A Doozy of a Disruption in the Political System
With the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, is the Justice Department unleashing political furies it can’t control and may not understand? The risks for the department and the country, warns the WSJ, are as great as they are for Mr. Trump.
The FBI’s search of Donald Trump’s Palm Beach residence was a politically sensitive operation that would have tested the FBI’s reputation for “fairness and impartiality.” The FBI’s behavior since Trump came onto the political scene has “already left its reputation in tatters,” reports Thomas Baker (a former FBI agent and legal attaché) in a separate WSJ article.
Washington’s Permanent Class Afraid of Voters
One does not have to be a Mensa to appreciate that the FBI law-enforcement action of this kind against a former American president is unprecedented. As the WSJ notes, the search needed a judicial warrant in service of probable cause in a criminal probe.
The Justice Department has provided few details beyond what has been leaked to reporters, so it is hard to judge what the FBI was looking for.
The media leaks say the search is related to potential mishandling of classified documents or violations of the Presidential Records Act. If that is true, then the raid looks like prosecutorial overkill and a bad mistake. Document disputes are typically settled in negotiation, and that is how Mr. Trump’s disagreement with the National Archives had been proceeding.
Mr. Trump has already returned 15 boxes of documents, but the National Archives wants to know if the former President retained classified material he shouldn’t have. This is what appears to have triggered the FBI search, but it’s far from clear why this couldn’t be settled cooperatively, or at most with a subpoena.
Multiple media reports suggest that Justice has opened a grand jury probe into the events of Jan. 6, 2021, and Mr. Trump may be a target of that investigation. The House committee investigating Jan. 6 has been cheering for a prosecution, and the political and media pressure is intense on Attorney General Merrick Garland to indict Mr. Trump. The FBI search may be a fishing expedition to find evidence related to Jan. 6.
On the public evidence so far, a Jan. 6 indictment would be a legal stretch. Political responsibility isn’t the same as criminal liability. In our view, the evidence would have to show that Mr. Trump was criminally complicit in that day’s violence at the Capitol.
The raid at Mar-a-Lago occurred only about 90 days from a national election, increasing the political suspicion, the WSJ unnecessarily reminds readers.
Democrats want to keep Mr. Trump front and center in the midterm campaign, which is why the Jan. 6 committee is continuing into the autumn.
Anyone who thinks an indictment and trial of Mr. Trump would go smoothly is in for a rude surprise. Millions of his supporters will see this as vindication of his charges against the “deep state,” and who knows how they will respond. Has Mr. Garland considered all of this?
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