Why former Sen. Jones believes facts will back up FBI search at Trump estate

Former Alabama Sen. Doug Jones, a Democrat who served as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama under President Clinton, joins Judy Woodruff with some perspective from the Democratic side of the aisle on the FBI search of Trump's residence.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And now, from the other side of the aisle, former U.S. Senator from Alabama Doug Jones, he served as the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama under President Clinton.

    Senator Jones, very good to see you again.

    I think you probably just heard from Governor Hutchinson that he feels very strongly that it is now up to the Justice Department, up to the FBI to explain why they conducted this search at former President Trump's home.

  • Fmr. Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL):

    Yes.

    And, look, I think everybody would love to see that. The one thing that — and I would like to see that. Yes, I think everybody would. The one thing that I would disagree with Governor Hutchinson on is the fact that this is only the affidavit — the affidavit is not public.

    Only the execution of the search warrant, which is not the evidence that was gathered to give and to put in front of a judge, that is what's under seal. That's the most important piece of the search warrant. That is under seal. That's the compilation of evidence that went together to show a federal judge, an independent judge, that probable cause existed to believe that a crime had been committed, a crime had been committed, and that evidence of that crime was concealed on that property.

    I'd love to hear an explanation. I'd like to see one. But I also think the public does not want to see any consequential investigation like this jeopardized. And the Justice Department is going to have to make another very serious decision as to whether or not the making public of the affidavit would in fact compromise the investigation going forward.

    And I trust them to make the right call.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Do you think that's a decision they have already made, or do you think they're weighing that right now?

  • Fmr. Sen. Doug Jones:

    You know, I think that they're — they are inclined to keep it under seal.

    That is the default position of the Department of Justice. Circumstances can change, and different things could happen that would cause them to change their mind.

    President Trump's lawyers may go into court and seek the unsealing of that affidavit. President Trump's lawyer should have a copy of the warrant itself and the inventory of what was seized. If there is a desire to make that public, they can do that part of it themselves. We will see how this goes.

    I think there will be a constant evaluation in the Department of Justice as we go forward.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    It's my understanding that that warrant was shown to former President Trump's lawyers when they showed up yesterday at Mar-a-Lago while this search was taking place.

    But, Senator Jones, what about the point that this is such a serious thing, a serious matter to go into the home and spend several hours going through the things that belong to the former — or that are there where the former president lives, and, to Governor Hutchinson's point, that it's — that the credibility of the Justice Department is on the line, that people from both political parties are saying we want to know what's going on?

  • Fmr. Sen. Doug Jones:

    Sure. Absolutely.

    And, look, I don't think there's any question that the attorney general of the United States understands that better than anyone. And all of those that are with him in his staff understand that. And — but they have got to make those decisions.

    And I do think this is a different case. Obviously, I do think that there is much more that should and needs to become public, if it will not in any way jeopardize the investigation. Again, Judy, I think people want to see an independent Justice Department that is going to make the decisions consistent with the rule of law. That's what they have been doing.

    All along, they have been doing — you haven't seen a bunch of leaks coming out of the Justice Department. They have been doing their work, have been telling people to be patient. They're going to do their work. They're going to continue to do their work. And, at the appropriate time, this will be made public. There will be more information being made public, whether it is through charges or whether it is just through the unsealing of the affidavit.

    But I trust the Justice Department to move forward. This — again, this is a consequential investigation. It's got to be done the right way, and not just done in a way in which the public, who has got all of their news at their fingertips and really wants the news yesterday, demands. We — they have got to do it the right way.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Well, you are right that the general impression up until now has been that this is a Justice Department that's independent. It's played its cards very close to the vest. We have learned very little.

    But you now have Republicans, in particular, looking at this and saying, well, here you go. The Justice Department, the justice system, in the words of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, have been weaponized to go after President Trump.

    How do they — how do they disabuse critics of that being the case?

  • Fmr. Sen. Doug Jones:

    They will do that eventually with facts that will come out in this case, if it is the case. And I believe that the facts will merit what — exactly what happened.

    What's interesting, Judy, is that the Republicans — it's the same Republicans who, for the last few months, during the January 6 Committee investigation, have just ignored all of the incredible, compelling evidence that has come out and instead said, let's look at inflation, let's talk about gas prices.

    Now, all of a sudden, when things really — the heat really gets turned up, inflation doesn't seem to be a big issue anymore. All of a sudden, they want to weaponize what the Justice Department and the rule of — and following the rule of law is.

    Remember — and this is so important for folks to remember. This is not just the Justice Department. The Justice Department could not have executed this search warrant without the approval of a United States judge, probably a district judge, not a magistrate, probably a district judge, a third branch of government.

    That's what the checks and balances of the Constitution provide for. So this is not a Third World country. This is not a banana republic, in which the president or the ruling party can just go in and conduct a raid. They have to go and present evidence of probable cause before a United States district judge, the third branch of government.

    So there's a lot difference. And they can talk about weaponizing all they want, but there was a judge, at the end of the day, a judge who sat in judgment of what was being presented and said, there is enough evidence here that I'm going to authorize the search of this residence.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Former U.S. Senator Doug Jones of Alabama, thank you.

  • Fmr. Sen. Doug Jones:

    Thank you, Judy.

Listen to this Segment