The editorial board for the Wall Street Journal on Thursday called on Congress to investigate what Attorney General Merrick Garland knew about the FBI raid on James O’Keefe if a recently filed motion to unseal documents does not contain “very strong evidence” that the Project Veritas founder committed a crime.
“Attorney General Merrick Garland still refuses to retract the memo he sent last month instructing the Department of Justice to scrutinize parents protesting at local school board meetings. Now his department may have committed another civil-liberties abuse with its raid on Project Veritas leader James O’Keefe,” the piece begins.
The editorial board went on to compare the actions of Garland’s FBI to a hypothetical move by the Trump administration to raid a New York Times editor’s home after obtaining the former president’s tax records, noting that nothing that invasive ever occurred under the prior administration.
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland appears before the House Judiciary Committee oversight hearing on October 21. (Michael Reynolds/Pool via REUTERS)
The investigation, which is also being conducted by the Southern District of New York, surrounds a “stolen” diary belonging to Ashley Biden that went missing just days before the 2020 presidential election.
The “tipsters,” who O’Keefe said were in possession of the diary were apparently negotiating with media outlets to sell Biden’s diary and that ultimately, Project Veritas did not publish the book’s contents because his group was not able to independently verify its authenticity. O’Keefe added the diary was handed over to law enforcement and was never published.
“It’s settled law that it’s not a crime for journalists to publish information that was obtained unlawfully. If it was a crime, most of America’s largest news organizations would be criminal enterprises,” the board wrote.
The Wall Street Journal added that the government also confirmed in correspondence with O’Keefe’s attorney that it “complied with all applicable regulations and policies regarding potential members of the news media.”
The board then asserted that Garland’s guidelines in narrowing the Justice Department’s ability to seize information from reporters, which was published in July, may actually do the opposite.
“Reporters who obtain potentially stolen documents related to a public figure may be subject to the same treatment as Mr. O’Keefe—homes raided and devices seized and searched with no special dispensation for journalistic activity,” the board continued.
Media watchdogs have come to the defense of Project Veritas founder James O’Keefe after the Justice Department raided his home. (REUTERS/Andrew Kelly)
The board acknowledges that journalism is not a “shield” against lawbreaking and that if he did commit a crime he should face prosecution. The board added that they “do not agree” with all of O’Keefe’s practices, but his actions are still “reporting that qualifies as journalism.”
The board also called the circumstances of the raid “punitive” and mentioned that the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press recently filed a motion to the court to unseal the documents pertinent to the basis the FBI used to execute their search warrant.
“Those documents better contain very strong evidence of a crime committed by Project Veritas to justify this behavior by a Democratic Administration toward a journalist. If not, the seizure of Mr. O’Keefe’s records is another abuse of civil liberties by Mr. Garland’s department, and Congress ought to ask what the Attorney General knew about it,” the piece concluded.
Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn contributed to this report.