Attorney General Merrick Garland makes a statement Thursday about the...

Attorney General Merrick Garland makes a statement Thursday about the Mar-a-Lago search. Credit: AP/Susan Walsh

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland’s terse but strong statement on Thursday regarding the search of former President Donald Trump’s estate in Florida brought a brief and timely glimpse of light to a muddled situation created by the former commander-in-chief himself.

Yes, Garland approved the warrant for federal agents to search Mar-a-Lago. No, the former federal appeals court judge did not take this measure involving a former president lightly. And he made it clear that he won’t abide by “unfounded attacks” on the FBI and Justice Department.

Most importantly, Garland repeated his earlier vow to let the office’s work do the talking. On Thursday afternoon, the Justice Department asked a Florida court to release the court filings about the search given the fact that Trump, and not the Justice Department, disclosed its existence. It was the right move. A search of a former president's private property is an unprecedented event and the citizens of a democracy need to know the justification for it. We must be informed of what evidence the Justice Department offered to substantiate the claim that federal laws may have been broken.

All this happened on a day when an armed man wearing body armor sought to avoid security and enter the FBI’s Cincinnati office. He exchanged gunfire with law enforcement officers after fleeing the area.

Hours later the suspect, Ricky Walter Shiffer, 42, was killed in a standoff with police in a cornfield. Officials were probing his ties to an extremist group that took part in the Capitol insurrection. Shiffer allegedly claimed on social media that he was a participant.

Now we can see the consequences of those verbal attacks and calls for violence toward the FBI and the federal magistrate who signed off on the search by GOP members of Congress and Trump supporters. The rhethoric is despicable. Was nothing learned from the Jan. 6 attack?

 As a former president, Trump is stunningly reluctant to make any earnest effort to denounce or prevent political violence on his behalf. 

So it should surprise nobody that a synagogue that includes on its board Bruce Reinhart, the magistrate judge who signed the search warrant, was promptly the target of antisemitic threats that forced the temple to cancel an upcoming event.

Trump and his loyalists spread self-serving rhetorical poison about those who question, criticize or oppose him in any forum. Trump's legal defenses to the civil and criminal investigations swirling around him are simply public relations moves.

Under the circumstances, the very same political actors who express sincere frustration when they see liberal elected officials fail to defend or take responsibility for the action of local police might consider speaking out against right-wing zealots who reflexively denounce federal authorities for doing their jobs.

Or do they not see consistency in supporting American law enforcement across the board?

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.