The people's martyr?
If Trump's enemies thought it smart to paint him as a threat to democracy, this may just have boomeranged
Those who are so hostile to former US President Donald Trump that they cut him no slack on anything, ever, might be wise to take note of the reaction to the FBI raid on his Florida home.
On Monday, while Trump was in New York, a squad of FBI agents turned up with a warrant at his Mar-a-Lago property and proceeded to search it. The reported reason was that they believed he had retained classified information that he’d taken from the White House. Federal law requires official records to be turned over when a president leaves office. The agents reportedly took away some ten boxes from Trump’s home.
Cue, natch, instantaneous delirium from the left who want Trump removed from political life for ever. The more instructive reaction, however, came from some of his foes amongst Republicans — including implacable “Never-Trumpers”.
Their profound alarm about an apparent abuse of due process involved in the raid was exceeded only by their fear that, if the FBI raid turns out to have been an unjustified and politically driven hit-job, it has made all but certain Trump’s nomination and victory at the 2024 presidential election.
The Telegraph reports:
The chorus of backing for Mr Trump following the raid was led by Ron DeSantis, his closest rival for the Republican nomination in 2024.
Mr DeSantis said the unprecedented operation against a former president smacked of a “banana republic” and was “another escalation in the weaponisation of federal agencies against the regime’s political opponents”.
Other senior Republicans called it “Third World country stuff” and “un-American”. Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee, said it was “outrageous” and would spur the party's voters to the polls in the midterm elections in November. Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, vowed to respond by launching a congressional oversight investigation into the Justice Department itself.
Quite why Trump took any of this material home with him is as yet unknown and is obviously deeply questionable. Maybe he was just paranoid and wanted to hang onto evidence he thought might be a useful defence against his enemies. Maybe he wanted to stick it in a scrapbook and show to his grandkids. Whatever. But there’s been no suggestion that he took any material with a sensitive security classification. The reason for such an unprecedented raid on a former president is hard to explain.
At present, we just don’t know what the FBI was really looking for. Suspicions have been aired that it was actually conducting a fishing expedition in connection with the January 6 riots. Absent that, it looks like an escalation of a federal investigation that began earlier this year into how classified documents ended up in boxes of White House records discovered at Mar-a-Lago, some fifteen of which were returned by Trump last February.
If so, that raises more questions than it answers. As the law professor Alan Dershowitz writes in The Hill:
If it is true that the basis of the raid was the former president’s alleged removal of classified material from the White House, that would constitute a double standard of justice. There were no raids, for example, on the homes of Hillary Clinton or former Clinton administration national security adviser Sandy Berger for comparable allegations of mishandling official records in the recent past.
Previous violations of the Presidential Records Act typically have been punished by administrative fines, not criminal prosecution. Perhaps there are legitimate reasons for applying a different standard to Trump’s conduct, but those are not readily obvious at this stage…
Defenders of the raid argue that the search warrant was issued by a judge. Yet every criminal defence lawyer knows that search warrants are issued routinely and less critically than candy is distributed on Halloween; judges rarely exercise real discretion or real supervision.
And the echoes from this raid could not be more sinister and alarming. For the FBI has been deeply compromised by its role in the effort that went on for more than two years to prove a supposed conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia to hand Trump the presidency in 2016.
That claim, for which there has never been a shred of evidence, led to a real conspiracy between elements in the FBI, the justice department and the Democratic party to lever Trump out of office based on Democratic party falsehoods about Trump that were in turn falsely passed off as genuine intelligence. Among other things, this effort involved — according to the Obama-appointed inspector general of the Department of Justice — a blizzard of “significant errors or omissions” in a series of approved surveillance warrant applications to spy on Trump’s associate, Carter Page.
In June 2020 William Barr, then the Trump administration’s Attorney-General, observed that the various government investigations into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to the Kremlin were
the closest we have come to an organised effort to push a president out of office.
Shockingly, much of the US mainstream media colluded in this witch-hunt and attempted coup. As Barr said:
All we’ve gotten from the mainstream media is sort of bovine silence in the face of the complete collapse of the so-called Russiagate scandal, which they did all they could to sensationalise and drive.
“Russiagate” was an unprecedented abuse of process and a conspiracy of deception at the highest level in which the FBI was involved up to its neck. Moreover, as a number of commentators have pointed out, in stark contrast to its raid on Trump’s home to seize documents the FBI exonerated Hillary Clinton in 2016 over her “extremely careless” handling of classified materials and expressed the view that “no charges are appropriate in this case”.
Worse still is the deafening silence over evidence that American politics really has been compromised by foreign interests and corrupt practices — involving President Joe Biden’s son Hunter, his brother Jim and even the president himself.
In the New York Post, which has largely made the running on this story, Miranda Devine reported in March:
And, as a grand jury in Delaware moves closer to potentially indicting Hunter, 52, over alleged tax evasion, money laundering and violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act, pressure is mounting on the president finally to explain his role in the international influence-peddling scheme run by his son and brother, Jim Biden, while he was vice president.
The laptop, along with evidence provided by Hunter’s former business partner Tony Bobulinski, and Treasury documents provided to a Senate inquiry, reveal millions of dollars flowing to the Biden family and associates from dubious foreign sources, including three flashpoint countries vital to US national security: Russia, Ukraine and China.
Evidence also exists showing that Joe Biden financially benefited from his then-drug-addicted son’s overseas business dealings — perhaps by several million dollars.
In the Wall Street Journal, Holman Jenkins sets out the startling failure to acknowledge this scandal — and produces an even more startling conjecture. He writes:
According to an investigation by Republican Sens. Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson, the FBI deliberately promoted the fiction that the Hunter Biden laptop was foreign disinformation to help Joe Biden in the 2020 election, though the agency had been in possession of the laptop for nearly a year and knew it to be legit…In fact, the laptop evidence ought to have presidential historians everywhere rethinking their potted story about 2016. Is Hunter Biden the real reason Barack Obama preferred Hillary Clinton over his loyal vice president for the Democratic nomination?
Mr. Obama wasn’t blind. He saw what the laptop has only belatedly let the rest of us see. No sooner had he put Joe Biden in charge of the sensitive Ukraine portfolio after Russia’s first invasion in 2014 than Hunter cashed in by taking a lucrative sinecure on the board of a controversial Ukrainian gas company. This was such a gallumphingly brazen move, one that Joe Biden refused to do anything about when approached by his staff, that it smells more like a culmination than an aberration.
In full or in part, observable to Mr. Obama’s staff would have been Joe’s letting Hunter travel on Air Force Two to promote his Chinese ventures, his letting Hunter use the vice president’s official residence to court the Mexican billionaires Carlos Slim and Miguel Alemán Velasco. Or how about 15 meetings reported by the Daily Mail between the vice president and various of Hunter’s business partners, or the 27 visits to the White House of Eric Schwerin, a Hunter partner who reportedly helped manage Joe’s taxes and expenses?
After leaving the vice presidency, Mr. Biden directly participated in discussions of his son’s Chinese dealings, according to Hunter partner Tony Bobulinski. A memo reportedly by Hunter himself refers to a possible 10% stake for the “big guy.” While steadfastly denying that Mr. Biden involved himself in his son’s business, White House spokespersons have largely declined to answer the deluge of laptop-related allegations.
In a 2019 text, Hunter is seen griping to his daughter about being expected to give half his salary to “Pop.” Emails and texts seem to show Hunter’s involvement with his father’s mortgage dealings, tax refunds, phone bills and home-improvement expenses. As early as the second year of the Obama-Biden presidency, we see Mr. Schwerin seeking to discuss with the vice president his “future earnings potential.”
A question: How much evidence does a disinterested citizen need (or did Mr. Obama need) to begin to suspect that Mr. Biden routinely and deliberately lent his trappings to his son’s influence-peddling business and expected to share in the proceeds? Or that, despite Hunter’s addiction troubles and personal recklessness, his father expected him to generate family revenue so Joe and anointed son Beau could focus on seeking elective office?
According to Chis Sweck, a former assistant director of the FBI, Hillary Clinton and Hunter Biden were treated in a “genteel” way over the allegations against them by comparison with the Trump raid. He said:
We would never have approved a search warrant of a former president's residence, or a congressman, or anyone in public office, without some extreme justification. I don't know where this came from, it's absolutely wrong. My fairness meter is flashing red.
As others have commented, the FBI had better produce an absolutely copper-bottomed knock-out blow against Trump. Otherwise its own reputation will be irretrievably sunk; those Americans who already think the institutions of the state are stacked against fairness, due process and their own interests will feel even more dangerously disillusioned and marginalised; and Trump will contest the 2024 election as the people’s martyr.
If the Democrats thought that trying to paint Trump as a threat to democracy would be a potent political weapon in their armoury, this may just have boomeranged.