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Clive Crook

Would Locking Up Trump Serve the Public Interest?

A prosecution might be justified, but holding the former president to account is not the Justice Department’s most important job.

Proceed with caution.

Proceed with caution.

Photographer: Joe Raedle/Getty Images North America

Without knowing what the Department of Justice has learned about former President Donald Trump’s conduct, it’s impossible to say whether searching his home in Mar-a-Lago was justified. Before all the facts are in, however, it’s crucial to understand that the verdict on this action and what follows can’t rest only on what the law says. Attorney General Merrick Garland and his officials also had to be sure that they were acting — and would in due course be seen as having acted — in the public interest.

Assuming they had solid legal grounds for doing what they did, this second test is still extremely demanding. I’m hoping it wasn’t just ignored.