(The Hill) – House Republicans on Friday wasted no time rallying behind former President Trump following a court’s decision to unseal the search warrant that had empowered the FBI to search his Mar-a-Lago residence in South Florida earlier in the week.
The newly public warrant revealed that the Justice Department had suspected Trump of violating the Espionage Act, among other federal statutes, when he stockpiled reams of documents at Mar-a-Lago after he left office last year.
FBI agents on Monday retrieved 11 sets of documents categorized as classified to some degree, an inventory of the items seized showed, including one set labeled “various classified/TS/CSI documents,” a highly-classified category of sensitive items typically pertaining to national security. Agents also retrieved four sets of “top secret” items.
But Republican lawmakers on Friday dismissed the news, accusing the Department of Justice (DOJ) of conducting a political witch hunt designed for the sole purpose of harming Trump politically as he weighs another run at the White House in 2024.
“What they’ve been doing to President Trump is a political persecution,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) told reporters on the steps of the Capitol. “Merrick Garland has abused his position of power, as the attorney general, to politically persecute Joe Biden’s enemies. And the whole purpose of this is to prevent President Trump from ever being able to hold office.”
“We cannot tolerate this in America,” she continued, “where our great institutions are wielded and abused in such a way to defeat people’s political enemies.”
Greene then walked into the Capitol and introduced articles of impeachment against Garland.
She was hardly alone. Other GOP lawmakers also defended Trump against a DOJ they’re portraying as out of control. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), another close Trump ally, wondered why the department isn’t continuing its investigation into Hillary Clinton, the former secretary of state, who came under scrutiny for using a private server to conduct official business, but was never charged.
“Did they find Hillary Clinton’s 33,000 deleted emails in the safe? That’s what I want to see,” said Boebert, who also endorsed the effort to impeach Garland.
Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), chair of the Republican Study Committee, didn’t go quite so far, but accused Garland of withholding information vital to the public’s understanding of the investigation.
“The fact that Merrick Garland is selectively working through the media rather than releasing further details, is again – makes all of this very fishy,” he said. “There’s so much that the American people deserve to know that we don’t know.”
Other Republicans brought up various DOJ investigations of the past, suggesting the department goes soft on Democrats and their allies while dropping the hammer on Republicans and other conservatives.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) cited another concern, saying he’s worried that the DOJ was overly aggressive in targeting a former president.
“People are rightfully upset [about] the precedent this sets. It seems highly unnecessary to be sending in armed FBI agents into Mar-a-Lago when he could have just subpoenaed these documents. He supposedly knew they were there. He was being cooperative already … with other documents,” said Crenshaw.
Earlier in the year, Trump had turned over 15 boxes of documents and other materials to the National Archives. The DOJ had later subpoenaed Trump for additional documents the agency suspected he had withheld.
Garland on Thursday had delivered a highly unusual statement defending Monday’s search, saying the DOJ had first attempted “less intrusive means,” which failed to yield the remaining materials.
Democrats, meanwhile, have defended the agency. While they’re eagerly awaiting more details, they’re voicing concerns that at least some of the documents might have been related to defense and national security.
“If the nature of these documents is what [it] appears to be, this is very serious,” said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Emily Brooks contributed.