The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee put the onus Sunday on Attorney General Merrick Garland to justify the necessity of the search of former President Donald Trump’s residence last week.
“He has a lot of questions to answer,” Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
The attorney general has been under intense scrutiny after he “personally approved” use of a search warrant for government documents located at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. The former president claims he had declassified all the records prior to leaving office — and has floated the idea that federal authorities planted evidence during the search.
Many Republican leaders immediately attacked the search when it occurred Monday, but some have since softened their criticism, particularly those like Turner who have expressed concern over the possible presence of classified documents. Some GOP moderates have offered criticism of their fellow Republicans over harsh rhetoric directed against the FBI and other law enforcement officials.
For his part, on Sunday morning Trump claimed on Truth Social that some of the information seized by authorities contained documents covered by attorney-client privilege and executive privilege.
“By copy of this TRUTH, I respectfully request that these documents be immediately returned to the location from which they were taken,” he posted.
Congressional Republicans quickly closed ranks around Trump — who has fundraised off the saga — in the days after the search became public, with some alleging that Garland and the Biden administration were attempting to damage a political rival.
“No one is above the law. Donald Trump is not above the law and Attorney General Garland is not above the law either,” Turner said.
The White House and senior Biden administration officials have adamantly said that Garland and the Department of Justice acted independently in its decision to probe Trump’s property.
“We’ve learned about this the same way the American people have learned about this,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on ABC’s “This Week.” She added that President Joe Biden has not been briefed on the FBI’s investigation.
The Justice Department released portions of the materials related to the search in the days after it was executed, revealing that investigators are exploring whether the former president violated the Espionage Act or possibly obstructed justice in his handling of sensitive documents — including those marked with the highest level of government classification.
Top House Democrats have called for a review of whether the storage of those records outside the government’s auspices endangered national security. Turner and other Republicans have demanded that they be provided more information about the records to assess whether the search itself was warranted.
“These are materials that are two years old,” Turner said. “We don’t know what they are. We don’t know if they rise to the level of being a national security threat.”
Some members of the Republican party less sympathetic to Trump have raised concerns about the incendiary rhetoric coming from others in the GOP and its potential to lead to violence. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) are among those who spoke of destroying or defunding the FBI.
“It’s outrageous rhetoric,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“It’s absurd and it’s dangerous. There are threats all over the place, and losing faith in our federal law enforcement officers and our justice system is a really serious problem for the country,” said Hogan, whose father was an FBI agent, as were other members of his family.
Hogan’s comments were echoed by Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
“The GOP is gonna be the party of supporting law enforcement — law enforcement includes the FBI,” Hutchinson said on CNN. “We need to pull back on casting judgment on them.”
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