Attorney General Merrick Garland filed papers in federal court that opposed former President Donald Trump’s request for the appointment of a Special Master to review documents seized by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago. Here are four points to bear in mind, as you consider Garland’s rather feeble filing.
The DOJ Photo Was Gratuitous & Prejudicial
Garland’s attachment of the now inflammatory photo of supposed classified documents on the floor was gratuitous and prejudicial. It demonstrates how ruthless and malignant Merrick Garland has become. There was no need for a photo because the contents of the boxes were specifically described. What was the point of a staged picture except to spoon feed it to a hungry Trump-hating media? Including the framed Time Magazine photos placed nearby was meant to mock Trump. The federal judge should dress down Garland and his prosecutors for such prejudicial antics.
DOJ’s Arguments Were Anemic
Garland presented one of the weakest arguments I’ve ever read. Claiming Trump had no standing? The documents in dispute were in his home from which the FBI seized them. Garland admitted they took some records they were not entitled to have. Under the law, that automatically gives Trump standing to file a motion for a special master to review and segregate them. Anytime you’re the target of a search and seizure, you have a constitutional right to challenge it under the 4th Amendment and to ask for a special master. By making such a silly argument, Garland loses credibility.
Garland’s Obstruction Claim Is Absurd
Obstruction requires proof that a person act “corruptly” to influence a legal investigation. It means “acting with an improper purpose.” Under the law, consciousness of wrongdoing is required. The U.S. Supreme Court defined it as acting with an “immoral, depraved, or evil” intent. There is no evidence of that. If Trump believed he had a right of access and possession under the Presidential Records act, then he harbored no “corrupt” intent and obstructed nothing.
Garland also contradicted himself. He claims that “government records were likely removed” from the storage room, but then admits the government was never permitted to look at the documents in the room to begin with. So, how do they know that government records were removed? If they can somehow prove that records were removed, were they personal or government? They don’t know. They’re guessing.
To Charge Trump, Criminal Intent Is Required
Garland cites three criminal statutes in his warrant. All of them require a showing of intent to break the law. They use the terms “knowingly” or “deliberately” or “willingly.” What evidence does the government have of intent? Sloppy or negligent handling of documents is not enough. Again, if Trump thought he was entitled to the presidential papers, there’s no criminal intent. The same is true of classified documents if he believed he had validly declassified them.
Finally, Trump’s lawyer allegedly signed a statement representing that all classified materials had been returned. But it was signed “on information and belief.” Being wrong or mistaken isn’t a crime if it was a “good faith” belief. Regardless, Trump is not vicariously culpable for the acts of others.