Matt Whitaker on August 17, 2022
The attorney general’s directive to the FBI to raid former President Donald J. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last week was an unprecedented and aggressive action that has understandably raised concerns over the ongoing appearance of a politicized justice system.
Questions surrounding the decision-making process undertaken by the leadership of the FBI and Department of Justice (DOJ) to execute a search warrant against a former president — and political adversary of the current party in power — make the DOJ’s decision not to release the underlying affidavit supporting the raid even more suspect. The American people deserve answers.
The expectation is that the rule of law will be enforced evenly and consistently, regardless of political status or partisan affiliation. In recent years, the DOJ has eroded that bedrock principle, pursuing investigations that appeared to target political and ideological adversaries while insulating their political allies from scrutiny.
During the concluding months of the 2016 campaign, and then deep into his presidency, President Trump was constantly being harassed by a 22-month long, $32 million investigation regarding alleged campaign collusion with Russia, an investigation based on dubious evidence and one that ultimately found insufficient evidence that anyone on the former president’s campaign engaged in collusion.
The public revelation of the Russia collusion investigation cast a cloud over the 2016 election and sowed doubts over the integrity of the soon-to-be Commander in Chief. The further revelation that much of the evidence for the FBI’s investigation was derived from opposition research paid for by the Hillary Clinton campaign only made the investigation seem all the more unsavory.
At the same time, Secretary Clinton’s notorious private server containing classified information generated little more than a verbal rebuke by then-FBI Director James Comey, who determined that while the FBI “did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.”
Objective observers can understandably question if these similar investigations were handled equitably.
As egregious as these examples are, they were merely a prelude to last week’s search of Mar-a-Lago. Attorney General Merrick Garland supposedly agrees that the DOJ’s policy is to use the least intrusive methods to obtain evidence, which includes negotiating with lawyers or issuing subpoenas. In this case, the FBI did the exact opposite.
The search of President Trump’s private residence and personal belongings, conducted without an attorney present, was ostensibly in pursuit of 11 sets of potentially classified documents. Since the former president’s legal team asserts that it had been cooperating with the FBI for months, the leap to executing a high-profile search warrant, without evidence pointing to the presence of exigent circumstances, begs the question of timing and if political considerations played a role in the decision.
To better understand the calculus behind the DOJ’s decision, it is necessary to see the affidavit outlining the probable cause and rationale for the search. The DOJ has thus far refused to release the document, despite President Trump calling for the “immediate release of the completely unredacted affidavit.” A court hearing on releasing the affidavit is scheduled for August 18.
The need for investigative integrity is understandable, and safeguards can be placed to ensure that sensitive information is not compromised, but the erosion of public trust in the institutions of our justice system threatens to undermine the rule of law itself further. For this reason alone, the DOJ should heed the public call for transparency and publicly explain its actions.
Matt Whitaker is the co-Chairman of the Center for Law and Justice at the America First Policy Institute and previously served as the Acting Attorney General of the United States.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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