Garland puts pressure back on Trump as GOP targets Justice: The Note

The motives of the Justice Department have been questioned by the GOP.

August 12, 2022, 6:06 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

For those inclined to think Attorney General Merrick Garland is playing chess to counter former President Donald Trump’s checkers, consider how much easier it is to win at checkers.

Consider as well the extraordinary challenge Garland threw back to Trump – and not just with the decision his legal team now faces Friday about whether to stand in the way of public release of the search warrant and list of items seized at Mar-a-Lago on Monday.

The attorney general revealed that he authorized the decision to seek a search warrant himself, and hinted at why by saying “it is standard practice to seek less intrusive means.” No less of a challenge was his defense of FBI agents and Department of Justice employees, whose motives have come under siege this week by Trump and countless loyal Republicans.

“I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked,” Garland said.

Other than a few people who work for Garland, perhaps only Trump knows the full story of why the search warrant was sought and what was taken away. But it’s not just Trump attacking both the Department of Justice and the judicial system writ large, in a week where he also availed himself of his Fifth Amendment rights in connection with a civil investigation in New York.

Garland isn’t going to want to get drawn into a Trump-style game of goalpost shifting and what-aboutism – something Trump allies know. But those same allies don’t know what Garland actually has on Trump, in an election season where their fates are inextricably tied.

PHOTO: Attorney General Merrick Garland listens to a question as he leaves the podium after speaking at the Justice Department in Washington, Aug. 11, 2022.
Attorney General Merrick Garland listens to a question as he leaves the podium after speaking at the Justice Department in Washington, Aug. 11, 2022.
Susan Walsh/AP

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

The White House is planning a blitz of travel around the country for President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and members of the cabinet with the goal of celebrating a host of legislative wins ahead of midterm elections.

Their argument will be that the Biden administration, and Democrats more broadly, have worked against "special interests" to pass legislation that addresses lowering the cost of prescription drugs, gun safety, tax reform and climate change. In comparison, they will say, Republicans attempted to block that change siding with "special interests."

"People are going to have a clearer sense of everything that President Biden is doing to fight for them for their families, and also a clear sense of where congressional Republicans stand," said one senior White House official of the planned travel that is slated to begin after the Inflation Reduction Act is signed into law. This official later added "people are going to hear that from this White House and this administration loudly over the next few months."

What remains to be seen is if the string of policy wins for the Biden administration will yield tangible improvements for Americans that are significant enough for Democrats to run on.

On a call with reporters Thursday, White House officials were optimistic that Americans would feel a difference beginning this fall.

"A lot of these pieces are going to move very quickly and are going to be felt in people's lives immediately and others are going to are going to follow soon after," said a White House official.

The latest ABC News/Ipsos poll showed that Americans' views of Biden's handling of the economic recovery remain overwhelmingly negative. Only 37% of Americans approving of the job the president is doing and 62% disapproving according to the poll. On inflation, only 29% of Americans saying they approve, while 69% disapprove. Those numbers are virtually unchanged from the same poll in June.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 10, 2022.
President Joe Biden delivers remarks in the East Room of the White House, Aug. 10, 2022.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman will hold his first campaign rally in Erie, Pa. on Friday since suffering a stroke in the lead up to the state's primary election in May.

"It's the ultimate swing county," said Fetterman campaign spokesperson Joe Calvello about the decision to hold the event in the state's most northwestern county.

"John firmly believes that -- he's been saying this for years now, that whoever wins Erie, wins Pennsylvania. It is that simple," he added.

After pivoting in favor of Donald Trump in 2016, Erie voters swung back into Democrats' corner in 2020 when Joe Biden won the county by just a percent and cinched the presidency.

In addition to Fetterman's remarks, the event is slated to feature appearances from Fetterman's wife and surrogate, Gisele Fetterman, as well as other local Democratic leaders. Although the pace of campaigning after Friday is still in the works, the campaign is laying a roadmap to hold events across traditionally red strongholds in the coming weeks.

Friday's rally comes after months of online exchanges and meme wars between Fetterman and his Republican opponent, Dr. Oz which set an increasingly tense tone ahead of the last push toward November. The latest Twitter back-and-forth centers around the Oz campaign launching a "John Fetterman Basement Tracker" in late July which the campaign says aims to tally "Fetterman's last public campaign event or press interview." In response, the Lt. Governor's surrogates have hammered Oz for "mocking" his stroke recovery.

PHOTO: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns in Lemont Furnace, Pa., May 10, 2022.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns in Lemont Furnace, Pa., May 10, 2022.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images, FILE

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

45. That's the percentage of Americans who said it was "a very big problem" in an Aug. 9 YouGov poll that Trump has allegedly held onto classified documents after leaving office. And as FiveThirtyEight's Zoha Qamar writes, that's in line with polls from earlier this year when news broke in February that the National Archives and Records Administration had retrieved 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago that they said Trump shouldn't have had in his possession. However, if past investigations into Trump's legal woes are any indication, it seems as if this issue will remain a deeply partisan one and something that many Americans may be leery of wanting legal action taken against Trump.


ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Friday morning with ABC's Josh Margolin on the Justice Department's move to unseal the warrant for the Trump Mar-a-Lago search – and how it relates to an armed man who tried to enter the FBI's Cincinnati offices. Then, ABC's Cheyenne Haslett breaks down new guidelines from the CDC on COVID-19 control. And, we speak with both sides of a debate over turning the Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania and New Jersey into a national park.


  • ABC's "This Week": Exclusive Interviews with Governor Larry Hogan (R-MD) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL). Roundtable: Former Justice Department Spokesperson and ABC News Contributor Sarah Isgur, Former DNC Chair and ABC News Contributor Donna Brazile, New York Times National Political Correspondent and Co-author, "This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future" Alex Burns, Syndicated columnist with the Washington Post and author of the new book "The Destructionists: The Twenty-Five-Year Crack-Up of the Republican Party" Dana Milbank.

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