So here we are, an FBI raid on the ex-President’s Florida compound. (Some of you say we are following GOP messaging calling it a “raid” rather than executing a search warrant. They’re both accurate but we’ve always called these “raids” in years of covering these events. So no reason to change now.) Republicans are predictably lining up in defense of the President as the victim of political persecution, threatening payback after January 2023 and January 2025.
But not all of you are punch drunk with schadenfreude. I’ve received a few emails from TPM Readers who fear this is an unfolding catastrophe for Democrats or the country or any opponents of Trumpism. TPM Reader EA finds it hard to believe that Garland, Wray and a federal judge would authorize such a dramatic move over an essentially bureaucratic document retention issue. But he’s been disappointed in DOJ and FBI in recent years and worries. TPM Reader JB is much more concerned, calling it a “PR disaster … because our side has nothing to say … I worry this is Mueller all over again. A cautious technocrat in a China shop.” Others speculate more generally about a bureaucratic drift toward a warrant to seize documents Trump resisted turning over. One step leads to another and suddenly this is where you are but no one has stepped back and figured in the broadly political and constitutional context.
We don’t know. But I do not find these speculations credible. The best assumption is the obvious and initial one: we’re dealing with three key players (Garland, Wray and a federal judge) each of whom would bring a distinct and deep-seated resistance to taking such a step absent evidence of serious criminal conduct and specific circumstances which made the need for a surprise search compelling and necessary. That strongly suggests that there is more afoot here than we yet know.
I will note again what I referenced last night. If you read the reports from the biggest national news organizations what is most striking is how little they seem to know. They believe it’s tied to the 15 box document retention investigation which goes back like a year. But even that seems vague and they don’t seem to know much more. As I said above, this isn’t our first rodeo. Usually after an event like this the most sourced reporters are able to put together a pretty full picture pretty quickly. But that doesn’t seem to be happening. At least not based on the stories I’ve read. That speaks to an extreme secrecy uncommon even in the most delicate and politically-charged investigations. We know very little about what this is about.
I’m as much about messaging as almost anyone. Lies round the globe before the truth gets on its shoes and all that. But there are some cases where the facts will tell the story and set the narrative. This is one of them. I suspect they will show that a serious crime about which we do not yet know has occurred. The people in authority should simply follow the law. It goes without saying that any legal actions against the ex-President were going to lead to this tidal wave of fury and threats from his supporters. This is simply too hot a case for anyone who didn’t treat that as a given. We should also expect violence from at least some of the President’s political supporters. Jury selection starts today in the second trial of defendants in the Trump-inspired kidnap/murder plot against Gov. Whitmer of Michigan. What do we expect?
TPM Reader TS isn’t terribly impressed with the GOP threats.
How full of sound and fury signifying nothing the Kevin McCarthy rant is. Obviously there will be nonstop faux fury investigations if the GOP takes the House and DOJ and everyone else knows this will happen no matter what they do or do not do. If there are actual ongoing legal investigations, DOJ will be able to refuse to answer many questions anyway. They will just sit there for Jim Jordan speeches. They know it, so not much of a new threat.
As a narrowly political matter, step back and see the broader context. Republicans have been trying very hard to keep Trump out of the midterms. They don’t want an election that is a choice between Biden and Democrats or Trumpism. They want a referendum about Biden and the general sense that everything kinda sucks. Until the summer that was working quite well and it may still work enough to hand them the Congress. Putting Trump at the center of things in the home stretch isn’t a plus for the GOP and they know it. They just have no choice.
Holding a criminal president to account is high stakes, unpredictable and necessary. I assume you knew that. In for a dime, in for a dollar. For my part, I knew it would be and I am content to watch the facts unfold in the knowledge that it is necessary for the well-being of the republic.