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US lawmakers draw battle lines over search of Donald Trump’s home


Aug 15, 2022
US lawmakers draw battle lines over search of Donald Trump’s home


US lawmakers demanded more information about the potential threat to national security posed by Donald Trump’s hoarding of classified documents, as the fallout from the unprecedented search at the former president’s home reverberated through Washington.

The comments by Democrats and Republicans on Sunday were among the first reactions from Congress to the release on Friday of the search warrant presented by the FBI on the day of the visit on August 8.

The search warrant revealed that Trump was being investigated for serious violations of the law related to national defence, mishandling of government material and obstruction of justice, prompting a flurry of questions from Capitol Hill.

Mark Warner, the Virginia Democrat, and Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican, chair and vice-chair of the Senate intelligence committee, respectively, asked the justice department and the director of national intelligence on Sunday to provide the panel with “the classified documents that were seized in the search” and an “assessment of potential risks to national security as a result of their mishandling”, a spokesperson for the committee said.

Lawmakers’ reactions belied a deep partisan divide with regard to Trump’s treatment by US law enforcement. Democrats have focused on the legal gravity of the former president’s behaviour, while Republicans have expressed scepticism and criticised the search.

Adam Schiff, the Democratic chair of the House intelligence committee, asked the director of national intelligence to review the harm to American interests — formally known as a damage assessment — resulting from Trump’s decision to hold on to a trove of sensitive material after leaving the White House in early 2021.

“What is, to me, most disturbing here is the degree to which . . . it appears to be wilful, on the president’s part — the keeping of these documents after the government was requesting them back. And that adds another layer of concern,” Schiff said.

Republicans, many of whom have rushed to Trump’s side and attacked the justice department, the FBI and US attorney-general Merrick Garland, asked federal authorities to release the affidavit in support of the search warrant. Affidavits, which typically remain under wraps during a federal investigation, contain details about why the DoJ asked a federal judge to approve the search.

“All Garland has to do is comply with the laws, provide this information to us, let us look. Show us the goods,” Mike Turner, the top Republican on the House intelligence committee, said on CNN. “We need to determine, is this a national security threat? And . . . was there abuse of discretion by attorney-general Garland?”

“I think it’s very important long-term for the justice department, now that they’ve done this, that they show that this was not just a fishing expedition — that they had due cause to go in and to do this, that they did exhaust all other means. And if they can’t do that, then we’ve got a serious problem on our hands,” Mike Rounds, a Republican senator from South Dakota, told NBC.

Trump has maintained that the search was a politically motivated stunt and claimed to have declassified the material before leaving office, though there is no record of such a step. According to the inventory of 45 items recovered by the FBI at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, 11 were described by the authorities as top secret, secret, classified or confidential.

On Sunday, the former president said the boxes retrieved by the FBI contained items protected by attorney-client privilege. “I respectfully request that these documents be immediately returned to the location from which they were taken,” he wrote on his Truth Social account.

He also renewed attacks on US law enforcement, lamenting in another post the “complete and total stranglehold that the Radical Left Democrats have over the DOJ and FBI”. Trump added that they would “never attack the home of a former Democrat president” and it was “all so out of control [with] great simmering anger”.

The harsh criticism from Trump and his Republican allies has raised fears of violence against the FBI and DoJ. The Department of Homeland Security and the FBI issued a joint bulletin on Friday about the potential for attacks on law enforcement personnel and facilities as anger has flared among Trump’s conservative base of supporters who already deeply mistrust the federal government.

The White House has sought to distance itself from the search of Trump’s property. Asked to comment about the latest revelations that the material recovered may pose a risk to national security, Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, said: “We do not interfere. We do not get briefed. We do not get involved.”

But congressional Democrats were less restrained.

“When I look at classified documents, I’ve got to go in a special room. I can’t even wear my Fitbit. You can’t bring staff with you. And that’s because these documents not only contain our nation’s top secrets but because countries that will do us harm, do harm to our own citizens, we don’t want them to get a hold of them in any way,” Amy Klobuchar, Democratic senator from Minnesota, told NBC.

“That’s why it is so important that these documents remain in safe locations. And Mar-a-Lago, where you can check out croquet sets and tennis rackets and golf clubs, that’s not one of them.”


Image and article originally from www.ft.com. Read the original article here.