Attorney General Merrick Garland reportedly deliberated for weeks whether FBI agents should conduct a raid on Mar-a-Lago to retrieve highly classified documents.
What are the details?
At at press conference last week, Garland confirmed that he personally approved the raid on former President Donald Trump’s south Florida residence.
On Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported that Garland spent weeks debating whether the Justice Department should take such a drastic action. According to the newspaper, the decision to approve the warrant “had been the subject of weeks of meetings between senior Justice Department and FBI officials.”
The WSJ framed Garland’s decision as one of precision and careful deliberation:
Justice Department officials have defended the Mar-a-Lago search as a necessary step approved by Mr. Garland himself. People familiar with the Justice Department’s approach have said a primary goal of the search was to ensure the security of highly sensitive national-security documents after the Trump team didn’t relinquish them and amid concerns that the security of the material at Mar-a-Lago had been put at risk.
However, the timetable also raises questions whether the matter was serious enough to warrant an invasive FBI raid.
If, in fact, Trump retained highly classified documents in a storage room at Mar-a-Lago and an FBI raid was necessary to retrieve the documents, why did the DOJ wait weeks to retrieve them?
Unfortunately, that question will not be answered any time soon. On Monday, the Justice Department insisted the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant — which also contains the probable cause for the search — should remain under government seal.
Still, attorneys like Alan Dershowitz argue that Garland must answer for why he approved a raid when other means apparently existed to retrieve the items from Mar-a-Lago.
“Why didn’t the Justice Department seek to enforce the subpoena it apparently had issued, rather than seek a search warrant? Was this consistent with the ‘standard practice’ Mr. Garland articulated in his statement — ‘to seek less intrusive alternatives to a search’ whenever possible?” Dershowitz wrote in an essay on Monday.
“Why was the matter handled so differently from the prior investigations of Sandy Berger and Hillary Clinton, who were also suspected of mishandling classified material?” he also asked.
“[U]ntil Mr. Garland fully and specifically answers the hard questions about what appears to be unequal application of rules and practices, ‘what about her emails?’ will be a pertinent question.”