- Many of Trump’s GOP allies have demanded that the DOJ release its Mar-a-Lago search warrant and supporting documents.
- On Thursday, the DOJ decided to do just that, asking a court to unseal parts of the warrant.
- Legal experts and political strategists say Trump supporters bit off more than they could chew and the DOJ called their bluff.
Allies of former President Donald Trump have spent this week demanding that the Justice Department release details of its search warrant for Mar-a-Lago and other supporting documents.
Now it looks like they might get what they asked for.
Attorney General Merrick Garland announced at a press conference Thursday that the Justice Department had filed a motion to unseal portions of the warrant following Trump’s “public confirmation of the search.”
But legal experts and political strategists warn that Trump’s allies may have bitten off more than they could chew and the maneuver could ultimately backfire on the former president and his party as the midterm elections of this year are looming.
“Republican strategists have no idea how serious the situation is,” said longtime GOP consultant Luis Alvarado.
Right-wing reactions following the Mar-a-Lago raid fell into one of two camps.
Many of Trump’s most diehard supporters, like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyFlorida Rep. Matt Gaetz and Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene – threatened to investigate the Justice Department and made calls to “cancel” the FBI.
Other Republicans, including former Vice President Mike Pence, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, have called on the Justice Department to speak publicly about his investigation of Trump.
Cruz posted a tweet asking the department to “RELEASE THE WARRANT NOW”.
“The American people deserve to see it,” Cruz wrote. “NOW.”
But Alvarado has expressed skepticism about those demands.
“They were saying it and crossing their fingers and hoping they wouldn’t turn around and release that information immediately,” he told Insider. “Because right now we still have primaries going on all over the country. And they don’t want that to fill the space.”
Charles Gasparino of Fox Business tweeted Wednesday that Trump’s own legal team “would likely seek a court order to compel the @FBI and @TheJusticeDept to turn over a physical copy of the search warrant, affidavit and a full inventory of what was taken in Mar’s raid -a-Lago.”
The ministry’s motion on Thursday rendered that option moot.
“It’s a fucking big deal,” said a former DOJ official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to candidly discuss the matter, of the unsealing request. “It never happens. It’s unheard of.”
But the attorney general likely made an exception in this case “because of everything that’s happened in the past few days, including Trump himself and his supporters crying foul, accusing the FBI of planting evidence, what have you got,” the former manager said.
“There is an increased level of interest in this,” they added. “There’s a relevance here because it really goes to the heart of the system. It’s not just people throwing stones at the DOJ and the FBI, they have for decades. This is a systemic questioning of the DOJ and the FBI by the former president, a good number of elected officials, and the population.
Garland calls the Republicans bluff
Shortly after the department’s motion was filed on Thursday, Magistrate’s Judge Bruce Reinhart ordered the DOJ to speak with Trump’s attorneys and let the court know Friday afternoon whether Trump’s team is agrees or opposes the government’s request to unseal.
In other words, the department’s motion will force Trump to shut up or shut up.
“Brilliant decision by Garland: make a motion to unseal everything, including the material Trump already has (warrant and return); so now the ball is in his court to oppose or consent,” Andrew Weissmann, a former FBI general counsel who later worked on the Mueller. investigation, tweeted after Garland’s press conference. “Called Trump’s bluff.”
David Weinstein, a Miami criminal defense attorney and former prosecutor, told Insider that even if the department’s motion to unseal is denied, Republicans may still regret lobbying the DOJ because it will exert inadvertently more pressure on Trump and his attorneys to produce their copy of the search warrant.
Several people on Trump’s team, including his son Eric, said Gasparino that they did not obtain a copy of the warrant or supporting documents. But Garland debunked that claim on Thursday, saying copies of the warrant and FBI receipt were given to Trump’s lawyer.
“Trump and his attorneys have a copy of the search warrant that lists exactly the laws that the FBI believes and the Justice Department believes were violated,” Weinstein said. “So if they wanted to show this to the world, they’re afraid to do it. And frankly, if it was just presidential records, I think they’d be waving it like an American flag.”
Gene Rossi, a longtime former federal prosecutor, also told Insider this week that he would be “shocked” if the affidavit in support of the warrant did not include probable cause suggesting that Trump violated other laws, including laws against obstruction, insurrection, sedition, etc.
“You only get one chance to raid Donald Trump’s home,” he said. “The Department of Justice is not going to blow up its wad, in my opinion, by just looking at … the document law.”
Ultimately, the former DOJ official said, Trump “committed” to the department’s decision to unseal his Mar-a-Lago search warrant.
“The old axiom of lawyers is that you want a client to shut up,” the former manager added. “That doesn’t apply to this president. So while he and his supporters are screaming about what the FBI took, the DOJ says, ‘You know exactly what they took. You have a piece of paper that says what they took. But you want the world to know? Very well.'”