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A few weeks ago, liberals in the media and politics were loudly complaining that the Justice Department was too passive in its investigation of Donald Trump.
Why shouldn’t Merrick Garland be more aggressive, he insisted, and put the former president behind bars? In doing so, he echoed the tactics he vehemently condemned during Trump’s presidency and openly urged two attorneys general to go after their political enemies.
Well, that has changed.
Now liberals are thrilled that a team of FBI agents raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. And conservatives in the media and politics were outraged that the bureau had taken this unprecedented step against a former president, in a move that Garland undoubtedly approved.
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But keep in mind that the FBI had to get a judge to approve the search warrant, along with a detailed list of what was being sought and why the investigation warranted it. We haven’t seen it yet, but that’s how the criminal justice system works.
Still, I think this is Garland’s major misstep, but not for the reason you might think. More on that in a moment.
When the story broke Tuesday night, Donald Trump was the only source of information. Justice won’t reveal how it conducts criminal investigations, which are supposed to be secret, although department officials knew it was the mother of all bombshells and needed to be addressed.
While Trump’s defenders say such attacks are not aimed at the former president, look at the flip side. Despite the lack of evidence in all those lawsuits and their investigation, no former president played the least role in the uproar rooted in the idea that the election was “stolen” from him — Trump is still proclaiming today — that led to the departure of his own DOJ, AG led by Bill Barr.
Major newspapers quoted a couple of lines from Trump’s Truth Social statement, such as “After working and cooperating with relevant government agencies, this unannounced attack on my home was neither necessary nor appropriate,” and “Such an attack could only happen in a broken, third-world country.”
But he chose not to mention his more inflammatory attacks, which are worth examining.
“This is an attack on prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the justice system, and radical left Democrats who desperately do not want me to run for president in 2024.”
First, rather than a case of prosecutorial misconduct, this was a legal search warrant approved by a judge, which Trump never mentions. Second, the now demonized FBI is run by Trump’s own appointee, Chris Wray.
“They broke into my safe!… What’s the difference between this and Watergate…”
Well, Watergate was carried out against the DNC headquarters in a Washington hotel by Cuban thugs hired by Richard Nixon’s re-election committee. This is a properly authorized attack by government agents.
There is a strange role reversal between the parties. For decades, Republicans were the party of law and order, supporting police, prosecutors, sheriffs and G-men, while Democrats were, rightly or wrongly, painted as soft on crime. Now you have top Republicans ripping off federal law enforcement, with Marjorie Taylor Green calling for “defunding the FBI.”
And here comes the hypocritical view: Everyone would change their positions in a heartbeat if it were an attack on Barack Obama’s home, with Democrats decrying an out-of-control FBI and Republicans saying justice will finally be done. Indeed, we saw this during the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, when Democrats attacked Jim Comey and the GOP went ballistic about his actions.
But Trump, while providing no evidence that “radical left Democrats” have taken over the justice, and Biden has a point in bringing in Hillary. We know the bureau seized multiple boxes and documents from Trump’s account and from the media citing DOJ “sources.”
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That means the attack’s focus was limited to taking Trump documents, particularly classified documents, to Florida, rather than turning them over to the National Archives.
It has the features of a criminal offence. But others have gotten away with a slap on the wrist in the past. Sandy Berger, Obama’s former national security adviser, pleaded guilty seven years ago to smuggling classified papers from a government archive. Former CIA chief John Deutsch had his security clearance suspended in 1999 after his agency concluded that he had improperly handled classified documents on his home computer.
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And this is my problem with Garland. It is a small ball. It’s getting Al Capone on tax evasion. I don’t think it’s worth the political uproar and I think the attacks they know are inevitable. I can’t imagine Garland bringing a case based solely on some classified documents. It’s a sideshow.
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So what is he doing? Refusal to file criminal charges against Trump could signal an aggressive investigation. Unless Garland had a very strong case involving the former president and the Capitol riots, he should have concluded that it was not worth filing charges, throwing the country into turmoil and convincing his supporters that he was indeed a political victim. Trump announced his candidacy against Garland’s head.
Then, of course, media liberals and Democrats come back to condemn Merrick Garland, who has wanted the president impeached and convicted for six years.