Susan Estrich: My money is on Merrick Garland

From the commentary: (The documents) ... will show Donald Trump being arrogant and obstinate as we know he can be, displaying his contempt for the rule of law that applies to everybody. ... And they will show Merrick Garland supporting the carefully documented effort.

Attorney General Merrick Garland on April 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Attorney General Merrick Garland on April 21, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Andrew Harnik/Pool/Getty Images/TNS
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Mar-a-Lago is the wrong fight for Donald Trump to be in with the attorney general.

Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich commentary
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From the commentary: People talk about the old days, but in this case, there is truth to it. The old rules were that when the workday ended, Republicans and Democrats would raise a glass together. ... We were on different teams, but we were playing the same sport.

On one side, Merrick Garland's, you have the FBI doing its job. And the principle that no one is above the law.

On the other, you have a president whose insistence on keeping records he never should have taken in the first place has left the chattering class without any good explanation for why he didn't just give them back. There is no good explanation, which is why they had to do the search.

He took them because he could. He kept them because he wanted to. No one tells Trump what to do.

Isn't that the point?


It's the reason this is the wrong fight. It exposes Trump's greatest vulnerabilities just as much as the Jan. 6 hearings do.

It is almost funny to read the various explanations being offered as to why the president would take, and refuse to return, top-secret documents that belong in secure places and not a golf club. He liked to show off, to brag, to wave letters from foreign leaders around. Not good.

No one dared tell him otherwise. Not good. He played fast and loose with secret intelligence. Nothing new. He didn't think the rules applied to him. Of course.
There is a reason Vice President Mike Pence has warned his fellow Republicans not to attack the FBI for the search of the former president.

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It's because, once again, Trump is dragging his party to the losing side of the argument. If the FBI had found nothing, if Trump and his aides had fully cooperated and returned everything, no search would have been necessary. Instead, it appears that they found just what they were looking for. Imagine the contraband here was drugs and not documents ...

The immediate fight now is over whether the affidavit that was the basis of the Justice Department's search warrant application should be unsealed, that is, made public. The Justice Department tries to keep affidavits like this secret because they give you a pretty clear step-by-step of the investigation to date — who did what to whom and where it is headed. The people fighting to make it public, interestingly enough, are not Trump's lawyers but the various media organizations that are covering the story. They are standing in for you and me and our right to know.

Trump's lawyers are reportedly just observing and taking no position on whether the underlying documents justifying the search should be made public. They are not clamoring for transparency. There's a reason for that, too.

The judge, in his initial ruling, recognized the public's right to know as much as it could and ordered the government to submit proposed redactions or edits of the documents so that at least part could be made public. Redacted documents can be hard to follow, but my guess is that they will show that the government tried and failed to have these records returned before resorting to the extraordinary step of a search.

In other words, they will show Trump being arrogant and obstinate as we know he can be, displaying his contempt for the rule of law that applies to everybody.


And they will show Merrick Garland supporting the carefully documented effort.

This Susan Estrich commentary is her opinion. She can be reached at


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Opinion by Susan Estrich
Susan Estrich is an American lawyer, professor, author, political operative, and political commentator. She can be reached via
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