Several congressional Republicans on Sunday called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to justify the search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort last week, following Garland’s announcement that he “personally approved” the decision to seek a search warrant for government documents at the resort and moved to unseal the warrant, absent objections from Trump.
Prior to Garland’s announcement, some of Trump’s congressional allies knocked the DOJ for taking a few days after the search to request the release of the warrant — a move that Trump could have done himself.
After Garland fulfilled congressional Republicans’ demands to seek a release of the search warrant, which federal judge Bruce Reinhart granted on Friday, the goalposts appear to have shifted again.
During cable news appearances on Sunday, Hill Republicans said that Garland’s fulfillment of GOP requests to unseal the warrant is not enough — they now demand justification for the search of Mar-a-Lago in the first place even after Garland made clear in his announcement that Trump chose to disclose the existence of the searches, and that the former president possesses a copy of the search warrant himself.
Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, told CNN that he believes Garland has “a lot of questions to answer.” Turner cast doubt on court records that were unsealed on Friday, which revealed that the FBI seized 11 sets of classified documents, some of which were indicated to be top secret, secret and confidential, and top secret/sensitive compartmented information (TS/SCI).
“One is whether or not the raid itself was justified. We have this list from the FBI, but we don’t have conclusive as to whether or not this actually is classified material and whether or not it rises to the level the highest classified material,” Turner said.
Turner characterized the search as politicized move led by the DOJ.
“We don’t know if they rise to the level of being a national security threat,” Turner said, referring to the documents seized by the FBI during the search at Mar-a-Lago. “But the fact is that you have here the attorney general, who is going after President Biden’s political rival.”
Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) similarly griped that he believes the DOJ needs to “lay out their case” for the Mar-a-Lago search during an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I’m not one of the individuals out there that says that, you know, ‘immediately attack the FBI or the Justice Department,’” Rounds said. “I think this is very important that you provide them with the opportunity to lay out their case. But I think it’s very important long-term for the Justice Department — now that they’ve done this — that they show that this was not just a fishing expedition.”
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, also called for an “unprecedented justification” for the search that he deems was an “unprecedented action.”
“That remains an open question, and we know exactly where to look. And that is the affidavit of probable cause, the one document that remains under seal,” Fitzpatrick said during an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “So because we don’t have that information, I’ve encouraged all my colleagues on the left and the right to reserve judgment and not get ahead of yourself because we don’t know what that document contains. It’s gonna to answer a lot of questions.”
On Sunday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated that Garland and the DOJ acted independently in the department’s move to search Trump’s resort. Jean-Pierre also made clear that President Biden has yet to be briefed on the FBI’s probe.
“We’ve learned about this the same way the American people have learned about this,” Jean-Pierre told ABC’s “This Week.”