A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Three days after the unprecedented FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Attorney General Merrick Garland defended the employees of the DOJ and FBI on Thursday, stating, “I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked.”
The attacks are being leveled every minute of every hour. To give you a sense of the information environment surrounding this story, here is some of what’s been said since Garland’s on-camera statement, across both mainstream media and MAGA media, in timeline order from 3 p.m. through 11 p.m. Thursday:
– Fox News contributor and The Federalist editor in chief Mollie Hemingway: “Shutter the FBI. Immediately. They are a threat to the country and self-governance.”
– Rep. Liz Cheney: “I have been ashamed to hear members of my party attacking the integrity of the FBI agents involved with the recent Mar-a-Lago search. These are sickening comments that put the lives of patriotic public servants at risk.”
– Jim Hoft of the far-right Gateway Pundit website: “Garland today basically admitted they have nothing on President Trump. He could not identify ANYTHING the president did that was illegal.”
– Former Deputy Attorney General Don Ayer on CNN: “The A.G. did a perfect job of dealing with the dilemma that he’s in.”
– “To sum up what is happening here,” the NYT’s Charlie Savage wrote, “Garland is basically calling Trump’s bluff.” Trump publicized the search but didn’t share the underlying info. “Garland is proposing to show the public the documents that Trump has kept hidden,” Savage wrote.
– In response to the DOJ seeking to unseal the search warrant, a federal court in Florida instructed the DOJ to confer with Trump’s team and to tell the court by 3pm on Friday if Trump opposes their release.
– Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene: “We must defund the FBI, dismantle the DOJ, and gut the agencies of political biases and persecutions.”
– The suspect who allegedly attempted to breach the FBI’s field office in Cincinnati, and then was involved in an hours-long standoff, was reported to be dead after a shootout with police.
– A Truth Social account bearing the name of the suspect had a post about attempting to storm an FBI office, along with other content encouraging people to prepare for a revolutionary-type war.
– The Twitter account @Acyn, who is well-known for sharing cable news clips on Twitter, wrote: “So the suspect was posting to the former president’s social media platform while engaged in a gunfight with the police?”
– Turning back to the mystery of the FBI’s seizures, John Dean said on CNN, “This was probably top-secret information that Trump has squirreled away and refused to turn over.”
– Jesse Watters said on Fox that a “liberal librarian” wanted boxes of materials, and Trump kept cooperating, even when they came back with a subpoena in June. “Some of the stuff” in storage “wasn’t even documents,” he said. “It was like golf balls and Oval Office rain coats. You know, Trump’s a memento guy.” He concluded: “This was just a fishing expedition.”
– At 8 p.m., the Washington Post changed the night’s narrative with this headline: “FBI searched Trump’s home to look for nuclear documents and other items, sources say.”
– “Material about nuclear weapons is especially sensitive and usually restricted to a small number of government officials” the Post’s team wrote, citing experts.
– On Fox, Tucker Carlson fill-in Brian Kilmeade read part of the Post story aloud to Lara Trump and turned it into a joke: “Did you see any nuclear reports at the Mar-a-Lago club, maybe around the pool, by the lifeguard stand?” She said “of course not.”
– “Trump could clear this up tonight,” reporter Steven Dennis tweeted. “What does the warrant say? What did they find?”
– On MSNBC, historian Jon Meacham said that “if the Post reporting is correct, it has the capacity to be the nightmare scenario for these documents leaving the custody of the government.”
– On CNN, Juliette Kayyem noted that “the Post reporters are some of the best national security reporters out there, and they have strong sourcing.”
– Back on Fox, former Florida A.G. Pam Bondi dubbed the FBI search an assault: “There were hundreds of agents that had to have been weaponized to pull the assault off at Mar-a-Lago.”
– Presidential historian Michael Beschloss and outspoken Trump opponent said we urgently need to know: “If he illegally took home and kept classified nuclear documents, did he share the secrets from them with enemies of the United States?”
– Laura Coates opened CNN’s 10 p.m. hour by calling the WaPo story “a major development which may explain, partially, the FBI’s urgency in getting back classified documents with Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home.”
– Laura Ingraham started Fox’s 10 p.m. hour by ridiculing Garland; saying that “it looks like they laundered their latest explanation” for the search “through the Washington Post;” and saying the “nuclear documents” reference “could mean anything, right? It could be a print-out from the Nuclear Regulatory Agency or the Department of Energy. It could be an e-mail, whatever.”
– The Drudge Report’s red banner: “FEDS HUNT NUKE DOCS.”
– Sen. Brian Schatz tweeted: “Just a caution that we still don’t know exactly what this is, and we should reserve a bit of outrage for if this is truly as terrible as it might seem, and a little credibility in case it’s not. But it seems quite bad.”
– At 10:59 p.m., ABC’s team reported that “the information was sensitive enough that authorities wanted to take it back into possession immediately.”
Let’s see all of the documents
Multiple news outlets have now asked the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida to unseal information thought to be connected to the Mar-a-Lago search. On Thursday CNN, joined by The Washington Post, NBC News and Scripps, asked for access to the entire record, “including all probable cause affidavits filed in support of the search warrant,” CNN’s Tierney Sneed wrote here.
“Before the events of this week, not since the Nixon Administration had the federal government wielded its power to seize records from a former President in such a public fashion,” lawyers for the news outlets said in the filing. The filing said “tremendous public interest in these records in particular outweighs any purported interest in keeping them secret.”