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A few weeks ago, liberals in media and politics were loudly complaining that the Justice Department was far too passive in its investigation of Donald Trump.
Why can’t Merrick Garland be more aggressive, they demanded, and put the former president behind bars? In doing so, they echoed tactics they vehemently decried when Trump was president and openly pressured two attorneys general to go after his political enemies.
Well, that has changed.
Now liberals are thrilled that a team of FBI agents raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. And it is media and political conservatives who are outraged that, in a move no doubt endorsed by Garland, the office has taken this unprecedented action against a former president.
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But keep in mind that the FBI had to get a judge to approve a search warrant with a detailed list of what is being sought and why it is warranted by the investigation. We haven’t seen that yet, but that’s how the criminal justice system works.
Still, I think it was a major misstep by Garland, but not for the reason you might think. More on that in a moment.
When the story broke Tuesday night, Donald Trump was the sole source of information. Justice is not disclosing how it conducts criminal investigations which are supposed to be secret, although ministry officials knew it would be the mother of all bombs and would have to address it.
When Trump defenders say such a raid never targeted a former president, look at the flip side. No former president played at least a part in a riot rooted in the idea – which Trump continues to proclaim to this day – that the election was “stolen” from him, despite the lack of evidence in all those lawsuits and an investigation by its own DOJ, led by Bill Barr, which led to the AG’s departure.
Major newspapers quoted a few lines from Trump’s social truth statement, such as “after working and cooperating with the appropriate government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was neither necessary nor appropriate” and that “a such aggression could only take place in broken Third World countries.”
But they chose not to mention his more incendiary attacks, which are worth looking at.
“This is prosecutorial misconduct, the militarization of the justice system, and an attack by hard-left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for president in 2024.”
First, rather than a case of prosecutorial misconduct, it was a judge-approved legal search warrant, which Trump never mentions. Second, the now demonized FBI happens to be run by Trump’s own proxy, Chris Wray.
“They even broke into my safe!… What’s the difference between that and Watergate…”
Okay, Watergate was run against the DNC headquarters in a Washington hotel by Cuban burglars who turned out to have been hired by Richard Nixon’s re-election committee. It was a duly authorized raid by government agents.
There was a strange role reversal between the parties. For decades, Republicans have been the party of law and order, supporting cops, prosecutors, sheriffs and G-men, while Democrats, fairly or unfairly, have been portrayed as soft on the crime. Now you have top Republicans destroying federal law enforcement, with Marjorie Taylor Greene calling to “defund the FBI.”
And here is the hypocrisy watch: everyone would change their position in the blink of an eye if it was a raid on, say, Barack Obama’s house, the Democrats denouncing an out-of-control FBI and the Republicans claiming that justice was finally served. In fact, we saw it during the FBI’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s private email server, when Democrats attacked Jim Comey and the GOP went nuts about his actions.
But Trump—while providing no evidence that “radical left Democrats” have taken control of the judiciary, and that Biden has stubbornly taken a hands-off approach—is right to point to Hillary. Because we know from Trump’s account and media quoting DOJ “sources” that the office ended up seizing several boxes and documents.
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This means that the purpose of the raid was limited to Trump taking documents, especially classified documents, to Florida rather than turning them over to the National Archives.
It looks like a criminal offence. But others in the past got off with a slap on the wrist. Sandy Berger, Obama’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor seven years ago to smuggling classified documents from government archives. Former CIA chief John Deutch had his security clearance suspended in 1999 after his agency concluded he mishandled classified documents on his home computer.
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And that’s my problem with Garland. It’s a small ball. It’s getting Al Capone on tax evasion. I don’t think it was worth the political uproar and the bombings he must have experienced were inevitable. I can’t imagine Garland bringing a case based solely on classified documents. It’s a secondary show.
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So what does he do? Perhaps pointing out that he is aggressively investigating while ultimately declining to bring criminal charges against Trump. Unless Garland has an extremely strong case involving the former president and the Capitol riot, he should conclude that it’s not worth pressing charges, throwing the country into turmoil and convincing his supporters that he is indeed a political victim – which would play out as Trump declares his candidacy against the Garland boss.
Then, of course, the Liberals and Democrats in the media would come back to slamming Merrick Garland for snapping at the president they’ve wanted for six years to see charged and convicted.