On May 25, when Attorney General Merrick Garland issued a memo reminding DOJ investigators to obtain written approval from the Attorney General before opening any investigation into “politically sensitive individuals and entities” on the cusp of elections, it was seen by many (including OnlySky) as a death knell for any realistic hope of a Donald Trump indictment before the November midterms.
The extraordinary August 8 FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago casts that memo in a very different light.
Instead of suggesting inaction, Garland’s memo now appears to have been an attempt to show that a planned operation—the Mar-a-Lago raid at least, possibly more to come—was not a rogue action, but would take place only with approval and endorsement at the highest levels of the Department of Justice. The AG knew that Trump defenders would respond by muddying the waters with outrage and misinformation after such an event. So instead of saying, “We will probably not act,” the memo in retrospect says, When we do act, you will know that it comes with the top-down power and approval of a unified DOJ.
Standing behind that approval is a well-established evidentiary process for search warrants. The FBI decides that a search warrant is merited as part of a criminal investigation, presenting evidence that the burden of proof has been satisfied, and a federal judge determines whether the standard for probable cause has been met. The fact of the search indicates that each of these stringent requirements was met.
“One thing is very clear,” tweeted former senior Obama advisor David Axelrod. “Garland would not have authorized this raid, and no federal judge would have signed off on it, if there weren’t significant evidence to warrant it.”
A Trump indictment, especially before the midterms, is still far from certain. But with this series of events, the odds have dramatically shifted.