Sunday, September 25

Editorial: Trump should end speculation on FBI raid. Show us the warrant.

If you listened closely when news broke Monday evening that the FBI searched former President Donald Trump’s Florida home, you could hear the whir of the disinformation machine firing up. It’s been busy ever since, churning out feigned shock, charges that the FBI abused its power and even implications that it planted evidence at Mar-a-Lago.

Amid all the speculation and accusations though, there was one way to silence it all: release the warrant.

As many pointed out, Trump would have had a copy of the search warrant that included information on what the FBI was looking for. He could have, when he was busy typing up his outrage about the “occupation” of his estate, easily released it in the interest of transparency and truth.

He didn’t.

Instead of possibly steadying the rudder, the ship sailed full steam ahead into unsettling, yet familiar, territory. The responses from Republican elected officials, pundits and other ranged from condemnations of the raid to warnings of a coming civil war.

Florida state representative Anthony Sabatini called for a special session, tweeting that the state should “[s]ever all ties with DOJ immediately” and that “[a]ny FBI agent conducting law enforcement functions outside the purview of our State should be arrested upon sight.”

The undercurrent of violence in some of the responses is not new. Just months after the deadly coup attempt of January 6, nearly one in five people surveyed by the Public Religion Research Institute agreed that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”

This time, though, while the base rallied, the elites dined on sirloin and crab cakes. Lawmakers, including Texas Republicans, rushed to the former president’s side Tuesday evening in a previously planned dinner that became the perfect photo opportunity.

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In the hours following the search, a clear narrative emerged among his most devoted followers: Donald Trump doesn’t lose. And if he does, it’s because someone cheated.

And when he faces any sort of accountability, it’s because the system is rigged.

The party of law and order and “back the blue” didn’t hesitate to switch up the script in service of the overriding narrative this week. “Defund the FBI,” declared Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. They’ve shown the same dexterity before, reframing the violent attacks on the Capitol and law enforcement there as a “tourist” visit.

Part of what makes the FBI search such an effective political weapon for Trump’s supporters was its apparently unprecedented nature.

Presidential historian Alexis Coe writes that Trump is not the first former or sitting president to have such a run-in with the law. Ulysses S. Grant was even arrested. The president apparently had a penchant for speeding as he rode through the streets, writes Coe, and he ended up paying a $20 fine for the offense. Other presidents have been impeached. Richard Nixon resigned before he could be.

But the notion that high-profile politicians haven’t been investigated — and investigated for what, on the surface, appear to be similar concerns even — is decidedly not true. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton came under investigation when it was discovered that she had used her personal email address to communicate with her staff members. She turned over many, but not all of the emails, on her private server.

In July 2016, the FBI said that though it had found classified information in the emails, it was a matter of carelessness not criminal intent. The investigation found just three instances in which email chains contained “information with ambiguous classification markings,” according to Politifact.

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Just days before the 2016 general election, then FBI director James Comey shared with members of Congress that the agency was reviewing newly found emails connected to the investigation.

Many Democrats were critical of Comey’s decision that they saw as unprecedented. Former Attorney General Eric Holder wrote in an op-ed that it “violated long-standing Justice Department policies and tradition” adding that the move ran contrary to guidance he had created several years earlier on the handling of investigations during election season. Standard operating procedure, he explained and as we are seeing now following the search at Mar-a-Lago, is not to comment on ongoing investigations.

Why has the investigation into Trump unfolded differently than that of Clinton and included an FBI search of his home? We don’t know for certain. If Trump wanted to share the warrant, we’d be on firmer ground. There are a few well-known clues. Trump reportedly has a problem destroying documents, tearing them up and even flushing them down the toilet. Then there’s the nature of what Trump — who is also under investigation for his actions surrounding January 6 — seems to have done in relocating clearly marked boxes of documents.

Trump should certainly know the severity of these actions.

It was Trump who, in 2018, actually signed a law “that stiffened the penalty for the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents from one year to five years, turning it into a felony offense,” notes Politico.

If the handling of documents is as serious as Trump indicated it was in 2018, then the boxes of federal documents already recovered from his home should never have been taken out of the White House in the first place. Still, if this is the only crime that FBI agents were investigating when they raided Trump’s Florida home, then why wouldn’t Trump just release the warrant that says so? It’s almost like he’s got something to hide.

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Let’s face it, Trump often has something to hide. He reminded us of that again Wednesday, when, rather than answer questions about his business dealings during a long-awaited deposition with the New York attorney general, he announced that he’d invoked his Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination.

Rather than give a straight answer on whether he misstated the value of his golf courses and skyscrapers, and whether he misled lenders and tax authorities, Trump cried “Banana Republic!” and howled that he was being “attacked from all sides.”

Well, there’s always Trump’s side. The whole country is waiting to hear it. And we’re pretty sure Fox News is waiting with bated breath to promote it.

There is a lot unknown at the moment but filling the void with claims of planted evidence, political attacks and looming civil war only confuses things more.

Just maybe, the only thing stopping Trump from clearing up this big misunderstanding is that the FBI raid, and the fraud investigations, and the coup probes are not misunderstandings at all.

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