Aug 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Top Republicans press DOJ for answers on Mar-a-Lago search

Mitch McConnell wearing a gray suit and red tie departs a press conference where multiple other Republican Senate leaders are speaking.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images.

Top Republicans in Congress have coalesced around a call for the Justice Department to provide more information on its search of former President Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence.

Why it matters: The demands stop short of the fiery denunciations of some Trump allies, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's (R-Ga.) call to "defund the FBI," but still signal a combative posture in response to the search.

Driving the news: After a day of silence, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a statement calling for a "thorough and immediate explanation" of the search.

  • "Attorney General [Merrick] Garland and the Department of Justice should already have provided answers to the American people and must do so immediately," he said.
  • That's in stark contrast to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's pledge hours after the search to have the House GOP investigate the DOJ, which he said has "reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization."
  • McConnell, unlike McCarthy, has kept his distance from Trump since the ex-president left office, and has even signaled support for the Jan. 6 committee.

Flashback: In voting to acquit Trump over the U.S. Capitol riot last February, McConnell said: "We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one."

State of play: More than a day after the search, the Justice Department has not offered an official explanation for why it carried out the search.

  • Commentators across the political spectrum have made note of the unprecedented nature of the move.
  • Sources told Axios' Jonathan Swan it was part of an investigation into classified documents Trump took to Mar-a-Lago.

The big picture: Several other Republican leaders have followed McConnell's lead of demanding answers from the DOJ without jumping to conclusions.

  • House Intelligence Committee ranking member Mike Turner (R-Ohio) sent FBI Director Christopher Wray a preservation request for the evidence used to obtain the search warrant, communications with the National Archives and documents seized from Mar-a-Lago.
  • His Senate counterpart, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), said in a statement: "Last night’s raid on the home of a former U.S. president without explanation will only further erode confidence in the FBI and the Justice Department."

That tone was echoed by more moderate and Trump-critical Republicans such as Rep. Peter Meijer (R-Mich.), one of the 10 House Republicans who voted for Trump's impeachment.

  • "I will not add to baseless speculation," Meijer tweeted, "but Director Wray and AG Garland owe transparency on the justification for setting such a striking precedent ... anything less is dangerous and wrong."
  • Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a former FBI agent, said he "will get to the bottom of this, will follow the facts wherever they lead, and will report with unimpeachable integrity."

The other side: Democrats have hit back at Republicans for piling on the DOJ in response to the raid, arguing that the department should be given more leeway.

  • "The FBI must be allowed to do its job without political interference or pressure," said Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.), who represents Mar-a-Lago, in a statement to Axios.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asked about the Republican attacks on the DOJ, told reporters: "What would you expect them to say? ... It's typical of them."

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