Speaking of ethics

In his fatuous four-minute public statement on Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland spoke up to defend the FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago. The Department of Justice has posted the transcript of Garland’s remarks here.

At NRO, John Yoo and Robert Delahunty respond in the column “Why the Public Is Skeptical of Garland’s Mar-a-Lago Story.” They offer “four legitimate reasons Americans think something crassly political has just transpired.” They speak from experience and they know what they are talking about.

Yoo and Delahunty take up the sordid recent history of the FBI and the Department of Justice toward the end of their column. They do not directly address Garland’s condemnation of those who question the behavior of the FBI and the Department of Justice. Referring to “recent unfounded attacks on the professionalism of the FBI and Justice Department agents and prosecutors,” one might think he dozed off during the four years of the Trump administration.

Garland asserted: “I will not stand by silently when their integrity is unfairly attacked.” His bravado was not such that he could stand up to questions following his brief statement. Indeed, he silently skulked off.

Garland professed to be bound to silence by canons of professional or departmental responsibility: “[O]ur ethical obligations prevent me from providing further details as to the basis of the search at this time….This is all I can say right now.”

For reasons 1, 3, and 4 to doubt the bona fides of the raid, Yoo and Delahunty cite its timing, White House political pressure, and the impression of improper political motivation already created by the Justice Department and FBI. The second of the four reasons they offer for doubting the legitimacy of the raid is “the leaks”:

Garland had hardly vacated the podium when leaks from the inside began to flow to administration-friendly media. These allowed the agencies to put their self-serving spin on the raid without having to take responsibility for, or permit questioning of, those claims. Garland knows how Washington, D.C., works. He apparently wants to have it both ways: a trickle of official information but a gusher of selective, off-the-record disclosure.

If so, Garland’s invocation of “ethical obligations” is not to be taken seriously.

If, on the other hand, Garland is to be taken seriously and “ethical obligations” truly prevented him from saying more, one might infer that the leakers among Garland’s ranks belie his defense of the Department of Justice. He must be surrounded by lawyers and agents for whom the phrase “ethical obligations” is a contradiction in terms.

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