Some Justice Department officials chafe at silence on Mar-a-Lago search
Some Justice Department officials believe the department should issue a public statement about the unprecedented raid of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home and club, a view that so far has not changed the silence of the summit.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has strictly limited the Justice Department’s public statements about the investigations, particularly the sprawling January 6 criminal investigation and especially anything involving the former president.
Monday’s FBI raid of Trump’s property in Mar-a-Lago, linked to a criminal investigation into the handling of classified information, was partly designed to avoid a show, according to people briefed on the matter. The agents appeared around 10 a.m. ET in plainclothes, not early in the morning, and wearing the FBI logo jackets commonly seen during searches. Trump was in New York at the time.
It became public knowledge when Trump released a public statement near the end of the hours-long search, describing it as a « siege. »
Garland has repeatedly explained why he says so little about ongoing investigations, citing not only the department’s general policy of not commenting, but also as part of a strategy to protect the investigation by not leaving let potential targets know what the department is doing. He also cited the importance of protecting the rights of people who are not yet charged with crimes to prevent them from being tried in the public sphere before the Ministry of Justice files a complaint.
Some justice and FBI officials, however, have argued internally that the silence is detrimental to departmental and public interests, in part because Trump and his allies filled the void.
The department on Wednesday dodged questions about Trump’s search by releasing a videotaped statement about a major criminal case, accusing an Iranian military official of attempting to assassinate John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser. .
The video statement from Matt Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security, and Larissa Knapp, executive deputy director of the FBI’s national security branch, was unusual.
Such a high-profile case would normally be the subject of a press conference by the Attorney General. But having a press conference this week would likely be dominated by questions about Mar-a-Lago.
It is not uncommon for the FBI and US attorneys to issue public statements about search warrants, confirming at a minimum that investigators were conducting court-authorized searches when their presence is clearly seen by members of the public or filmed.
Recently, they did so after the public noticed an FBI raid on the home of Democratic Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar and after former Justice Department attorney Jeffrey Clark publicly complained about the search of his home.
In this case, the only comment came from the FBI Agent Association, which indirectly defended the agents’ conduct without referring to the Mar a Lago search.
« FBI Special Agents carry out their investigative duties with integrity and professionalism, and remain focused on upholding the law and the Constitution, » said Brian O’Hare, president of the FBI Agents Association. « As part of this process, all search warrants executed by special agents are issued by a federal district court or magistrates, must meet detailed and clear rules of procedure, and are the product of collaboration and ‘consultation with relevant Department of Justice attorneys.’
On Wednesday, FBI Director Chris Wray in Omaha was asked about Trump’s accusation that the agency may have filed evidence in the search and about threats against agents.
« I’m sure you can understand that it’s not something I can talk about, so I’m referring you to the department, » said Wray, a 2018 Trump appointee.
« On the issue of threats, I will say that I am always concerned about violence and threats of violence against law enforcement, » he said. order, inciting the men and women of the FBI, like any law enforcement agency, is deplorable and dangerous.