Mick Mulvaney: As a conservative, I want to have faith in the FBI and DOJ. Right now, I don’t.

·4 min read

As a conservative, I want to have faith in institutions. I want to believe that the Department of Justice is above politics. I want to believe that the FBI would never treat a Republican differently than a Democrat. And I want to believe that my government would never treat anyone differently because of their politics.

But evidence from the last several years belies that. And it colors my, and other Republicans’, view of the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago. I worry not just about the raid, and the precedent it sets, but on the double-standard that underpins it.

Yes, we are learning now that Donald Trump likely had documents at Mar-A-Lago that he should not have. And while there are only hints so far as to their true significance and whether they necessitated the raid, the law is what the law is on document retention, and every president has to abide by it.

So does every Secretary of State. Hillary Clinton was investigated for her mishandling of documents. She “bleached” her hard drives of classified material. That’s the digital equivalent of Donald Trump sitting in his basement setting boxes of documents on fire. Yet, her home wasn’t invaded. And she was never charged with a crime.

Mick Mulvaney
Mick Mulvaney

In 2016, the FBI presented incorrect information to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) Court regarding connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. Whether that was an intentional lie, or an honest mistake, we will likely never know. Regardless, our own government wrongly spied on a Republican presidential campaign.

In the midst of the 2020 election, the FBI contributed to the narrative that material on a laptop owned by Hunter Biden was Russian disinformation, effectively killing the story. That turned out to be false. Sen. Chuck Grassley recently noted that a whistleblower has informed him that the FBI effort was intentional, executed for political purposes.

There were no consequences for any of those transgressions. No one at the FBI or the DOJ got fired. No one was charged with a crime. I doubt anyone was even looked at crossly at a DC cocktail party.

Concerns about double-standards go well beyond the FBI. Many media outlets, in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago raid, are emphasizing the threats of violence against the FBI, the DOJ, and its people. Yet some of those same media sources, in the days after the 2020 election, published the name and the whereabouts of the then-Administrator of the General Services Administration. She was the person responsible for “ascertaining” who won the election and for authorizing the transition to the new Biden administration. As a result, the young woman received multiple death threats, some so credible that she was forced to leave Washington.

I am willing to acknowledge that Trump may have done something wrong. But I want to know why this unprecedented step — sending agents into the home of a former president and political rival of the sitting president — was justified. Was the raid tied in some fashion to criminal activity at the Jan. 6 riots? Or was it truly related to documents alone?

If it is indeed the latter, even a CNN legal analyst noted that the raid would not only be unnecessary, but “daring and dangerous.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland probably senses this, which may explain why on Thursday he took the extraordinary step of seeking to make public the search warrant and the receipt of materials the FBI took from Mar-a-Lago. But he didn’t mention anything about the materials the FBI showed the court to get the search warrant in the first place.

Everything the FBI and the DOJ did in searching Mar-a-Lago may be entirely defensible. Indeed, as a conservative, and an American, part of me hopes that the government was justified, beyond any shadow of a doubt, in taking this extraordinary step. But they will not get the benefit of the doubt. By their own actions, they have forfeited that right.

Mick Mulvaney served as former President Donald Trump’s Acting Chief of Staff from January 2019 to March 2020 before being assigned to a diplomatic post. He resigned Jan. 6 following the attack on the Capitol. He is now co-chair of Actum, LLC and lives in Indian Land, S.C.