“Lock her up, lock her up.”
Donald Trump’s supporters lobbed this rallying cry at Hillary Clinton in 2016 — hoping for the imprisonment of a political opponent for allegedly mishandling classified material. Now, however, some of the same people appear to believe that even a rule-of-law investigation of Mr. Trump for a possible violation of the same set of rules is out of order.
The FBI executed a search warrant at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida this week as part of what The Post reports is an investigation into the potential mishandling of White House documents. The National Archives discovered about seven months ago that the former president had taken more than a dozen boxes of files with him when he left office, some of them marked “top secret” — and suspected, it seems, that the documents he handed over to investigators this spring represented only a portion of the trove. Republicans are proclaiming outrage over the search, arguing that no president has ever been subjected to such a proceeding. They may be right. But then, no modern president has been the subject of as many and varied investigations as Mr. Trump — who invoked his Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination in one of them on Wednesday.
Of course, criminal investigations of presidents shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. The warrant in this case isn’t public; even if it were, only a sealed affidavit could tell the full story about the evidentiary basis for the search. The improper retention of records is a serious offense that shouldn’t be dismissed, but it is so far unclear whether Mr. Trump’s retention of these records constituted a violation of national security, a threat to democracy, or any other serious abuse. Attorney General Merrick Garland, then, finds himself in a tricky position: He may eventually be summoned before GOP-controlled congressional committees and ordered to explain himself for allowing the FBI’s actions — a job that will prove more difficult if the inquiry doesn’t lead to criminal charges or evidence of major wrongdoing.
For now, the prudent reaction to the search would be to await its tangible results. Instead, Republicans are behaving with gross irresponsibility: from talk show hosts urging violence that seems all-too-possible after the events of Jan. 6, 2021, to Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and former Trump strategist Stephen K. Bannon comparing the FBI to the Gestapo, to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declaring the Justice Department in “an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.” This rhetoric is disturbing and dangerous — not to mention hypocritical. In fact, it is Mr. Trump’s administration and acolytes who sought to weaponize the Justice Department, and it is they who today are attempting to turn what to all appearances is a legitimate inquiry into a political circus.