August 11, 2022 | Reading Time: 2 minutes

News brief: Garland speaks

He said he signed off on the search of Mar-o-Lago.

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US Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the public for the first time since federal agents conducted a lawful search of the former president’s home to retrieve government documents.

The news in brief? One, that the Justice Department has asked a federal judge to unseal the search warrant as well as a list of property seized. Two, that Garland personally signed off on the operation.

Garland reminded us that Donald Trump has a copy of the warrant and that Trump himself announced that a search had taken place. Garland pointedly said that the Justice Department did not, and does not, operate in the public eye for reasons of ethics and federal law.

Before Garland’s address, the Times reported that Trump had been issued a subpoena in June, but that he ignored it. Sources “have said that Mr. Trump resisted returning property that belonged to the government, despite being told that he needed to,” the Times said.

And some “Republicans have been warned by allies of Mr. Trump not to continue to be aggressive in criticizing the Justice Department and the F.B.I. over the matter because it is possible that more damaging information related to the search will become public.”

Garland didn’t say this, but the implication was clear: the breathless campaign to smear Justice and the FBI, and to accuse federal agents of “going rogue,” as US Rep. Steve Scalise said, will not be tolerated. 

The GOP wants us to believe Garland is politically compromised in order to undermine the search’s legitimacy. But, as I said Tuesday, politics won’t compromise Garland. It will make him more careful.

None of this is a defense of Merrick Garland or the Department of Justice. An attorney general can be political. See former AG Bill Barr. 

The FBI can be political. See former Director James Comey. Let’s not fool ourselves into believing the myth of political neutrality in justice. 

But it’s because it’s political that we can have confidence in this new phase of the former president’s legal woes. I can’t – and I’m sure you can’t – imagine Merrick Garland signing off on this search, which he must have done given the demands of his recent policy memo, if he did not know that the case against Trump, whatever it is, is airtight. 

Politics is making Garland exceptionally careful. 

That’s the best way to honor American exceptionalism.

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Thanks! –JS

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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