Justice Department Calls Trump’s Bluff
This is as close as we get to Garland saying "Eff around, find out!"
This afternoon Attorney General Merrick Garland held an unexpected press conference to address the search of former President Trump’s Mar A Largo property on Monday. Holding the conference broke with the Department of Justice’s practice of not commenting on an unfolding investigation. In his remarks, Garland noted that the reason for the departure was the “substantial” public interest in the matter. He also bluntly stated that the Department would not “stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked.”
Here are the core highlights from the remarks:
- As previously suggested, Carland confirmed that he had personally authorized the warrant to search Mar A Lago.
- That the FBI attempted to avoid turning this into a high profile event. It was the former President’s own actions on social media that made the search public.
- More importantly, Garland announced that the Justice Department had filed with the Southern District of Florida to release the warrant (but not the warrant application) that was issued for the search. Interestingly this petition explicitly allowed for Trump’s legal representatives to move to keep the warrant sealed.
In other news, the New York Times reported earlier today that an anonymous source shared that the Justice Department had attempted to negotiate the return of these documents with Trump’s lawyers for an unspecified period of time via subpoena prior to the decision to seek a warrant.
From my perspective, the Department of Justice has done a masterful job of boxing the Trump legal team into a corner. As previously noted, the Trump legal team could have released the warrant they were given on Monday but chose not to. Now, the only barrier to the release of said warrant will be the same legal team. This moves from the perception that the Government is hiding something to, if they choose to oppose this order, the Trump team will be the ones with something to hide.
If the warrant is released, it will be a short document containing both the types of materials that were being sought and the related alleged crimes that are being investigated. There will be no mention of whom is being accused of those crimes). The Justice Department has also said it approves of the list of the property receipt which will detail everything taken under the warrant.
Some people are erroneously reporting on social media (and perhaps elsewhere) that the far more substantive warrant application will also be released or made available to the Trump legal team. That is incorrect according to former Federal Prosecutor Renato Mariotti.
Also of note, the Biden Administration, ahead of the press conference commented that they were not consulted about the decision to address the nation. This signals the potential return of a healthy firewall between the Department of Justice and the Oval Office.
[Update 8/12 AM ET] Politico is reporting that last night President Trump issued the following statement approving the release of the warrant:
“Not only will I not oppose the release of documents related to the unAmerican, unwarranted, and unnecessary raid and break-in of my home in Palm Beach, Florida, Mar-a-Lago, I am going a step further by ENCOURAGING the immediate release of those documents”
The next step would be for the former president’s legal team to submit this request to the court. Alternatively, they can do nothing and let the request run its course without opposition. It is also not outside the realm of possibility that the Trump legal team will still oppose the release. Only time will tell.
Also under the “only time will tell” category is what exactly the warrant will look like and what, if anything, might be redacted at the time of release.
ps. Great headline Politico… clearly great minds think alike!
[Update 8/12 PM ET] Trump’s attorneys have filed that they do not object to the release of the warrant. Earlier today, Breitbart and the Wall Street Journal confirmed they had been provided a copy of the warrant from unknown sources. The reports link the warrant to an investigation around three offenses (note that this doesn’t indicate who would be charged with said offenses):
- 18 USC 2071 — Concealment, removal or mutilation of defense information
- 18 USC 793 — Gathering, transmitting or losing of defense information
- 18 USC 1519 — Destruction, alteration or falsification of records in Federal investigations