Was the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search legal? Only the Docs know
A rift has emerged at the heart of American political life following the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s residence in South Florida. An attorney general renowned for his prudence and for restoring standards has taken bold and unusual steps. Merrick Garland, a former judge appointed by former President Obama to serve on the US Supreme Court, became Mr. Hyde if the FBI was used as a tool of political harassment, as some Republicans claim without providing any evidence .
In some cases, Republicans have gone even further. What more is there, one might ask, besides claims to revitalize the Third Reich? Yes, at least in terms of application. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is expected to become the next Speaker of the House of Representatives, has vowed to use his position to harass Garland regardless of the search results.
McCarthy, who actually saw nothing of the rationale for the FBI action that was given the green light by a federal judge, said, “I’ve seen enough. He went on to threaten the militarized politicization of congressional oversight, saying, “The Department of Justice has reached an untenable state of militarized politicization. Attorney General Garland, save your paperwork and clean up your calendar,” he then shouted with all the passion a Trump-hungry sycophant is capable of.
McCarthy has sworn allegiance to a disgraced, twice-deposed authoritarian who attempted a coup and now rages against his fate in gold-plated, palm-shaded grandeur when not delivering long Castro speeches in front of adoring crowds who are used to engaging politically. violence at his request.
It’s likely that Trump’s utter disregard for the regulations governing the retention of presidential documents offends a rule-follower like Garland.
Documents sent or received by the president as well as those shared among staff members were all covered by the Presidential Archives Act. An accurate historical record had to be preserved by this extensive network. Moreover, it had the effect of promoting a structured and deliberate process.
However, enforcement was somewhat dependent on the standards maintained and enforced by the President and his senior staff. The fact that a small team was tasked with reassembling documents that the president had “rescued” by tearing them up and throwing them on the ground reveals how Trump felt about the proceedings.
A president who has brazenly violated constitutional rules should not be expected to abide by strict document retention rules. Therefore, everything can be contained in the mass of papers that the FBI collected from Trump’s basement.
The property receipt for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence reveals that some of the documents recovered were labeled as “Top Secret/SCI”, which is one of the highest classification levels. The warrant receipt did not specify the nature of these top-secret papers, but it did indicate that only one set, labeled “Top Secret/SCI”, had been confiscated by federal authorities.
According to the search warrant, the Justice Department is looking at three federal offenses as part of its investigation: violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and criminal handling of government records. The inclusion of crimes shows that the Department of Justice has a basis to investigate them while conducting the search for evidence. Currently, no one is facing criminal charges because of these papers.
However, what they contain is really important. It is also an accepted practice to protect former presidents from unwarranted legal harassment. If the third draft of Turkey’s annual pardon speech or classified information about a coup in Ruritania were to be found in documents obtained by the FBI, Trump would be wrong and Garland would be right.
Additionally, research that is formally supported by the need to secure presidential records may serve other legal purposes, such as aiding other FBI investigations. Legality would allow it. Even so, the stakes would be very high. If it was a fishing trip and the goal was to uncover information about, say, the attack on the Capitol on January 6, the lack of fish would indicate that the trip was reckless. A pure bet is a poor basis for a new act.
How did the FBI know that the information it would likely uncover during a search would be relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation? Trump White House document-handling procedures that showed flaws? From a source inside the Trump White House? Someone from Mar-a-Lago who knows what’s in the boxes?
Based on everything we know about Garland, I’d bet his decision was driven by the strong possibility of uncovering evidence that would be legally damaging. It’s also possible that he’s playing more than we thought.
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