Monday, January 30

Yet more disgrace for Trump as the FBI raid Mar-a-Lago. Of course, he’s milking it | Marina Hyde

Devastating news for the future Trump Presidential Library, already suffering acute supply problems after recent reports that the former US president frequently ripped up presidential papers and clogged toilets with them (home and abroad). Last night, the FBI carried out a raid on Mar-a-Lago, the Palm Beach mansion in which Trump currently resides, sharing only several of its communal areas with paying Floridians. The raid – or “assault”, as Trump would have it – is thought to be related to his already-proven removal of records from the White House at the end of his administration, but could reasonably be linked to a number of active lawsuits and investigations currently being faced by the 45th president.

Even so, it’s a development that has hit Trump and his family hard. Or opportunely, depending on how you look at it – and more on that later. “These are dark times for our Nation,” began an overnight statement by the former president, talking like a Star Wars opening crawl. Trump went on to say his property was “under siege,” which he feels a little histrionic. Surely this was just a harmless law enforcement rally that mildly got out of hand, though not in a way that saw five people end up dead, to gibbet erected on the croquet lawn and small-state golfers barricading themselves into executive restrooms in genuine and rational fear of their lives?

Alas, that wasn’t the line which the presiding inspo for the Capitol riots decided to go with, with Trump instead putting the monstrous impertinence of the FBI in perspective with the howl: “They even broke into my safe!” Lest you imagined you had hallucinated this attack line, Donald’s etiolated adult son Eric could be found honking it over on Fox News, where, as I am typing this, the story is currently being headlined “BIDEN’S FBI RANSACKS THE HOME OF POTENTIAL 2024 OPPONENT” . As Eric declared with incredulity: “They broke into a safe?! … I mean gimme a break!”

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You’ll be hugely taken with this notion that a safe is your special private place that NO ONE should ever touch, a kind of supra-legal repository whose contents are automatically placed beyond the legitimate attentions of any and all law enforcement agencies, no matter the gravity of federal crimes being alleged, and no matter how loudly your political opponents shriek “but his safe!” or simply “LOCK HIM UP”.

As yet, there are no details of where in Mar-a-Lago Trump’s safe was located, though students of the resort’s interiors style will hope it was concealed behind the 1989 portrait of him entitled The Visionary. To be clear, I’m not talking about the nine-foot painting of himself that Trump paid for with $60,000 meant for charity, but the one where he’s wearing cricket whites as sunbeams break through some heavenly clouds behind his head, and his expression says simply: “I dare you to report what I’m about to do to you, sweetheart”.

FBI raids on former presidents; filing stuff in the U-bend – another hugely uplifting 24 hours in politics. Not for the first time, much of the most unwittingly revealing commentary on it all comes from Trump himself, who says of the raid, “nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before”. Well remove. Meanwhile, plenty of his most powerful supporters of him have lost no time in informing Americans that if this can happen to the former president, then the ordinary people are next. And yet, and yet… are they? Of all the things to lose sleep over in the contemporary US, the imminent peril of dozens of FBI agents turning up on your doorstep and finding classified presidential records among your ironing is arguably not one of them.

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Still, what kind of world are we living in when a man of the people is treated like one of the people? The whole business has appalled freedom-loving anti-elitist Nigel Farage, who this morning announced himself to be “shocked” by the FBI’s presence at Trump’s property, before concluding that “the deep state truly does exist.” Carry yourself with the moral and intellectual consistency of Nigel, who believes that rich and powerful men who are the subject of multiple active criminal investigations should be above the law, while he himself has previously endorsed a US political candidate who – among other things – believes that all homosexuality should be made illegal. A huge number of grim prospects are coming down the slipway, but the virtually locked-on prospect of Nigel using the cost-of-living crisis to respawn over the next year or so is definitely up there.

For now, more immediate respawnings are available. trump is already fundraising off the outrage his winged monkeys are whipping up after last night’s raid, and attacking its very legitimacy. “Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President,” was the way he characterized the actions of an FBI whose lifelong Republican director he personally chose for the job.

As so often in the rabbit hole down which Trump has led us, I fear the news of the raid is not the unalloyed delight that many of his detractors may be celebrating it as. It surely makes it more, not less likely, that his 2024 presidential run will be announced in short order, very possibly breaking his agreement to hold off before the midterms. After days like these, what does he really have to lose, barring other people’s money? Each new probe is an added incentive to win and shut it down, pausing or permanently halting any number of lawsuits, and painting all reasonable investigation as clearly politically motivated, or – just like before! – an attempt at simple electoral theft. Never mind five towns ago, we passed “rational” five years ago. For all the drama of last night, the way back still remains entirely unclear.

  • Marina Hyde is a Guardian columnist

  • What Just Happened?! by Marina Hyde is published by Guardian Faber (£20). To support the Guardian and Observer, order your copy at Delivery charges may apply

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