In the immediate aftermath of the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, the smart move for Republicans would’ve been to exercise great caution. The party had no idea what Donald Trump took, what the FBI found, or what the court-approved search warrant said.
GOP officials had no use for the smart move.
Instead, Republicans responded in the most knee-jerk, reactionary way possible, lashing out at the Justice Department, the FBI, and its leaders. The party condemned the attorney general, the FBI director, and President Joe Biden — without evidence, without reason, and without any regard for propriety.
Many in the party even abandoned any interest in the rule of law, insisting that holding Trump accountable — even trying to hold Trump accountable — represented an unforgivable abuse that left the United States as little more than a “banana republic.”
Then Attorney General Merrick Garland endorsed disclosing the search warrant. The Washington Post reported soon after that nuclear secrets were among the materials the former president kept at his unsecured golf resort.
It was against this backdrop that the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee held a press conference this morning to once again defend Trump, floating some newly crafted arguments. The Washington Post highlighted one of my favorites:
Rep. Michael R. Turner (Ohio), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, suggested that it was possible that Trump had in his possession documents related to nuclear weapons that were technically classified but not “truly classified.”
Sure, the former president may have improperly taken nuclear secrets to his golf club. And sure, he didn’t give them back when asked. And sure, he and his team didn’t comply with a subpoena. And sure, Trump gave the FBI no choice but to execute a search warrant.
But let’s not assume, Turner suggested, that just because the nuclear secrets Trump allegedly took are classified that they’re, you know, classified.
Politico added, “Republicans who days ago were near-united in blasting the Justice Department are allowing that nuclear weapons-related materials at Mar-a-Lago might be problematic.”
Yes. Problematic. How generous of them.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy added that holding onto documents relating to nuclear weapons “doesn’t seem like that’s something [Trump] would be doing.”
Perhaps not, but this is the point at which we find ourselves.
House Republican Conference Chair Elise Stefanik, meanwhile, urged the public this morning not to “jump to conclusions” — despite the fact that the New York congresswoman has spent the week jumping to conclusions, and despite the fact that at the same press conference, Stefanik again accused the Biden administration of “weaponizing“ federal law enforcement, despite the fact that there’s literally no evidence that this has happened.
All of which leaves us with a couple of inescapable truths. The first is that GOP officials feel the need to remain loyal to Trump, even if he did mishandle national security materials and illegally take nuclear secrets to his resort.
The second is that the party’s new talking points are every bit as ridiculous as the script from a few days ago.