The Washington Post published an embarrassing article in the wake of the FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, placing blame on Attorney General Merrick Garland for allegedly politicizing the Department of Justice by executing a lawful search warrant. The article validated right-wing conceits that Trump should effectively be placed beyond any legal accountability, lest the Justice Department be accused of becoming “politicized.”
The obvious fact that allowing a political figure to escape legal accountability would itself be a political decision, however, is being given a back seat (if any consideration at all).
The article from Washington Post Justice Department reporter Perry Stein was originally emblazoned with the absurd headline, “Garland vowed to depoliticize Justice. Then the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago.” The article began by holding Garland to a virtually impossible standard, claiming that supporters had said he “would try to convince the public and lawmakers that he was an apolitical attorney general,” which was now contrasted with the supposedly “highly unusual court-approved search Monday.” (Presumably in response to intense criticism on social media, the Post has quietly updated the headline to a far more anodyne version, “FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago lands Merrick Garland in a political firestorm.”)
The article included Trump’s false claim that the court-approved search represented the “weaponization of the Justice System,” followed in the fourth paragraph by calls to “turn the tables” from Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who previously incited rioters to help Trump overturn the 2020 election and now says that Garland should resign or be impeached.
It was not until the 10th paragraph that the article began to include pushback, quoting Donald B. Ayer, a former Justice Department official under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Ayer said that accusations of the search being “the ultimate political act,” were “nonsense,” pointing out that Garland “has a job to do.”
The article also claimed obliviously that the newest wave of Republican attacks was “the opposite of what Garland has sought in his 17 months on the job, during which he has launched multiple high-profile civil rights investigations and efforts to fight gun trafficking and hate crimes, while also overseeing the sprawling investigation of the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and the unprecedented efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.”
In fact, Republican politicians and right-wing media voices have attacked Garland throughout his term at DOJ over many of those same topics. The responses have included threatening to imprison him for protecting voting rights, heckling him over efforts to combat gun violence, and especially opposing any efforts to investigate Trump’s attempt to stay in office after he lost the 2020 election. Even when Garland has acted officially on behalf of conservative figures, such as when he increased security for members of the Supreme Court and announced the arrest of a man for allegedly plotting to kill Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the response from conservative corners has been to attack him with false claims of not protecting the justices.
The Post’s decision to privilege Republican lies and false accusations of the supposed politicization of the DOJ also undermines other reporting from the same newspaper. The Post published another article just yesterday detailing the GOP’s unhinged responses to the FBI executing a warranted search of Trump’s estate, alongside another article explaining that the search was spurred by Trump and his staff not properly disclosing and returning all of the federal records they illegally removed from the White House in January 2021.
For the Post to imply that the current right-wing caterwauling against Garland is some kind of new development spurred on by a supposedly politically motivated search at Mar-a-Lago, it must exist in a vacuum separated from right-wing attacks against him for the past year and a half.