Republicans seize affidavit accusing DOJ of midterm political stunt against Trump

Outcry over the search three weeks ago pushed Trump, who teased a 2024 campaign, back to the center of a midterm election cycle already rocked by the Supreme Court’s overturning of abortion rights — a factor that gave Democrats new hope of avoiding a Republican red wave in November.
While President Joe Biden has avoided commenting at length on his predecessor’s legal status or the investigation, he is now trying to make midterms a choice between him and Trumpism, instead of a referendum on his own performance. The president last week called the ex-president’s “Make America Great Again” philosophy “semi-facism” in comments that raised political pressure before a massive downfall.
The redacted affidavit showed that 184 documents bearing classification marks were recovered from Trump’s Florida resort at Mar-a-Lago in January. This is in addition to 11 sets of documents, some bearing the designation “top secret/SCI” – one of the highest classification levels – taken by the FBI after the property was raided earlier this month. The affidavit, which was used to convince a probable cause judge that a crime had been committed, also showed that the bureau expected to find evidence of obstruction. Large sections of the document have been blacked out to protect FBI agents, witnesses and future prospects of the investigation.

The affidavit and other legal documents show evidence of a long-term effort, long before the August 8 FBI raid, by the Justice Department to recover documents that Trump had taken from the White House and which should have been in the National Archives.

But Republicans capitalized on multiple redactions that obscured all the reasons for the warrant and subsequent FBI raid, to stoke feelings of uncertainty and accuse the bureau and Attorney General Merrick Garland of overstepping the bounds. terminals.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu told CNN’s Dana Bash on ‘State of the Union’ on Sunday that the DOJ should give Americans more information about the type of secret documents that were at the residence. of Trump and why they felt compelled to take the politically explosive step of mounting a search.

“My biggest criticism, and I think the concern of most of the country, is, where’s the transparency, right?” said the GOP governor. “If you’re going to take unprecedented action and raid a former president’s house, well, you better have an unprecedented transparency strategy,” added Sununu, who is running for re-election this week. fall.

“You need to be able to show your cards when you take actions like this.”

Sununu’s criticism of the department was significant and may reflect broader Republican opinion, as he has not shied away from criticizing Trump in the past. He is insulated to some degree from the ex-president’s thirst for revenge thanks to his popularity in Granite State, where he pushed back against national GOP pleas to run for the Senate. But Sununu nevertheless hinted that election season politics could have been behind the DOJ’s decision to go ahead with a search.

“We think it’s a coincidence, happening just a few months before the midterm elections…and all that kind of stuff?” Sununu asked. He also called on Biden to apologize for his “semi-facist” comment.

A high-ranking Republican senator, Roy Blunt of Missouri, said Trump should have turned over documents that should have legally been transferred to the National Archives when he left office. And he said officials should be especially careful in handling classified documents. But in his Sunday comments, Blunt also betrayed the political pressure Republicans feel to stand by their party’s dominant figure, Trump, even if the Missouri senator retires at the end of this year.

“What I wonder is why it could be almost two years and less than 100 days before the election, suddenly we are talking about this rather than the economy or inflation or even the program student loans,” Blunt said on ABC. News “This week”.

In addition to suggesting nefarious activity by the Biden administration, Blunt’s comment alluded to GOP frustration that their attacks on Biden were somewhat overtaken by Trump’s return to the spotlight. But the idea that the research was simply concocted to distract from the president’s low approval rating is belied by evidence from court documents and other documents on the case, suggesting months of efforts to retrieve classified documents from Trump amid his delays and refusal to hand him over. The White House said Biden was not given advance notice of the search, underscoring the priority he placed on the independence of the Justice Department.

Yet it remains difficult for outsiders to make a full assessment of whether the DOJ went too far or correctly considered the enormous implications of raiding the home of a former president and potential future presidential candidate. the White House – given the high level of secrecy that surrounds the case due to the classified material involved. The relative lack of information has created a void that Trump and his cronies have filled with misinformation and conspiracy theories, which are now being used by more mainstream Republicans to cast doubt on the conduct of the DOJ.

Hearing date set for Thursday

The next courtroom drama over the search will take place Thursday in a hearing called by a federal judge to hear Trump’s request for an independent “special master” to screen material taken by the FBI to see s it contains legally privileged material.
U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon asked the Justice Department to file a public response by Tuesday and also to file sealed filings giving more details about what was taken in the search. She said Saturday that she had a “preliminary intent” to grant Trump’s request, but added at the end of the order that it should not be construed as his final decision on the matter.
Trump renews his demand for

The fact that Cannon, a Trump candidate, gave an indication that she might grant his request was greeted by some of the ex-president’s allies on social media as a victory. But such a decision is not considered unreasonable by legal experts in a case like this. The curiosity here is that Trump didn’t make his claim until the government was in possession of the documents the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago for two weeks – a factor that has raised questions about the chaos within his camp, his strategy and the quality of his legal representation, which had been ordered to file a new case after the judge had noted several shortcomings in the initial request.

The furor over the documents comes as Trump’s exposure to various probes appears to be increasing. His inner circle has been drawn into a criminal investigation in Georgia centered on his alleged attempts to undo Biden’s victory in the crucial 2020 swing state. painted a damning picture of the ex-president’s conduct during one of the darkest days in modern US history and is expected to ramp up its hearings soon. And there are several civil and criminal investigations into Trump’s business empire.

It all comes with the former president looking to elevate midterm candidates who buy into his lies about a stolen 2020 election — a generally successful run that may have plagued the GOP with problematic candidates who could give Democrats a chance. chance to hang on to their majority in the Senate. This trend, along with some recent victories by congressional Democrats — including the passage of Biden’s major health care and climate bill — and the Supreme Court’s ruling on abortion, have given hope to Democrats as November approaches.

Yet the parties of first-term presidents typically do poorly in midterm elections, especially with approval ratings around 40%, like Biden’s. So while the 2022 election may be more competitive than expected, history suggests it will threaten the Democrats’ monopoly on political power in Washington.

Intelligence agencies assess the damage

The political and legal shockwaves surrounding the Mar-a-Lago search will unfold this week as a closed-door investigation into potential national security issues raised by Trump’s seemingly cavalier handling of classified documents gathers pace. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines sent a letter to the House Intelligence and House Oversight committee chairs saying the intelligence community was conducting a damage assessment of documents seized from Trump’s home, according to a letter obtained by CNN. Saturday.

The US intelligence chief told Congress she was conducting a damage assessment of documents taken from Mar-a-Lago

The classification review is being conducted by the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Haines wrote in the letter first reported by Politico. House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff and House Oversight Chairman Carolyn Maloney said in a joint statement that they were ‘pleased’ Haines had initiated the damage assessment of the classified documents found. at Trump’s home in Florida.

The two presidents, who had previously called for the investigation, pushed for the assessment to be done “quickly”.

Given the sensitive nature of the material under discussion, it seems unlikely that the review will contribute much to the public’s understanding of the extraordinary circumstances of a search of the home of a former president.

This means that the political fallout from the operation is unlikely to take a more extreme turn until the midterm elections approach and risk further deepening the nation’s divisions over Trump, whom he manages to expand further even when not in power.

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