The Hill’s Morning Report — Garland to judge: Release Trump search warrant
Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday said the government made the unusual decision to ask a court to unseal information about the government’s Monday search of former President Trump’s Florida residence because of intense public interest in the Justice Department’s reported seizure of sensitive materials Trump had removed from the White House.
Overnight, Trump called for the “immediate” public release of the government’s warrant and receipt of materials taken after the FBI’s search of his home, both of which he and his lawyers possess.
“The department filed the motion to make public the warrant and [property] receipt in light of the former president’s public confirmation of the search, the surrounding circumstances and the substantial public interest in this matter,” Garland said.
The attorney general, in a surprise appearance on Thursday at the Justice Department, said in prepared remarks that he personally approved the decision to seek a warrant and search Trump’s residence.
Reacting to a political and news media firestorm stoked by Trump and his advocates this week and subsequent accusations that the administration is playing politics, Garland, a cautious former federal appeals court judge, forcefully defended the work and professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department employees.
“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked. The men and women of the FBI and the Justice Department are patriotic, dedicated public servants,” the attorney general said. “Every day they protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism and other threats to their safety while safeguarding our civil rights. … I am honored to work alongside them. This is all I can say right now.”
Garland did not characterize or describe what his department sought from Trump or the “basis of the search,” which anonymous sources have said are presidential materials illegally withheld from the National Archives by Trump and his representatives, in defiance of negotiations and federal subpoenas. Before Monday’s, the drama to retrieve presidential records had included Trump’s initial return to the government of 15 boxes of White House materials.
Trump and his lawyers and advocates, who were the first to disclose the FBI search on Monday, argued again on Thursday that it was an unnecessary “raid,” while some Trump allies have suggested without evidence that the government might have “planted” documents to hurt the former president politically in advance of his anticipated 2024 presidential bid.
In statements Thursday on his social media platform, Truth Social, the former president suggested that he and his lawyers had been prepared before Monday to cooperate with the Justice Department to surrender material “if we had it.” He asserted that the search was “out of nowhere and with no warning.” (In fact, a lawyer for Trump was present during the FBI search.)
The former president’s reaction to Garland’s public comments took aim at political detractors, arguing that the Justice Department falls in that category and executed a search warrant “drawn up by radical left Democrats and possible future political opponents, who have a strong and powerful vested interest in attacking me, much as they have done for the last 6 years. … This unprecedented political weaponization of law enforcement is inappropriate and highly unethical. … Release the documents now!” Trump wrote.
A judge had given Trump’s lawyers and the Justice Department until 3 p.m. today to determine if Trump agrees to unseal the government’s search documents, which are the legal underpinnings of the government’s actions at Mar-a-Lago on Monday.
Between the spring and August, the department shifted from subpoena to court-ordered search warrant to locate classified presidential documents in part because a tipster reportedly told the government that Trump was not in full compliance and had withheld sensitive national security materials at Mar-a-Lago in possible violation of the law.
The New York Times reported that the Justice Department felt it had to act because the materials in Trump’s possession were related to national security, possibly “special access programs,” a designation typically reserved for extremely sensitive operations carried out by the United States abroad.
The Washington Post reported that classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among items FBI agents sought at Mar-a-Lago.
The New York Times: Trump as president was viewed by some intelligence officials as a security risk.
FBI Director Christopher Wray, who did not accompany Garland or add anything to public comments on Thursday, sent an internal message to FBI colleagues praising their work and professionalism and describing efforts to upgrade security, CNN’s Evan Pérez reported on-air.
▪ Niall Stanage: Five key questions about the Mar-a-Lago search and its fallout.
▪ The New York Times: Read the Justice Department filing to the U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida, seeking to unseal a warrant and an Aug. 8 redacted property receipt from the Mar-a-Lago search.
▪ NewsNation: Authorities shot and killed an armed man who tried to breach the Cincinnati FBI office on Thursday, fled the scene and engaged in a lengthy standoff with police. Authorities are trying to sort out his motive.
▪ Politico: How the Trump FBI search puts swing-state Republicans in a bind.
▪ The Associated Press: Trump hired Atlanta criminal defense attorney Drew Findling to represent him in a Georgia probe of whether the former president illegally tried to interfere with the 2020 presidential election in the state.
LEADING THE DAY
For much of the past year-plus, drama has colored almost every part of the Democratic effort to pass a budget reconciliation package. That will not be the case today, as House Democrats of all stripes are set to vote for and pass the $740 billion proposal.
The House will briefly interrupt its lengthy August recess today in order to pass the climate and tax proposal and hand yet another Biden a major win and attempt to buoy the Democratic chances of success in November.
As The Hill’s Mike Lillis notes, no Democratic defections are expected on the reconciliation bill — a remarkable turnaround after talks were mired with problems dating back to December when Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) put the Build Back Better agenda in a coma.
“This is a big deal, this is historic. And I’m anxious to get it to the floor, pass it, and get it to the president’s desk,” Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), chairman of the House Rules Committee, told reporters on Wednesday.
“People like me wanted a lot more, right? But the bottom line is you can only get done what’s possible within the reality you’re living,” he continued. “And in any other Congress, if we were to pass one of these things — one component of what is in this reconciliation bill — it would be huge.”
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Wednesday labeled the package “historic” and a “great bill.” Included in the bill are provisions aimed at lowering the price of prescription drugs, extending Affordable Care Act subsidies to keep premiums from increasing and increasing corporate tax rates.
As the legislation’s name suggests, Democrats also hope the bill also has a positive impact on inflation. According to The Hill’s Rachel Frazin, the Inflation Reduction Act is expected to cut prices consumers pay for electricity, as the bill contains a mix of tax credits for renewable energy sources and incentives for household solutions that could save consumers about $200 per year, one model suggests.
▪ The Associated Press: House Democrats set to overcome GOP for climate, health care win.
▪ Axios: Drug prices could give Democrats a midterms lifeline.
▪ NBC News: Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) delivers a “gift to private equity” in Democrats’ big agenda bill.
▪ The Hill: Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen tells IRS not to use new funding to increase middle-class audits.
▪ Laura Kelly, The Hill: Lawmakers are heading to Ukraine with or without White House’s approval.
In Indiana on Thursday, lawmakers mourned the death of Rep. Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) more than a week after she and two staff members were killed in a car accident in her home state.
Walorski’s funeral took place at Granger Community Church in Indiana, where House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and Rep. Ann Wagner (R-Mo.) all spoke. The House sergeant at arms coordinated a plane for members of Congress to fly to South Bend, Ind., for the funeral (The Hill).
Zachery Potts, 27, and Emma Thomson, 28, were also killed in the Aug. 3 car crash.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
The week’s Trump-laden news cycle is creating a messaging headache for the White House, as it wants to go above and beyond to ensure it does not look like it is attempting to influence the Justice Department’s investigation of the ex-president.
It was notable on Thursday that the White House declined to comment in response to Garland’s statement to the press, saying only that it became aware that he would speak at the podium via press reports and had no foreknowledge. Only days before, the White House said the same thing after the Mar-a-Lago search — that it first heard about it when it was reported in the media.
According to The Hill’s Morgan Chalfant and Amie Parnes, Democrats believe that’s the right approach, even though it means GOP accusations and condemnations about the search will largely go unanswered by the White House.
The decision also means Biden is expected to stay mum when it comes to openly criticizing his predecessor for the foreseeable future, even though a Biden-Trump rematch could be in the cards in 2024. Rather, the White House has other fish to fry in the form of legislative accomplishments, headlined by the reconciliation package that is set to hit the president’s desk for his signature in the coming days.
▪ Reuters: Flush with wins, finally COVID-19-free, Biden to hit the road ahead of U.S. midterms.
▪ CNN: Biden to stay “laser focused” on legislative accomplishments amid Trump investigations.
In New York, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) on Wednesday sued New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) alleging she improperly rejected his request for legal counsel in his sexual misconduct suit brought by a state trooper.
The lawsuit, filed on Wednesday in the New York State Supreme Court, alleges that James’s denial of taxpayer funds to pay for the then-governor’s counsel was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to state law. New York law provides that the governor is entitled to defense in any civil action alleged while he was acting “within the scope of his public employment or duties.” Cuomo argues the suit is covered under the statute (The Hill).
▪ The Associated Press: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. (D) plans “raw” remarks in return to campaign trail for Senate race. John Fetterman
▪ The Des Moines Register: Gov. Larry Hogan (R) visits the Iowa State Fair to discuss 2024 election.
■ Merrick Garland is no cowboy, by Ruth Marcus, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3vU1PnW
■ How the CDC can build trust around monkeypox shots, by Lisa Jarvis, Bloomberg Opinion. https://bloom.bg/3SFjJ7T
WHERE AND WHEN
The House will meet at 9 a.m. and will vote on the Senate-passed Inflation Reduction Act.
The Senate convenes at 9 a.m. for a pro forma session during its summer recess, which ends Sept. 6.
The president and first lady Jill Biden are vacationing in South Carolina. Biden has no public events scheduled.
Vice President Harris is in Oakland, Calif., for separate events focused on a program in the city that supports students who aspire to higher education, and the administration’s policies supporting the commercial space sector. She will tour and speak at Chabot Space & Science Center. The vice president will travel in the afternoon to Los Angeles.
➤ POLIO, PANDEMIC, HEALTH
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is fearful that a confirmed case of polio in Rockland County, N.Y., means there could be hundreds of cases because of a low rate of immunization in that area (60 percent vs. nearly 93 percent nationally). Polio’s spread is silent, and the disease is incurable but preventable with immunization. José Romero, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, warned that the identified case was the “tip of the iceberg” during an interview with CNN.
As anticipated, the CDC on Thursday officially relaxed the government’s COVID-19 guidance regardless of individuals’ vaccination status. It puts the onus on people to assess their own risk threshold, rather than businesses, governments or schools. The government indicated it will focus on protecting people most vulnerable to severe illness from the coronavirus (The Hill).
The CEO of Bavarian Nordic, the company that makes the only FDA-approved monkeypox vaccine, told Biden administration health officials he is concerned about a new strategy to split doses and alter how the vaccine is injected. Paul Chaplin, the company’s CEO, said he has “some reservations” about the new approach for two reasons: the limited amount of safety data available, and that more individuals have experienced adverse reactions post-vaccination. “This may have a negative impact on vaccine uptake and coverage,” he wrote in a letter (The Hill).
Politico: Florida bans Medicaid from covering gender-affirming treatments.
Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported as of this morning, according to Johns Hopkins University (trackers all vary slightly): 1,036,325. Current average U.S. COVID-19 daily deaths are 400, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
➤ CITY WATCH
Washington, D.C., Attorney General Karl Racine (D) announced Thursday his office won a $4 million judgment against Polymer80, a ghost gun maker and distributor. Racine’s office said a court ruled that the manufacturer violated the District’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, having sold and distributed illegal firearms in the District while making false claims about its products’ legality. The ruling requires the company to inform its dealers and distributors that its products cannot be sold in Washington (The Hill).
The NBA on Thursday announced that it is retiring Bill Russell’s No. 6 league-wide. Any player who currently wears the number may continue to do so, but it will no longer be given out in the future. In a statement, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that the Boston Celtics legend’s “unparalleled success on the court and pioneering civil rights activism deserve to be honored in a unique and historic way,” adding that the decision “ensures that Bill’s transcendent career will always be recognized.” Russell’s jersey retirement becomes only the third in American professional sports to be done so on a league-wide basis. Major League Baseball retired Jackie Robinson’s No. 42 in 1997, while the NHL retired Wayne Gretzky’s No. 99 in 2000 (ESPN).
And finally … 👏👏👏 A hearty congrats to our Morning Report Quiz winners! It’s been 27 years since Jerry Garcia’s passing, so we were in search of smart guesses about the Grateful Dead.
Here’s who came through the winner’s circle this week: Paul Harris, Pam Manges, Patrick Kavanagh, Amanda Fisher, Lou Tisler, Robert Bradley, Randall Patrick, André Leblanc, Ki Harvey, Steve James and “tmmetzler.”
They knew that the Grateful Dead, having toured for the better part of 30 years, played 2,314 shows throughout their prodigious live career.
Garcia’s ashes were spread in two spots: underneath the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and in the Ganges River in India.
The Grateful Dead’s 1971 live album, “Grateful Dead,” also known to fans as “Skull and Roses,” is the site of the first written history of the term “Dead Heads.”
Finally, the band went through six keyboardists (band members and touring members) between 1965 and Garcia’s death in 1995.