will be ordered released by a judge, in a manner consistent with the law.
Either way, soon enough we will know what the agents were after and who is telling the truth – Merrick Garland or Donald Trump.