After Attorney General Merrick Garland made a rare public statement yesterday requesting that the FBI search warrant for former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence be unsealed, right-wing media continued their weeklong meltdown and called the warrant a “massive overreach” while also downplaying classified documents reportedly recovered from Mar-a-Lago, suggesting that nothing of value was found and even implying that the FBI may have planted evidence against the former president.
On August 8, the FBI executed a court-approved search warrant at Trump’s residence, reportedly in connection with his mishandling of classified government documents. Earlier this year, the National Archives and Records Administration reportedly recovered 15 boxes of White House records at Mar-a-Lago, which had been illegally removed by Trump’s team during the presidential transition.
Conservatives have exaggerated the dramatics of the so-called “raid” on Trump’s estate, citing his own words to claim that he was given no warning. However, Eric Trump told Fox News that there was ample warning that the search would occur Monday “and he informed his father,” and Garland further confirmed that the DOJ sought “less intrusive means” for obtaining the documents before choosing to physically recover them. Garland added that he is asking the court to unseal the search warrant given “the substantial public interest in this matter.”
Right-wing media has also downplayed the importance of the documents Trump reportedly stole, suggesting that the FBI was on a “fishing expedition.” However, recent reporting from The Washington Post suggests that the FBI was looking for “nuclear documents,” among other classified materials. Right-wing media’s rush to spin this developing story for Trump has completely overlooked the possibility that he was dangerously exposing national security secrets. Instead, some right-wing media figures actually suggested that FBI agents would use the search as an opportunity to “fabricate evidence” against Trump.
Despite a legitimate reason for the FBI to enter Mar-a-Lago and a legitimate motive for the investigation, right-wing media’s rush to cast doubt and obscure the potential crimes committed by Trump dominated their coverage of the event and its aftermath.
Right-wing media frame the warranted search as “a massive overreach” and downplay Trump’s potential crimes
- Fox “straight news” anchor Shannon Bream called the FBI’s search warrant “a massive overreach.” Bream went on to suggest that it bolstered the former president's conspiracy theories about “the so-called deep state” and the chances that Trump runs for president again in 2024. [Fox News, America Reports, 8/11/22]
- Fox’s Bret Baier compared classified documents reportedly taken by Trump to Hillary Clinton’s email server to suggest the Mar-a-Lago search warrant was unnecessary. [Fox News, America Reports, 8/11/22]
- Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey appeared on The Story with Martha MacCallum suggesting “somebody hoped there would be evidence of another crime” found at Trump’s home. He questioned, “what was it that made it impossible” for the FBI to use less intrusive measures to retrieve documents from Trump and said that the FBI could have moved to “compel compliance with a subpoena” rather than executing a search warrant. [Fox News, The Story with Martha MacCallum, 8/11/22]
- Conservative lawyer Mike Davis criticized the FBI for even searching Mar-a-Lago, saying, “It’s routine for any Office of the Former President to negotiate with National Archives.” On Twitter, Davis wrote, “They could've alerted Congress. The Biden DOJ could've filed a civil lawsuit. They could've sought a subpoena. But unprecedented home raid?!” [Twitter, 8/11/22]
- On Fox & Friends, correspondent Griff Jenkins called the search of Mar-a-Lago “the most aggressive law enforcement action ever taken against a former president” and quoted Trump’s attorneys as saying it was “not only unprecedented and uncalled for but it was unwarranted.” [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/22]
- Fox’s America Reports suggested that previous presidents also haven’t complied with the Presidential Records Act, with anchor Martha MacCallum adding that the contents of the search “better be good to evoke this kind of response.” Correspondent Mike Emmanuel suggested “there have been disputes between outgoing administrations and the folks at the National Archives for years” and said, “They work them out. They don’t go in and raid the former president’s home, which I think is why a lot of folks are really scratching their heads about this case.” [Fox News, America Reports, 8/11/22]
- The Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles: “Unless the FBI found severed heads in a freezer at Mar-a-Lago, there is no legitimate basis for the raid.” [Twitter, 8/11/22]
- On Twitter, Fox News contributor and former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said he couldn’t “wrap his arms around” why Trump didn’t give the documents back and speculated that the former president had either thought the records were “declassified” or “thought it was government overreach.” [Twitter, 8/11/22]
Right-wing media baselessly claim the FBI “got nothing” from the search or even used the opportunity to “fabricate evidence” against Trump
- The conspiracy theorist website The Gateway Pundit downplayed the search warrant execution, baselessly stating that the FBI “GOT NOTHING in the Raid.” [The Gateway Pundit, 8/11/22]
- On The Faulkner Focus, Brian Kilmeade implied that the FBI and the DOJ were “on a fishing expedition” to find evidence to stop Trump from seeking reelection in 2024. [Fox News, The Faulkner Focus, 8/10/22]
- On his radio show, Sean Hannity said, “The warrant is an outrage in itself, you know, an armed raid on the ex-president's home over what? Archive materials? No.” Hannity claimed, “This raid wasn't about the National Archives. It was a hunt for anything that might incriminate him regarding January 6 or anything other than the National Archives.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 8/10/22]
- Fox News contributor Joe Concha attacked the search as unnecessary, saying it smells like “partisan BS” and suggesting the FBI found “a nothing burger with no bun.” Concha accused the FBI of “attempting to put on a grand political show” and “a dramatic, made-for-TV raid,” alluding to the search happening on the anniversary of President Richard Nixon announcing his resignation. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/9/22]
- The Federalist’s Sean Davis: “it doesn’t matter what’s in” the search warrant because “this FBI will fabricate evidence, alter emails, and even pay people to lie to them in order to take down Trump.” [Twitter, 8/11/22]
- On Fox & Friends, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said, “I think they went in, they’re looking to see whatever they can find. Their argument is alright, we were here looking for documents, we didn’t find those but look what we did find – or who knows what happened while they were in there, because the lawyers weren’t allowed to see it.” Co-host Brian Kilmeade questioned whether the Mar-a-Lago search was “really for the National Archives” and suggested that the warrant was unnecessary because Trump and his team had been cooperating with authorities to return records. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 8/10/22]