The political and legal fallout from the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8th to confiscate government documents that Trump was holding 19 months after leaving office, continues to dominate the headlines. The controversy touched off by the raid exists on two separate levels. One is the political implications of the excessive use of force by Joe Biden’s Justice Department and the FBI, in an apparent effort to intimidate, embarrass and possibly disqualify Trump, who is Biden’s most likely and popular re-election opponent in 2024, from running against him.
Ironically, this FBI investigation and the raid on Trump’s home, which was personally ordered by Biden’s attorney general, Merrick Garland, is the same type of conduct which congressional Democrats used as their basis for impeaching Trump in 2019, when he asked Ukrainian President Zelensky during a multi-party White House phone call to launch a corruption investigation in Ukraine over the questionable payments to Biden’s son, Hunter, from a corrupt Ukrainian energy firm.
Then there is the separate question over the extent of Trump’s possible legal jeopardy for holding onto the material in violation of federal statutes. Trump has claimed that the materials marked classified that the FBI seized from his Mar-a-Lago estate had already been declassified under a “standing order” he issued while he was president. Under his implicit authority as the head of the executive branch of government, the president has the power to classify or declassify any information at his discretion.
According to a statement issued by Trump’s office last week, “The very fact that these documents were present at Mar-a-Lago means they couldn’t have been classified. As we can all relate to, everyone ends up having to bring home their work from time to time. American presidents are no different. President Trump, in order to prepare for work the next day, often took documents including classified documents from the Oval Office to the residence.
“He had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office and taken into the residence were deemed to be declassified,” the statement added. “The power to classify and declassify documents rests solely with the President of the United States. The idea that some paper-pushing bureaucrat, with classification authority delegated BY THE PRESIDENT, needs to approve of declassification is absurd.”
PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS ARE GOVERNMENT PROPERTY
Under the Presidential Records Act, the legal ownership of any such documents in his possession automatically reverts to the federal government when a president or vice president leaves office. He or she is required to return official documents and other material or information to the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA for preservation.
The Presidential Records Act was passed by Congress in the wake of the Watergate scandal to deter presidents from protecting themselves from impeachment by destroying White House records which may contain incriminating evidence against them.
The legal basis for the federal government’s document classification system originates with the president’s constitutional authority as commander in chief, and the rules are issued via presidential executive orders.
There are three general levels of classification, confidential, secret or top secret. Access to particularly sensitive information can be restricted further by requiring it to be viewed only in a specially secured environment known as a sensitive compartmented information facility, or S.C.I.F.
Documents containing classified information are supposed to be marked as such, and only officials with proper security clearances, and a “need to know,” are permitted to see them or be told of their contents. There are also specific federal rules limiting how classified documents can be stored, physically transported or electronically transmitted.
PRESIDENTS ARE EXEMPT FROM CLASSIFICATION RULES AND PROCEDURES
But in the current directive, Executive Order 13526, issued by President Barack Obama in 2009, the president and vice president are specifically exempted from having to follow the stringent declassification procedures every other federal agency and official must follow.
Two former senior aides who worked for Trump in the latter half of his presidency said they were aware that Trump routinely took documents to the residence rather than return them to the Staff Secretary or the intelligence official who provided them. Ordinarily, documents declassified by a president are later retrieved by staff members and marked declassified, usually by crossing a line through the prior classification markings, but the documents seized in the FBI raid from Mar-a-Lago had not been marked in that way, but if they had been subject to Trump’s standing order, then they would be de-classified anyway, despite their current markings to the contrary.
Traditionally, the federal courts have upheld the president’s far-reaching powers to de-classify documents, immediately and at will, without requiring him to follow specific security and marking procedures that are applicable to all lesser federal officials and agencies.
Legal authorities who support the unitary theory of the executive branch of government, such as former attorney general William Barr, argue that because the constitutional power of executive branch ultimately rests in them, presidents are not bound by the rules and procedures that regulate the conduct of their subordinates in the administration. Presidents can even disregard executive orders without first having to formally rescind them.
CLINTON DIDN’T HAVE THE SAME POWERS BUT STILL GOT AWAY WITH IT
Many of the rules for the return of government documents, as well as the requirements for handling classified information, were deliberately violated by Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server to store thousands of government documents, including some which were highly classified, while she was Secretary of State. Unlike Trump while he was president, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State she did not have the power to unilaterally declassify documents in her possession, and was subject to the same rules as all other lesser federal officials. But after a controversial “kid gloves” investigation conducted by the FBI into the private e-mail server in 2016, its director, James Comey, exceeded his authority by announcing that he had decided not to prosecute her for those offenses, even though her conduct clearly violated the letter of the relevant federal statutes.
Enforcement of federal classification rules is mostly administrative. Federal officials who violate them are typically admonished, lose their security clearances or can be fired. Congress has passed a separate group of laws, such as the Espionage Act of 1917, to criminally punish those who reveal sensitive national defense information that could harm national security or aid a hostile foreign power. As of this writing, the FBI has not released any evidence that it may have of such criminal conduct by Trump with regard to the documents it confiscated from Mar-a-Lago last week. However, the FBI’s search warrant did mention Section 793 of the Espionage Act which states that individuals are subject to criminal prosecution under the statute for, “Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information.”
A BRIEF HISTORY OF ESPIONAGE ACT PROSECUTIONS
However, other than in foreign spying cases, the federal government usually does not criminally prosecute people under the other provisions of the Espionage Act unless the classified information is deliberately leaked for publication in the news media.
The most recent example of that involved a woman called Reality Winner. She was a contractor with the National Security Agency when she leaked a classified government report about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election to a publication called The Intercept, which published the story in June 2017. She was arrested, tried for transmitting national defense information under the Espionage Act, found guilty and sentenced to five years and three months in federal prison.
The most famous prosecution under the Espionage was the 1973 trial of Daniel Ellsberg for leaking the so-called Pentagon Papers, which documented the secret abuses by the federal government during its conduct of the Vietnam War. He faced up to 115 years in prison for leaking the 7,000 pages of documents to the Washington Post and the New York Times, but the criminal case against him was thrown out of court because of the illegal tactics prosecutors used to gather evidence about him. The federal government also went to court in an attempt to prevent newspapers from publishing the material that Ellsberg had leaked to them, but in a landmark Supreme Court ruling, it upheld the right of the freedom of the press, and permitted the information to be published. As a result of the Pentagon Paper revelations, public pressure grew on the government to bring a quick end to US military involvement in Vietnam.
But nobody has so far suggested that Trump had any intentions to improperly release the government documents left over from his years as president that were stored, under lock and key, at Mar-a-Lago. Instead, the only part of Section 793 of the Espionage that might possibly result in the filing of criminal charges against him for his handling of those documents is his failure “to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it.”
WHAT THE FBI TOOK FROM MAR-A-LAGO
Last week, U.S. Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhardt in South Florida, released the text of the search warrant for the Mar-a-Lago raid, as well as a three-page inventory of the material the FBI agents seized during the course of the raid. They took around 20 boxes of items, binders of photos, a handwritten note, the executive grant of clemency for Trump’s ally Roger Stone, 11 sets of documents marked classified, and unspecified information about the “President of France.”
But the seven-pages of documents Judge Reinhardt released last week did not contain the affidavit which the FBI submitted in order to obtain the search warrant. The affidavit would have explained what evidence, including witnesses, the government had collected which led its investigators to believe that a crime may have been committed that justified the search of a former president’s home. The release of that affidavit has now become another source of contention between the Justice Department and Trump’s camp.
Trump and his allies insist that the search by the FBI of Mar-a-Lago was unnecessary because he had always been willing to return the remaining documents to the government.
In addition, staging an FBI raid on a private home is normally a last resort when all other options for obtaining evidence have been exhausted, and there is danger that the evidence may be destroyed. These are usually cases involving drug dealers, Mafia kingpins, and other dangerous criminals, not former government officials who have been slow to return items still in their possession to the National Archives. Trump also claims that the FBI removed personal items and documents from his home that were never government property, suggesting that the raid was also a fishing expedition by the FBI in search of evidence that could be used against Trump in other cases far beyond the limited scope defined by the search warrant.
Trump said, and the Justice Department later confirmed, that the FBI seized three of his passports, two of which were expired and one of which is current. Trump said that the FBI had also seized documents whose confidentiality is protected by his attorney-client privilege and demanded their return. The passports were returned after Trump spoke publicly about the travesty.
Talk of criminal prosecution of the former president also ignores the fact that Trump’s lawyers had been negotiating with government attorneys over the return of the documents in Mar-a-Lago. In January, Trump voluntarily turned over 15 boxes of the White House material stored at his Florida home, as well as a second such shipment in June.
However, after the second batch was turned over in June, one of Trump’s attorneys apparently signed a document stating that all classified material in Trump’s possession had been returned to the government, but a subsequent visual inspection by a government lawyer of the storage area indicated that more such material was present, which was apparently the basis for the FBI seeking a search warrant.
PROFESSOR DERSHOWITZ SAYS THE SEARCH WAS UNNECESSARY
Liberal former Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz agrees that the search was unnecessary, because the FBI had another, much less provocative way to obtain the remaining documents before resorting to an unprecedented, forcible search of former President Trump’s home.
“The more appropriate action,” Dershowitz wrote, “would have been for a grand jury to issue a subpoena for any boxes of material that were seized and for Trump’s private safe that was opened. That would have given Trump’s lawyers the opportunity to challenge the subpoena on various grounds — that some of the material was not classified; that previous classified material was declassified by Trump; that other documents may be covered by various privileges, such as executive or lawyer-client.
“Instead, the FBI apparently seized everything in view and will sort the documents and other material without a court deciding which ones are appropriately subject to Justice Department seizure.”
Dershowitz adds that, “Searches and seizures should only be used when subpoenas are inappropriate because of the risk of evidence destruction.” Since Trump was 1,000 miles away from Mar-a-Lago at the time of the search, it would have been impossible for him to destroy the evidence before it could be seized. The presentation of a grand jury subpoena for any boxes of material present or material in Trump’s private safe that was opened would have been perfectly adequate to accomplish the same purpose, without the need to stage a full scale FBI raid to search Mar-a-Lago giving the clear implication that Trump had committed a serious crime.
Here, Dershowitz turns around the argument belatedly presented by Attorney General Garland to justify the search, after three days of media uproar, intensified by his initial silence. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Dershowitz begins by praising Garland as “a decent man” and for saying “the right things” when he declared “All Americans are entitled to the evenhanded application of the law, to due process of the law, and to the presumption of innocence.”
AG GARLAND VIOLATED HIS OWN PROCEDURES
Instead, Dershowitz said he was disturbed about what Garland didn’t explain about the process that led to the Mar-a-Lago search. “Why didn’t the Justice Department seek to enforce the subpoena it apparently had issued, rather than seek a search warrant? Was this consistent with the “standard practice” Mr. Garland articulated in his statement— “to seek less intrusive alternatives to a search” whenever possible?
“Why was the matter handled so differently from the prior investigations of [Bill Clinton National Security Advisor] Sandy Berger and Hillary Clinton, who were also suspected of mishandling classified material? . . . He, by removing them from the National Archives in 2005, she, by transmitting them over her private email server while serving as secretary of state. Berger was administratively fined, and Mrs. Clinton was rebuked by James Comey. . . But neither was subjected to broad search warrants or criminal prosecution,” as Donald Trump has been.
Dershowitz adds that, “treating like cases alike is crucial to the equal protection of the laws. The way in which Berger and Mrs. Clinton were treated is highly relevant in determining whether Mr. Trump is being subjected to a double standard of justice. . . If the facts are similar and the treatment is different, Americans are entitled to ask whether this constitutes the even application of the law that Mr. Garland promised. . . There can’t be one rule for Democrats and another for Republicans. . .
“The [same] argument applies as well to the brutal manner in which Trump loyalists, such as Peter Navarro, Roger Stone and Paul Manafort were arrested during previous FBI actions. In comparable cases involving similar charges, the defendants weren’t handcuffed, shackled or subjected to restraints generally reserved for those who pose a risk of violence or flight,” suggesting, Dershowitz implies, that the Trump supporters were singled out for much harsher treatment by the FBI because of their political affiliations.
Over the past two weeks, Democrats have often responded to criticism of the Mar-a-Lago raid by the FBI by repeating the mantra that “presidents aren’t above the law.” Dershowitz counters that argument by pointing out presidents also deserve fair treatment from Garland’s Justice Department, which he clearly has not been receiving when compared to how it handled Mrs. Clinton’s case.
Dershowitz concludes that “until Mr. Garland fully and specifically answers the hard questions about what appears to be unequal application of rules and practices,” to Donald Trump, the grave doubts about fairness with which the Justice Department and the FBI are carrying out the investigations will only continue to grow.
WHAT WAS GARLAND’S MOTIVE FOR ORDERING THE RAID?
New York Post columnist Michael Goodwin has expressed a much more skeptical view of Attorney General Garland’s character and performance in overseeing the investigation of former President Trump. Goodwin writes: “Reserved, studious and precise, Merrick Garland appears to be an attorney general selected by central casting. Unfortunately, the part he is playing belongs to another era, one where the government was widely trusted.
“After orchestrating one of the biggest events in the history of the Department of Justice, Garland proved himself too small for the moment. Whether he volunteered or was pushed into authorizing the unprecedented FBI raid on the home of former President Donald Trump, he was woefully unprepared for the entirely predictable fallout.
“It should not have been a surprise to him that about half the country believes the raid was motivated by politics. Or that Trump’s support, which had been slipping, instantly started rising among Republicans and some independents.”
Goodwin also cites an April report in the New York Times claiming that President “Biden was frustrated that Garland had not moved faster to prosecute Trump. That puts Biden’s fingerprints on the raid, with his wish becoming Garland’s command.”
It is natural, given the circumstances, to suspect that Garland ordered the raid in reaction to the not so subtle pressure he was feeling from the White House over his handling of the investigation of the former president who is currently Biden’s leading opponent for re-election.
BIDEN STRATEGY HIDES THE TRUTH FROM THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
But more than a week after the raid, the White House was still insisting that the attorney general did not give President Biden any advance notice of the FBI action.
Not surprisingly, former President Trump and his supporters are not buying this story. Trump wrote on his Truth Social media platform, “Biden knew all about this, just like he knew all about Hunter’s ‘deals.’” It also would be a break in well-establish precedent for an agency that is part of the executive branch to withhold such significant plans from the president or his chief of staff, Ron Klain.
But it is useful for the White House to feign ignorance if its purpose is to deny responsibility and simultaneously withhold key information over such a controversial action from the public. It has enabled Biden’s press secretary to continue to flatly deny Trump’s accusations by insisting the president knew nothing about it, and then refer all questions to the Justice Department, which will then say that it cannot comment on an ongoing investigation. This has left reporters and the American public in the dark, and with no one in the government to turn to for answers.
As a result, the government’s withholding of that information has become a point of controversy in its own right. Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Garland and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines on Sunday, requesting the specific intelligence documents seized from Mar-a-Lago for their review.
On Sunday, Michael Turner of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said in a CNN interview that Attorney General Garland “has a lot of questions to answer.”
Attorney General Garland needs to provide these materials … Let us see them,” Turner said.
The congressman also speculated that some of the documents marked classified that the FBI seized at Mar-a-Lago may now be outdated. “These are materials that are two years old. We don’t know what they are. We don’t know if they rise to the level of being a national security threat.”
A FIGHT OVER THE RELEASE OF THE AFFIDAVIT BEHIND THE SEARCH
On Monday, Senator Lindsey Graham, tweeted that it is “imperative the Justice Department release the affidavit justifying the raid.”
South Dakota Republican Senator Mike Rounds has also urged the Justice Department to release the affidavit. Rounds and other members of his party suggest that Trump’s actions could have been legal, because he did, while he was president, have the power to declassify the documents that were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago by the FBI.
“I think it’s very important, long term, for the Justice Department, now that they’ve done this, to show that this was not just a fishing expedition,” Rounds added.
Yet the Justice Department has now written the judge who signed the search warrant, asking him to keep the affidavit secret because, ““If disclosed, the affidavit would serve as a roadmap to the government’s ongoing investigation, providing specific details about its direction and likely course, in a manner that is highly likely to compromise future investigative step.”
DOES GARLAND HAVE TOO MUCH POWER?
The tactic does permit the president to continue to insist that he did not abuse his executive power by ordering his attorney general to conduct a politically motivated raid on the home of his chief opponent. But if we do take the White House claim of total ignorance in advance of the raid at face value, it means, according to Wall Street Journal columnist William McGurn, “an unelected attorney general making the unprecedented decision to send 30 FBI agents to the home of a former president and possible presidential candidate without at least running it by his boss, the sitting president?
It should also be recalled at this point, that Garland has his own ax to grind against Trump, for passing over his nomination by President Obama to the open seat on the Supreme Court bench that was created when Justice Anton Scalia passed away in early 2016, to which Trump eventually appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch.
Since being appointed attorney general, Garland has done Biden’s political bidding before. In response to a suggestion from a Democrat-supporting teachers’ union, which felt threatened by angry parents at local school board meetings, Garland circulated a memo last October which branded any parents condemning the teaching of critical race theory in the public schools as “domestic terrorists.” This also led the FBI’s counterterrorism division to assign “threat tags” to parents who dared to speak up and challenge the radical liberal curriculum that their children were being taught in public school.
In May, Garland refused to provide enhanced security for six threatened conservative Supreme Court justices who, along with their families, were targeted for harassment at their homes by liberal organizations seeking to punish them, after a leaked draft decision revealed their intention to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade precedent. Garland ignored the fact that the liberal demonstrations staged outside the homes of the justices were a clear violation of a federal statute, and still refused to provide more security after an armed man was arrested for threatening to assassinate Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
The harsh treatment that former President Trump has received from the attorney general at Mar-a-Largo can be seen as consistent with Garland’s politically polarized approach as attorney general to the administration of justice.
PROSECUTION BY MEDIA LEAK
The attorney general had claimed that his three days of silence immediately following the Mar-a-Lago raid was required under established Justice Department procedures, but from the moment the raid took place, “anonymous” leaks from within Garland’s department to liberal media outlets described what the “FBI seized,” including, according to a particularly alarming Washington Post report, documents “relating to nuclear weapons.” The leaked reports all agreed that Donald Trump was guilty but remained deliberately hazy about the exact nature of the “crime” he had allegedly committed, as well as the sources of the endless accusations.
The media feeding frenzy set off by the Mar-a-Lago search recalled the cascade of leaks planted by the Clinton campaign and its operatives before the 2016 presidential election promoting the Russia-Trump collusion hoax and bogus FBI investigation, all fueled by the false accusations in the Clinton-sponsored Steele dossier.
In addition, Garland’s failure to make any effort to halt the flow of leaks concerning the Mar-a-Lago raid from within his own operation belies the sincerity of his self-righteously declared intent to provide Trump with fair and equal treatment under the law.
Garland’s belated, self-righteous effort to exonerate himself from charges that his order to the FBI to raid Mar-a-Lago was politically motivated badly misread the public’s reaction.
BIDEN ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS CLAIM THAT THEY ARE THE VICTIMS
He compounded the error last Friday by issuing a joint intelligence bulletin with the Department of Homeland Security which sought to depict federal law enforcement agencies and their employees as the victims rather than the aggressors. The bulletin cited “violent threats” on social media, web forums and video sharing platforms against them that were triggered by the Mar-a-Lago raid. It ignored the fact that the circumstances surrounding the raid and the unduly harsh way in which it was carried out, raised deep concerns in many mainstream Americans. They fear that the extreme hostility on both sides has poisoned the atmosphere for serious political discourse, which is essential to the vitality of any functioning democracy.
Many of them voted for Joe Biden instead of Donald Trump, mistakenly believing that he would keep his promise to end that hostility. Instead, Biden and his fellow Democrats doubled-down on the tactics of demonization and the single minded pursuit of their uncompromised liberal goals. But after a year and a half of Biden rule, many voters now know better, which helps to explain why such a large majority of Americans from all backgrounds and political affiliations do not want Biden to run for a second term.
WHY SOME VOTERS ARE GIVING TRUMP A SECOND CHANCE
The same polls show that a majority of non-Republicans also do not want Trump to run again. However, the more that Democrats try to deny Trump, despite his many faults, the equal treatment he still deserves, the more sympathy he has gained among independent and minority voters who supported Trump’s successful economic and foreign policies. In the face of the bitter Biden twin realities of inflation and recession, many of those voters now seem to be considering giving Trump a second chance.
Another thing that Garland must explain is the politically convenient timing of the Mar-a-Lago raid. Why did the government have to stage a raid on Trump’s home to retrieve the documents immediately last week after 19 months in Trump’s possession, especially when conversations with Trump’s lawyers about surrendering them had been ongoing.
A cynic might suggest that the raid was intended by the Democrats to keep the public’s attention on Trump’s alleged crimes as the appeal of the televised January 6th committee hearings had begun to fade.
Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel noted that in staging the raid so close to the November midterm election, the Justice Department violated its own longstanding guidelines for the conduct of politically “sensitive” investigations. It ignored the obvious fact that no issue in national politics is more sensitive and controversial today as we approach the midterms than Donald Trump’s legitimacy and legal status.
DEMOCRATS CLAIM TRUMP IS TOO DANGEROUS TO GET FAIR TREATMENT
Democrats argue that even out of office, Trump poses a sufficient danger to American democracy to justify turning the FBI and Justice Department into political tools they can use to deny him access to equal justice under the law, using their now familiar argument that in Trump’s case, the ends justify the means. They remain willfully blind to the fact their deliberate abuses of government power and the perversion of justice to find a way to prevent Trump from running again in 2024 represents a far greater danger to the health and vitality of American democracy than Trump ever did.
With their unprecedented treatment of Trump, the Democrats have changed the basic ground rules of American politics. They are likely to regret that as soon as next January, if Republicans, as expected, take over majority control of the House. Don’t be surprised if Republicans immediately launch their own versions of the Democrats’ select January 6th committee to look into all of the Biden administration’s most obvious problems ranging from the chaos at the Mexican border, its failure to end the nationwide shortage of baby formula, and last, but not least, the slow-motion investigation into the evidence found on Hunter Biden’s laptop.
“WHAT GOES AROUND IN WASHINGTON EVENTUALLY COMES AROUND”
As the Wall Street Journal’s Strassel reminds us, especially in Washington politics, the saying is true: “what goes around always comes around.” Democrats should therefore be prepared for payback from the new Republican House majority.
The FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, has also enabled Trump to claim with renewed credibility that he is the victim of an ongoing six-year-long Democrat conspiracy to destroy him. In one fell swoop, the backlash against the raid countered weeks of prime-time TV hearings of the Democrat-dominated January 6th committee dedicated to blackening Trump’s reputation in the eyes of the public.
The raid has done something that many thought was impossible at this point, turn Trump into a sympathetic figure who is being denied fair treatment by a politically biased federal criminal justice system.
Just as the January 6th committee telecasts were beginning to have the desired effect by weakening Trump’s support within the Republican base, the shock of the Mar-a-Lago raid, and the Democrat contempt for even handed justice it demonstrated, convinced many wavering GOP voters as well as some independents, to stay in the Trump camp, after all.
A RISING TIDE OF GOP SYMPATHY FOR TRUMP
The tide of pro-Trump sentiment within the GOP that was unleashed by the FBI raid was so strong that it convinced some of Trump’s potential rivals for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence to stand by the former president and echo his criticisms of the FBI.
A cynic might also suggest that the Mar-a-Lago raid was intended by whichever Democrat party leader was actually behind it in order make sure that Trump would be the GOP presidential candidate in 2024, because otherwise Democrats could not be confident that Biden, Harris or any other likely candidate winning their nomination in 2024 could also win the general election.
We have already seen that same cynical strategy implemented by Democrat donors across the country interfering with the outcome of Republican primaries by supporting the pro-Trump candidates, convinced that they would be easier to beat in the November midterm election. But those Democrats should be careful what they wish for.
After several consecutive weeks of significant legislative accomplishments, falling gas prices and encouraging economic news, Biden and the Democrats have been taking premature victory laps. Some are even suggesting the possibility a surprise Democrat comeback victory in November, if not yet in the House, then quite possibly in the Senate.
WHY DEMOCRAT EUPHORIA MAY BE SHORT-LIVED
The current wave of Democrat hope and euphoria ignores the polls that show that voters still disapprove of Biden’s job performance by a roughly 15 point margin. An even greater percentage of working class and middle class voters, including many minority group members, now feel that their needs have been abandoned by elected Democrats, who are more obsessed with achieving their own liberal priorities, including climate change, higher taxes on businesses and the wealthy, and increased government control over every aspect of American life.
The basic ingredients for a “red wave” GOP victory in November are still present. If that wave proves to be large enough, Democrats may soon regret having helped place more pro-Trump GOP candidates on the ballot. If inflation persists and the recession deepens between now and the midterms, those pro-Trump candidates may turn out to be more difficult to defeat than their cynical Democrat contributors had at first believed.
DEMOCRATS MAY REGRET BACKING TRUMP PRIMARY CANDIDATES
Similarly, Democrats may eventually regret having turned Donald Trump into the GOP’s unlikely poster child for the restoration of equal justice under the law. Hillary Clinton and her fellow Democrats badly underestimated the voter appeal of Donald Trump in 2016. Biden and his fellow Democrats may now be repeating the same mistake by denying Trump his rights to equal treatment under the law, thereby providing him with the volatile political fuel he needs for a successful 2024 presidential run.
A cynic might also seek to contrast the current harsh treatment of Trump by the Justice Department to the slow-motion federal probe into Hunter Biden’s influence peddling financial dealings. Now in its fifth year, there is still no sign of a criminal charge in sight, despite all of the since corroborated incriminating evidence the FBI found on the abandoned laptop of the president’s son. Yet Democrats still bristle every time a Republican suggests that the Hunter Biden probe looks more like a cover-up than a serious investigation.
CONTRASTING FBI TREATMENT OF HILLARY VS. TRUMP
One doesn’t need to be a legal expert to recognize the sharp contrast between the kid gloves treatment the Justice Department gave former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the harsh way it is currently treating former President Donald Trump. Hillary got off with little more than a public reprimand by then FBI director James Comey, even though her deliberate mishandling of government documents was on a far larger scale than Trump’s.
There is also a basic difference in attitude and approach. In 2016, FBI Director Comey seemed to be desperate to find any legal excuse, however flimsy, to avoid forcing Hillary Clinton to stand trial for her deliberate criminal violations of national security laws.
By contrast, the Garland Justice Department, under the prodding of President Biden and frustrated Democrats, is determined to treat Trump like a criminal, even if it can’t identify a clear crime that he has allegedly committed. Instead, it has sought to exaggerate the severity of Trump’s admitted carelessness in the handling of government documents still in his possession, a technical violation of law which would be punished by a mere slap on the wrist had the perpetrator been any other senior government official, such as Sandy Berger or Hillary Clinton.
Looking at that contrast objectively, one can’t help but sympathize with Trump’s characterization of the Mar-a-Lago raid as “lawlessness, political persecution, and [a] Witch Hunt [which] “must be exposed and stopped,” in a fundraising email he sent to his supporters.
REPUBLICANS FORCED TO RALLY BEHIND TRUMP
On the other hand, Florida GOP Senator Rick Scott clearly went too far when he compared the tactics used by the FBI at Mar-a-Lago to those employed by “the Gestapo.”
Many other Republicans reacted to the controversy over the Mar-a-Lago raid by supporting Trump’s version of events, and criticizing the FBI’s conduct of the raid, but using more restrained language.
However, in an interview on CNN, Arkansas Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson told his GOP colleagues, “We need to pull back on casting judgment on them [the FBI]. If you want to hold people accountable, it is the Department of Justice. It is the attorney general who said he supervised that. The FBI is simply carrying out their responsibilities under the law.”
Maryland’s Republican Governor, Larry Hogan took Hutchinson’s warning one step further, saying that public criticism of FBI agents is “dangerous because we saw the one incident already.” Hogan was referring to the gunman who was killed last week after he tried to attack an FBI field office in Cincinnati.
“There are threats all over the place and losing faith in our federal law enforcement officers, in our justice system, is a really serious problem for the country,” Hogan said in an ABC News interview.
At the same time, Governor Hogan, who has been publicly critical of Trump in the past, declared the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago to be an important political win for the former president, because it “seemed to motivate his base and people rushing to his defense and feeling as if he was being picked upon and martyred.”
“But I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the story yet,” Hogan added.
In some ways the most disturbing reaction to the Mar-a-Lago raid was the ho-hum business-as-usual attitude taken by the major media news outlets, from the Washington Post to the New York Times, to the first ever FBI raid on the home of a former president in search for evidence that a crime had been committed. The same media outlets also condemned anyone who dared to question the Justice Department’s justification for the raid as a challenge to the legitimacy of the government and “nudges toward violence” intended to incite Trump’s supporters.
UNDERMINING THE CONCEPT OF EQUAL TREATMENT UNDER THE LAW
Another aspect of the problem with the FBI’s extremely hostile behavior is that it is not confined to the former president. Anyone who has been identified as a member of Trump’s inner circle, such as his former trade representative, Peter Navarro, is getting the same hostile and deliberately embarrassing treatment for relatively petty offenses, such defying a congressional subpoena.
More fundamentally, like Trump, they too are being deliberately denied the right to equal treatment under the law by the FBI solely because of their political beliefs. It amounts to a steady erosion of personal legal rights that goes far beyond Trump and his supporters. It is the result of a fundamental redefinition of crimes and criminals, engineered by the liberal elite in American society today, which decides guilt or innocence primarily upon a person’s political and ideological beliefs rather than the objective standards of law.
Trump’s status as the most prominent victim of this lawless new liberal standard has rehabilitated his badly tarnished post-January 6th image and is bolstering his political prospects for a successful 2024 presidential run. According to Trump-supporting conservative columnist, Roger Kimball, writing in The Spectator, Trump’s resilience has even generated an expression of sympathy from one of his natural political enemies. Prominent left-wing criminal lawyer, Harvey Silverglate, recently characterized Trump, with a hint of admiration, as “the most investigated head of state in our nation’s history.”
IS IT TIME TO SHUT DOWN THE FBI AND START OVER?
Silverglate believes that the FBI has effectively discredited itself in the eyes of a large and growing number of American citizens because of its grossly unfair treatment of Donald Trump. At this point, the liberal lawyer believes, the FBI is damaged beyond repair and must be dismantled. “We need an entirely new agency,” Silverglate observed, “and a director who has no history of having worked in or with the FBI. Agency culture is a powerful force, and if we are to have any success in ridding the nation of this menace, we best eradicate it completely and start over.”
Silverglate’s condemnation of the FBI is reminiscent of the Black Lives Matter demand that cities across the country defund the local police because of their alleged contamination by “systemic racism.” Most larger American cities who tried it have now discarded the “defund the police” approach as incompatible with the community’s basic need to maintain law and order. By contrast, the professional leadership of the FBI has discredited itself over the past six years due to its eager and largely illegal participation in the various plots to destroy Donald Trump.
While the raid of Mar-a-Lago may not be the last of such efforts, it has certainly reduced respect for the FBI to a level not seen since the end of J. Edgar Hoover’s 37-year tenure as FBI Director with his death in 1972. The self-aggrandizing Hoover had become known in Washington circles as a bureaucratic tyrant who kept himself in office long past normal retirement age by threatening to reveal damaging material he had compiled on every major political figure. That included Presidents Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, all of whom were afraid to fire him because of all the trouble he could cause.
Trump fired James Comey as FBI Director in 2017 and named Christopher Wray as his replacement. But four years as president was not enough time for Trump to root out the widespread liberal political bias and corruption which persists to this day throughout the FBI’s senior ranks.
TRUMP’S UNIQUE TALENT FOR POLITICAL SURVIVAL
The 19th century American poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson, once famously wrote that “when you strike at a king, you must kill him.” Donald Trump’s remarkable history of survival and success, first in the business world, then in the media, and now in politics, is an example of this principle in action.
Each time Trump has survived a potentially deadly political attack by his enemies, he has emerged stronger. Beginning with the Russian collusion hoax, followed by the Robert Mueller investigation, then two impeachment trials, the January 6th committee hearings, and now the FBI-raid on Mar-a-Lago, Trump has managed to fashion a narrative in which he emerges as the wronged hero, determined to keep fighting on behalf of his country and his supporters. Those supporters believe that Trump, unlike other politicians, is acting and speaking out on their behalf. They invariably respond to attacks on Trump such as the raid on Mar-a-Lago with increased devotion and support, and a willingness to overlook or excuse Trump’s obvious personality and character flaws.
It happens again and again. Yet after six years of failed attacks and efforts to discredit Trump, his political enemies have yet to learn that he is often most effective when striking back after he comes under attack.
For example, Trump’s first public response to the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago was to declare, “These are dark times for our nation,” and to compare the FBI’s actions to “an assault” that “could only take place in broken, Third-World countries.”
In a later interview with Fox News, Trump expanded on that thought, saying, “There has never been a time like this where law enforcement has been used to break into the house of a former president of the United States, and there is tremendous anger in the country — at a level that has never been seen before, other than during very perilous times.”