In response to the Department of Justice (DOJ) sending FBI investigators to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate this week, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) vowed to open an inquiry into Attorney General Merrick Garland if Republicans win control of the House of Representatives in this year’s midterm races.
On Monday, the FBI executed a search warrant on the Trump property in relation to an ongoing inquiry into the former president’s improper handling of documents from his time in the White House, which could include the illegal transferring of classified documents to his resort in Palm Beach, Florida, after his term expired. Trump denounced the search as proof of “dark times for our nation,” claiming it was a “weaponization of the Justice System.”
McCarthy used similar language to describe the Mar-a-Lago search in a statement on Monday, saying that the DOJ “has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.”
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“When Republicans take back the House, we will conduct immediate oversight of this department,” McCarthy said.
The highest-ranking Republican in the House also issued a warning for Garland. “Preserve your documents and clear your calendar,” he said.
McCarthy’s comment elicited widespread criticism, especially because the investigation dealt with Trump removing documents from the White House and because Trump often destroyed documents while serving as president.
During his time in office, Trump frequently shredded papers he had written on or handled, tossing them in the wastebasket afterward. White House aides reported having to reattach these records with clear tape in order to ensure that Trump was in compliance with the Presidential Records Act, which requires every document a president handles or writes on to be preserved.
White House sources have also detailed that Trump would sometimes take hand-shredded documents to the restroom to attempt flushing them, occasionally clogging the toilet’s pipes in the process.
NEW: Here are photos that the NY Times’ Maggie Haberman obtained from a White House source showing documents with Trump’s handwriting on them — in two different toilets. Trump reportedly flushed both sets of documents repeatedly. This contradicts his repeated denials. pic.twitter.com/fn1SjOFxDW
— Jon Cooper (@joncoopertweets) August 8, 2022
Several commentators and members of Congress condemned McCarthy’s threat to Garland.
“Dear @GOPLeader: You say you’ve ‘seen enough,'” wrote Rep. Ted Lieu (D-California) on Twitter. “Did you see the classified and unclassified documents that the FBI seized at Mar-a-Lago? No. So you have no idea what you are talking about. Stop making stuff up.”
Doug Jones, a former Democratic senator from Alabama and a former federal prosecutor, defended Garland in a missive to McCarthy.
“AG Garland will follow the law,” Jones said. “He will not delete texts, burn documents in a fireplace or tear them up a try & flush them down a toilet as happened in the last Administration.”
“And BTW, have you preserved your documents?” Jones asked McCarthy. “A grand jury might want to know.”
“Fascinating new position from House Republican leader, who has led GOP in refusing to comply with congressional subpoenas and investigations going back to Trump first impeachment,” said The New Yorker’s Susan Glasser.
McCarthy’s threat to investigate Garland’s “by the book” search of Mar-a-Lago is dependent on Republicans winning control of the House in the midterms. In the midterm race after a new president takes office, the president’s party tends to lose seats — and with the House almost evenly divided right now, with Democrats controlling the chamber by only a slight margin, prognosticators are saying that the trend is likely to hold true this year, too.
Recent data suggest that Democrats may have a shot at retaining control of the House, however. According to an aggregate of polls collected by RealClearPolitics, the two parties are essentially tied. And in a poll published last week by Monmouth University, 50 percent of voters wanted Democrats to remain in charge of Congress, while just 43 percent wanted the GOP to have control.