Former President Donald Trump’s reaction to the FBI’s execution of a search warrant Monday at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, was everything one would expect from him. That is to say, it was mostly an effort to cast himself as the innocent victim of a grand conspiracy by political opponents without a shred of corroborating evidence. He then sat back and watched his message echo across right-wing media platforms and stir the faithful. Say, where have we seen this behavior before? Just about every day since he lost reelection.
What’s known for certain about the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s search is that agents had a warrant approved by a federal judge and that the person in charge of the law enforcement agency, Christopher A. Wray, was appointed to the post by Mr. Trump when he was in office. The search was reportedly looking for classified documents, some highly sensitive, that were wrongly taken from the White House and that Mr. Trump has failed to return — despite repeated requests from the National Archives over months. The former president could further the public’s understanding of these circumstances by releasing his copy of the search warrant, but alas, he has chosen not to do so.
The reaction of the Trump faithful, whether on Fox News or in the halls of Congress, was predictable as well. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy’s call for a probe of Attorney General Merrick Garland for “weaponized politicization” of the U.S. Department of Justice was extraordinarily irresponsible given the lack of anything to back the claim, but hardly off-brand for the once-reluctant-but-now-enthusiastic Trump sycophant. Calls by others in his party to “defund” the FBI were mostly a stark reminder that the GOP’s steadfast call to “back the blue” applies only to circumstances when people of color, preferably low-income, are the ones attracting law enforcement’s attention.
And while we must acknowledge that an ex-president’s home has never before been searched by the FBI, Mr. Trump is hardly the typical ex-president grinding out a memoir and quietly advising his successor. Claims of criminal behavior and Mr. Trump have a rich history together — his despotic efforts to remain in power despite losing the election providing the most obvious examples. But as it happens, he also took advantage of the Fifth Amendment this week during a deposition before New York’s attorney general concerning alleged misdeeds by the Trump Organization.
What was surprising to find in this incident, however, was that Mar-a-Lago mania extends to Maryland.
Del. Dan Cox, the Republican nominee for governor, used the occasion to publicly embarrass himself on social media by offering to call out the Maryland State Police and Maryland National Guard to stand against the Biden administration. Hello? Without knowing any of the facts surrounding the FBI action in Florida, Mr. Cox was busy pledging his loyalty not to the rule of law or the people of Maryland or even reality, but to Donald Trump World. “Our children, families and loved ones and the freedom we cherish and is our birthright as Americans demands we oppose these criminal acts of this current administration,” he wrote.
Only slightly better was the reaction of Maryland’s current governor, Larry Hogan, who called on “transparency” from the Biden administration, asking officials to release “at a minimum” documents authorizing the FBI search, a move he called necessary in light of “dangerously divided” times.
We fully support transparency within the law enforcement and, like Governor Hogan, surely hope the search warrant was justified, but we have two major beefs here. First, the Republican governor should have specifically called on Mr. Trump to release his copy of the search warrant and second, an active investigation is not the moment to expect transparency from law enforcement. Ask any reporter who has ever called the FBI about a warrant: “We can neither confirm nor deny that so-and-so is under investigation.” That’s not just to protect the investigation, it’s to spare the subject from having allegations that might prove false trotted out before the public. The time for judging the FBI’s behavior in this matter — as well as Mr. Trump’s — will come, but it’s simply not today. Not enough is known. That’s how a nation of laws works. Procedures are followed. Rights protected. Courts oversee warrants. Charges, if necessary, are filed. And everyone gets their day in court. Everything else is just a lot of hot air destined to be used for political fundraising.
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