Opinion | The Justice Department Should Be More Transparent About the Mar-a-Lago Raid

Some lawyers have also suggested to me in recent days that the public will get greater insight into the department’s work investigating Mr. Trump if (or perhaps when) prosecutors start filing charges that more directly implicate him. But it is possible that in some areas, the federal government will never charge anyone, perhaps because it considers the matter closed or because it opted to cede the investigation to a local prosecutor. If that is what happened, the public deserves to know in order to assess both the performance of the Justice Department and the extent to which federal law enforcement officials have reviewed Mr. Trump’s conduct.

Furthermore, the department’s fully ceding ground here could create a void easily filled with inaccurate information and politically motivated speculation. About the Mueller investigation and impeachment proceedings, Mr. Trump made deeply misleading public comments on social media, in public appearances and in interviews, and allies and surrogates echoed his dubious claims and cast him as a political martyr suffering at the hands of crazed opponents. The claims were often tenuous or transparently false, but they were effective in persuading a significant bloc of Americans to discount the findings of the investigations.

On Monday, Mr. Trump’s statement about the search at Mar-a-Lago, which fueled much of the political firestorm, was at best extremely tendentious. He claimed, for instance, that his home was “currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” when in fact, the agents were conducting an orderly, court-authorized search of his home. Mr. Trump also complained about “prosecutorial misconduct,” “the weaponization of the justice system” and “an attack by radical left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for president in 2024,” but he did not explain that the federal officials had apparently been dealing for months with his representatives about whether classified information was being stored at Mar-a-Lago, including through an in-person meeting there that Mr. Trump himself dropped in on.

Since Mr. Trump is not publicly disclosing information that is unhelpful to him and with the media breathlessly hyping the implications of the Mar-a-Lago search, the public may struggle to separate fact from fiction or know what information it can trust. Mr. Trump’s supporters have decried the supposedly unwarranted, heavy-handed tactics of the department, portraying him as the victim of a political witch hunt at the hands of the opposing party. And much of the liberal legal commentary on Mr. Trump that you’ll find on the cable news networks turned out to be wrong before.

Nothing the attorney general can say will placate Mr. Trump or his most ardent supporters, who will likely criticize Mr. Garland for saying too little or too much, regardless of what he does. But Mr. Garland’s proper audience is not Mr. Trump or the Republicans on Capitol Hill but the American people, particularly those who remain legitimately concerned about Mr. Trump’s conduct. If Mr. Garland speaks out, he might be able, first, to provide the public with long overdue insight into the topical scope and nature of the department’s work as it relates to Mr. Trump and his administration (not simply to inform the public that his conduct may be under investigation in some vague sense) and, second, to allow the public to gauge whether the current administration is fulfilling its duty to ensure that serious misconduct at any level is investigated thoroughly and fairly.

Mr. Garland is fond of talking about the rule of law, a vital principle that, as he described it when accepting President Biden’s nomination for attorney general, ensures that “there not be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans, one rule for friends, another for foes, one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless.” The principle is virtually meaningless, however, unless the public has the information to judge for itself whether the department is satisfying its obligations to the American people to responsibly evaluate and, if appropriate, prosecute possible misconduct at the highest level of our political system — up to and including someone who was once the president and who could, someday soon, be the president again.

Soruce : https://www.nytimes.com/2022/08/10/opinion/justice-department-mar-a-lago-raid.html

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