What the general brief from GOP prosecutors backing Trump doesn’t say

When Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence was raided last month, the GOP sprang into action. Republicans were willing to go to great lengths, often extremely speculative and unproven, to defend it, even when we knew very little about the research. It wasn’t just dubious research, in their view: it was an abuse of power and a political stunt, evidence could have been planted, and so on.

The fervent support and baseless accusations have since waned somewhat as the party grapples with the emerging facts, which paint an increasingly vivid picture of the former president taking highly sensitive documents to his compound. luxury.

Enter a group of GOP state attorneys general, which filed an amicus brief Tuesday in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. The decision by the attorneys general of Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and West Virginia would seem , on its face, be significant evidence of support for Trump’s court case.

Dig a few inches deeper, though, and it’s a lot less than it looks. The document is dedicated to attacking the Biden administration and its handling of legal affairs; it does next to nothing to actually deal with the case in question.

The memoir opens with some of the greatest successes of the GOP’s attacks on research itself. The memoir calls it an “unprecedented nine-hour search of the private residence of former President Donald J. Trump” and even characterizes it as the Biden administration “trashing the home of its sole and possibly future political rival.” “. (“Racking” often involves stealing things or at least dealing with matter randomly and roughly.)

But other than that, the brief does not address the search at all, Trump’s underlying conduct, or even the order that is being appealed. Instead, he devotes his entire argument to a series of cases that attorneys general have been involved in — as well as other issues — that he says demonstrate a “legal mandate.”

Certainly, there is water for this mill. Attorneys general cite how President Biden acknowledged last year that reinstating the covid eviction moratorium would likely fail in court, but was still worth pursuing because it could help people before it did be cancelled. The brief also cites Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. accusing the administration of legal maneuvering in a long-running legal battle over immigration rules.

But otherwise, the dossier reads like a hastily-gathered list of complaints you might see on a Fox News broadcast. And the examples cited are not limited to court battles; they also include Vice President Harris’ public comments last week on border “security,” the administration’s comments about not funding “gain of function” research, and the aborted launch of a “Disinformation Governance Council”. These high-profile incidents are all brought together in the service, essentially, of one argument: the administration cannot be trusted in its representations of the facts regarding the Mar-a-Lago search.

But the memoir is also remarkable for what it does not say and what it does not discuss. It does not look at all at Trump’s retention of potentially highly sensitive government documents. (He doesn’t even use the word “classified” at all, in fact.) Nor does he get into the actual legal disputes about the Mar-a-Lago search that had been raised in the case heard by Judge Aileen M. Cannon.

This stands in contrast to an amicus brief late last week from a group of GOP law enforcement officials arguing that Cannon’s order should be rescinded and closely dissecting the legal reasoning.

These attorneys general say they have an important perspective on the central question of whether the administration should be treated with the “presumption of due process” – that is, the idea that government officials “have properly discharged of their official duties”. But that goal doesn’t stop them from fighting for Trump or at least the details of Cannon’s controversial order. Yet they choose to do none of this.

In many ways, this tactic mirrors the last time GOP attorneys general came forward in high-profile fashion to seemingly vouch for Trump. This was after the 2020 election, when Trump was making all sorts of false claims about voter fraud, “stolen” elections and the like: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and others sued various swing states in an attempt to cancel their results. But rather than echo his assertions forcefully, the attorneys general – almost everyone in this latest brief, in fact, plus a few others — offered a more watered-down version that only raised questions. It was fairly quickly dismissed by the Supreme Court.

It also mirrors the tactic apparently taken by Trump’s own legal team, which refused to vouch for many of his claims in court – including that Trump had declassified all documents.

And as always, what people say publicly should be weighed against what they and their allies are willing to say in court.

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