Trump had nothing to hide


Think back to 2015, in the moments after Donald Trump descended that prophetic escalator and announced his plans to run for president at the Trump Tower in New York City. What was your first thought? “Woohoo,” perhaps? “Just like The Simpsons,” maybe? Or: “is that guy going to have the nuclear codes?”

It was a chilling thought for many — and a concern that was unexpectedly renewed this week, more than a year and a half after he left office.

As speculation swirls around the FBI search of Trump’s Florida residence on Monday, facts have been hard to come by — which, frankly, is often the case with ongoing criminal investigations that don’t always benefit from law enforcement spilling the beans about evidence and accusations that haven’t been substantiated.

That didn’t keep us from wanting answers and Trump’s defenders from demanding them. Even though it was Trump himself who announced the raid from the rooftops, the prevailing Republican narrative seemed to suggest the FBI and Department of Justice were out to humiliate Trump with some dramatic, unprovoked incursion on his private property.

After much back and forth, we now know more about the warrant and the list of items retrieved during the search. The details, reported by the Wall Street Journal, confirmed just how serious the situation that has unfolded at Mar-a-Lago is. Agents reportedly found “11 sets of classified documents, including some marked as top secret and meant to be only available in special government facilities.”

There is still plenty of room to wonder as to just what those documents contained or what they were doing at Trump’s house but the information shared so far only serves to bolster our faith in the job that Attorney General Merrick Garland has done in proceeding cautiously but surely.

Trump could have, as we wrote earlier, quelled some of this speculation before it ballooned all the way into a violent confrontation in Cincinnati Thursday that left one person dead. Trump had a copy of the warrant. He knew why the officers were there, what they were looking for, and why they were going to such lengths to get it.

Instead, after days of escalating rhetoric, Garland held a press conference Thursday to confirm that he had approved the warrant and filed a motion to have it unsealed in the name of “substantial public interest.” According to the Justice Department, notice had been given to Trump’s counsel and the search took place with minimal fanfare. .

Garland rebuffed accusations of the search’s illegitimacy, unfairness or political motivation: “Upholding the rule of law means applying the law evenly without fear or favor,” he said. “Under my watch, that is precisely what the Justice Department is doing.”

Certainly, an FBI search of a former president’s home appears unprecedented and the FBI isn’t without blemish, having applied the law questionably and even unjustly in the past. In this case, though, the agency’s director, Christopher Wray, was appointed by Trump. Garland, who directly signed off on the search, remains highly respected by members of both parties and has appeared to handle any probes involving Trump discreetly and professionally.

We’re inclined to give Garland the benefit of the doubt mostly because he hasn’t given us any reason not to. We can’t say the same for the twice-impeached former president who is currently under multiple criminal, civil and congressional investigations and stands credibly accused of plotting a coup against American democracy.

Trump has every right to defend himself, in a court of law and in the court of public opinion. But rampant assertions of Trump’s victimhood appear baseless.

In fact, 15 boxes worth of documents had already been found at his home months prior to this week’s search. Trump’s lawyers claim that he had declassified some of the documents before he left office but whether he followed proper procedure to do so is another matter. He has also reportedly been known to destroy documents, just ripping them up in plain sight of staff. Remember the White House toilets that just wouldn’t flush right? And though Trump tried to claim the search came “out of nowhere and with no warning,” Garland said it was conducted only after “less intrusive” efforts to secure more documents failed.

So, yes, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Trump’s claim that the search was “prosecutorial misconduct” and “the weaponization of the Justice Department.” But now there’s also, perhaps, a reason to be scared.

According to reporting from the Washington Post, officials suspected that nuclear documents might have been among the highly confidential materials they believed were at Mar-a-Lago, according to people “familiar with the investigation.” The claim hasn’t been confirmed by an attributable source. “They did not offer additional details about what type of information the agents were seeking, including whether it involved weapons belonging to the United States or some other nation,” according to the Post. “Nor did they say if such documents were recovered as part of the search.”

We support the release of information in an investigation of great national importance barring the release of anything that would compromise the process itself.

While the new information shared Friday underscores the seriousness of the investigation, there are limits to what the warrant and search item list can do. Trump’s own double speak has undercut the agency he claims to be cooperating with and his supporters insisted from the beginning that the FBI planted evidence. What would persuade them otherwise at this point?

But for those who are open to facts, Garland’s statements, details of the warrant and the list of some 20 boxes worth of documents should confirm that the search was founded on evidence that there were not only federal documents at Trump’s house but highly classified ones. And for now, Garland has earned the benefit of our doubt. Trump has earned our gravest of doubts.