The FBI Comes A-Knockin'
Donald Trump faces the law
Now is a time for steadiness, but hoo, boy!
The FBI search yesterday of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, including the seizure of documents from his private safe, continues to reverberate across the nation.
The spotlight of justice, which many Americans have long craved and others feared, is now shining unambiguously on the former president. His fate in our national narrative remains to be written, and this uncertainty only intensifies the acrimony across our myriad political divides. It is a moment fraught with danger, including threats of violence. But it is also a moment of hope, that a wave of redemptive energy will finally engulf the outrages of the previous administration and the grave threat it posed to the continuity of the United States as a nation of law.
We must begin with some words of caution: This is a moment in the news cycle when speculation far outpaces facts. And that is especially true in this case because of the nature of the activity. This may be the most sensitive criminal investigation in American history. First, one does not pursue a president lightly. And second, we may be dealing with classified materials removed improperly when Trump left the White House. What’s in those documents and what Trump might have done with that information, we do not know. But for these reasons, this search and seizure was, and had to be, shrouded in secrecy.
We believe the FBI had a court-approved search warrant as required by law. In our current political environment, it might be helpful for the FBI to publicly share that warrant (if they feel they can do so) or at least explicitly state that they had one, and explain how it was obtained. Just to turn down the volume on any potential claims that the FBI is "running wild,” or similar. Or if Trump really feels he’s been so wronged, he could release the warrant himself:
A prudent consumer of news should recognize all we do not know. In a world where we expect to be inundated with information by the nanosecond, we have no choice but to be patient and see how this unfolds. It may be frustrating, but there really is no alternative.
What is not in dispute is that this is a very big deal. It likely represents the most significant criminal investigation of a current or former president ever, and that includes Richard Nixon. This search does not take place on a whim or by a rogue team of prosecutors. This move was clearly vetted by the very top of American law enforcement, and specifically by two men constitutionally averse to condoning a partisan witch hunt: FBI Director Christopher Wray (a lifelong Republican appointed by Trump) and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Furthermore, early reporting indicates that FBI agents knew exactly what they were looking for. That suggests a detailed investigation and possibly a key informant or informants inside Trump world. A federal judge would likely not have signed off on this warrant unless presented with credible evidence of a crime.
It is not surprising that after years of activity by Donald Trump that appeared to warrant investigation, news of the FBI search and seizure was greeted with pent-up elation from many. Even though we don’t know the specifics, there is a sense among those who have long bemoaned Trump’s many misdeeds that finally, finally, he might have to answer for his actions.
Among those for whom the cult of personality remains unabated, it was to be expected that reaction to the news was quite different. This crew is incapable of recognizing its shameless hypocrisy. So the very same people who cheered the FBI’s announcement of an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails as she stood for presidential election now are likening America’s preeminent law enforcement operation to the Gestapo.
“Overreach.” “A coup.” “The end of freedom,” they bewail. Some, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, even are calling for defunding the FBI. Apparently “Back the Blue” doesn’t count when we’re talking about Trump. But we already knew that, of course, with the insurrection of January 6.
One of Trump's remarkable tendencies, dating back decades, is his ability to avoid any and all accountability. And he has infused that impervious mindset into the movement he leads. “The law is for thee, but not for me” might as well be his motto. It is rich to see a man who flagrantly politicized the administration of justice, who was impeached twice, and who would gladly see his political adversaries subjected to fabricated charges, complain when the gears of the law grind forward in his direction. It is pathetic to see all those who have normalized Trump’s worst excesses rally once more to his defense. And it is frightening to see extremist elements in the Trump firmament call for violence.
This is a perilous time, but we must not let that deter us from seeking justice. What’s at stake is the rule of law in America. Donald Trump, for all his money and his minions and his dangerous rhetoric, is no longer in control of his destiny. That has to worry him. Plenty. And it should.
For the rest of us, it is a time to stay calm and carry on, while reminding ourselves that in our country, no person should be above the law. And no person is guilty until proven so beyond reasonable doubt.
Now it is up to the justice system to do its work.