Attorney General Merrick Garland is under fire from congressional Republicans after admitting Thursday to personally approving the raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
The raid Monday was related to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) effort to collect records and materials the former president took with him from Washington, D.C., to Mar-a-Lago, a matter the agency referred to the Justice Department.
GOP lawmakers say Garland’s admission did little to tamper criticism of the raid or concerns of the precedent it set.
“AG Garland’s statement about the integrity of the FBI/DOJ would have far more credibility if he at least acknowledged the recent corruption at the Bureau/Dept responsible for eroding public trust,” Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., wrote on social media. “The public’s declining confidence in the FBI/DOJ hasn’t happened without cause.”
Other lawmakers noted the apparent conflict of interest in Garland approving the raid given that many believe Trump is likely to face the attorney general’s boss, President Joe Biden, in a potentially 2024 White House contest.
“Merrick Garland personally approved a search warrant to take down Joe Biden’s top political opponent,” said Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn. “This is a politically-motivated witch hunt.”
Critics also noted that Garland could have a broader conflict of interest given that his own nomination to serve on the Supreme Court was scuttled by Trump’s victory during the 2016 presidential election.
“Half the country believes that when it comes to President Trump there are no rules. They have lost faith in the system,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. “The only way to address that problem is full disclosure of the facts and circumstances which led to this unprecedented action.”
Garland refused to disclose, however, the full parameters for his decision to approve the raid during a press conference on Thursday. The attorney general did say he would request a federal judge unseal the warrant, which lays out the reasoning for the raid.
“Since I became attorney general, I have made clear that the Department of Justice will speak through its court filings and its work,” said Garland.
“First, I personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter,” Garland said during his brief public remarks Thursday.
“Second, the department does not take such a decision lightly,” Garland said. “Where possible, it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken.”
Republican say the Justice Department’s silence before Garland’s public statement had only intensified public confusion. Many are already pledging to launch oversight probes into the matter provided the GOP retakes Congress in the upcoming midterms.
“Merrick Garland better get ready to answer some questions next Congress,” said Rep. Carlos Gimenez, R-Fla.