Because Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., seems loath to do real oversight, the outside organization Judicial Watch is very much on target in filing a lawsuit demanding “records of the planning and preparation of the raid of the home of former Trump campaign aide Roger Stone.”
Former Trump lawyer John Dowd, whose judgment is not always the best but who is a savvy veteran of the Justice Department and of white-collar criminal battles, was right this week to compare the heavily armed commando-like raid of Stone’s home to “an amphibious landing.”
“I used to be in the Marines,” he said. “I've done an amphibious landing. I couldn't believe they were doing one at Stone's house! It's muscular, it's over the top, it's designed to scare.”
Indeed, it was. And as I noted immediately after Stone’s arrest, over-amped raids such as this one are more likely to cause unintended violence and injury than to prevent it, sometimes quite literally with deadly consequences.
Judicial Watch, well known as a vigorous watchdog, filed three separate Freedom of Information Act requests with the Department of Justice and the FBI in the days after Stone’s arrest. According to the organization’s press release, neither the department nor the FBI has responded to the FOIA filings.
By law, FOIA requests must either be honored or acknowledged with an explanation for why the requested information is exempt from disclosure. Because the nation’s chief law enforcement agencies seem to be ignoring the law, Judicial Watch has filed suit to compel compliance.
Judicial Watch wants specific information both on why CNN was on hand to air the raid live, a question that looks to have been adequately answered, but still is worth double-checking, and on internal planning records and communications among various key actors at the FBI and at the Justice Department.
It is the latter set of records that is probably most important. SWAT-team-like raids of the sort used against Stone are usually reserved for targets considered dangerous, likely to suddenly destroy evidence, or a risk for sudden flight. None of those considerations would appear, to the layman’s eye, to apply to Roger Stone.
If they did not apply, then the commando tactics certainly seem to run afoul of rules in the FBI Investigations and Operations Guide that says arresting agents should “employ the least intrusive means” that will accomplish the mission. The public deserves to know why the FBI considered the Stone raid to be “the least intrusive” possible.
“That we’re being stonewalled suggests that someone has something to hide,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “Judicial Watch is investigating the investigators, and it’s time for them to come clean.”
Yes, it is.