CNN Legal Analyst: DOJ is going to have to justify these 'intrusive means' to gather documents

CNN’s senior legal analyst Elie Honig did an on-air segment today in which he attempted to lay out what we know about the search warrant served at Trump’s home on Monday. CNN is headlining the video in a way that emphasizes what Honig said about the search warrant application (he called it the “Rosetta Stone” of the case). However, no one outside the DOJ has the warrant application and we’re unlikely to find out what’s in it anytime soon. In other words, the Rosetta Stone isn’t telling us anything.

But something else that Honig said was interesting in the sense that it acknowledges something a lot of conservatives have been saying since Monday. DOJ investigators met with Trump’s lawyers at Mar-a-Lago back in June. At the time they were shown several boxes of documents that were kept in a basement storage area. But they left without the documents. Two months later, apparently without any warning, they showed up with a search warrant. And that raises and obvious question, “Why did DOJ use a search warrant instead of less intrusive means?”

Honig walks through the same timeline that I spelled out here last night. After the meetings in June at Mar-a-Lago, someone from the DOJ called Mar-a-Lago five days later and asked that a padlock be added to the storage space. Two months later, FBI agents showed up and cut that padlock off and took boxes of documents. But again, the question is why it was necessary to act in this way given that DOJ had already been talking to Trump’s lawyers about these same documents. Why couldn’t they issue a subpoena for the documents instead?

When the initial raid happened, Trump issued a long statement which said in part, “After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate.”

So as I hear Honig’s remarks, he’s basically asking the same question a lot of conservatives (and President Trump himself) have been asking. Why was this “intrusive means” necessary? And his conclusion is that “ultimately DOJ’s going to have to justify it.”

I think a lot of people will breeze past this but notice the implication of what he’s saying: Nothing we’ve seen so far seems to justify this. Maybe there’s a good explanation but we haven’t seen it so far.

Is there a good explanation? If you read this NY Times story published last night it sounds like an ongoing spat between the National Archives and Trump. The Archives referred the matter to the DOJ and things seemed to be moving along until “in recent weeks” investigators decided someone might be lying to them. And that’s when they decided to take this dramatic step.

Whatever their reasoning was, it’s probably not going to be contained in the copy of the warrant left with Trump’s lawyers. As Honig said, someone from the DOJ is going to have to explain why it was necessary to do this. And if they don’t have a pretty convincing answer this decision is going to blow up in their faces.