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Opinion | What Trump's raid revealed

Opinion | One thing

Merrick Garland didn't play it safe.

Police stand outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate.

Standing outside the entrance to former President Donald Trump's Mara POLICE-Lago Estate, August 8, 2022, Palm Beach, FL | Wilfredo Lee/AP Photo

Renato Mariotti is a legal columnist for POLITICO magazine. He is a former federal prosecutor and host of the "On Topic" podcast.

A search warrant executed at Donald Trump's club in Florida on Monday has led to much speculation as to what the FBI was looking for in his personal vault. caused it. But one thing he should no longer doubt is that Attorney General Merrick Garland intends to go after the former president.

The unprecedented search of the former president's private residence (not to mention anyone who might choose to run for re-election) is a highly dramatic event, one that Garland has some satisfaction with the idea. Indicting Trump for federal crimes. As a former federal prosecutor, Garland would have approved this warrant application if he thought that the incriminating evidence would at least not be very likely to be found and would be sufficient to file a lawsuit against Trump.

It should be remembered that earlier this year officials recovered a box of documents from Marlago that Trump said should have been turned over to the National Archives before he resigned. Investigators discovered the existence of more such documents during a visit to Mar-a-Lago in June, CNN reports. But instead of simply obtaining these documents or subpoenaing Trump for them, as officials used to do, investigators took the more serious step of requesting a search warrant. This suggests that Justice Department officials didn't think they could get all the documents in Trump's possession if they served the subpoena.

There's a lot we haven't done yet. I know what the agents were looking for and what they found, but the process of applying for the warrant and getting the permit shows the significance of what happened on Monday.

I usually advise my clients that if they did an FBI search of her in your home, they would likely be prosecuted. This is because a federal judge has determined that you have good reason to believe that a federal crime has been committed and evidence of the crime is in your home. To be clear, execution of a search warrant does not necessarily mean that the evidence points to the homeowner as the person who committed the crime. It usually works like that.

To obtain a warrant, the Justice Department must examine the evidence they have that a crime was committed and present the judge with detailed affidavits that provide some did not. Reasons to believe that the evidence for that crime is now in Mar-a-Lago. I emphasize "now" because the government needs to show that at the time of the investigation there was good reason to believe that evidence of the crime was in Mar-a-Lago. Based on old evidence received many months ago, it is highly unlikely that a judge will approve the warrant. The Department of Justice will also act in the most conservative and prudent manner given its reputation and enormous stakes in the nation as a whole.

You don't have to specify the exact document you think you have. They describe them in general terms, but are very specific about where they are and why they believe the document is where they say it is. or was in contact with someone close to Trump (perhaps an employee or associate). Trump is fine. If I were Trump's defense attorney, that's what I would worry about.

The nature of possible charges is also very unclear.Recent reports from both The New York Timesand his AP indicated that the search warrant was related to classified materials Trump took out of the White House when he resigned. increase. However, mishandling confidential documents rarely results in charges.

James Comey's testimony was correct.Except where classified material was knowingly transferred to a third party,DOJ does not ordinarily prosecutesuch cases. This suggests that there is something important — we'll call it the plus factor — here we don't know. ' is saying. But we don't know that. In fact, there's reason to believe it's more than that.

To clarify, if current reporting by theTimesand AP is accurate, this is not about the fake electoral vote scheme revealed by the Commission on Jan. 6, Trump is also involved. That's another matter, and it's not clear whether Mar-a-Lago had records related to that scheme. You can, but unlike drugs, the probative value of documents is often not apparent at first glance. It is also possible that the FBI interviewed employees and others during the search. It's a common tactic.

The bottom line is that we still don't know enough to understand what all this entails and how deeply Mr. Trump is in danger. A warrant at Trump's residence is alarming to him. This indicates that he was under criminal investigation and that the DOJ had good reason to seize the materials from his home.