Above are some of Andrew Yang’s tweets regarding the raid on Donald Trump’s resort residence in Palm Beach,Florida yesterday, executed by the FBI reportedly to find and retrieve classified documents that the former President improperly kept after leaving the White House. Yang is a tech executive and an amateur politician at best, but he’s smart and perceptive, and as the recent founder of a (doomed) centrist third party with national aspirations, is arguably more objective than most observers.
Except Ethics Alarms, of course…
Here is what we know: The Times reports…
Trump said on Monday that the F.B.I. had searched his Palm Beach, Fla., home and had broken open a safe — an account signaling a major escalation in the various investigations into the final stages of his presidency.
The search, according to multiple people familiar with the investigation, appeared to be focused on material that Mr. Trump had brought with him to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence, when he left the White House. Those boxes contained many pages of classified documents, according to a person familiar with their contents.
Mr. Trump delayed returning 15 boxes of material requested by officials with the National Archives for many months, only doing so when there became a threat of action to retrieve them. The case was referred to the Justice Department by the archives early this year….
The F.B.I. would have needed to convince a judge that it had probable cause that a crime had been committed, and that agents might find evidence at Mar-a-Lago, to get a search warrant. Proceeding with a search on a former president’s home would almost surely have required sign-off from top officials at the bureau and the Justice Department.
Trump’s statement regarding the raid was classic Trump:
First Ethics Alarms observation: Trump is correct. I think he would be wiser to leave these conclusions to others, but…you know, Trump. This rash move—and I’m being kind—marks the continuation of the 2016 Post Election Ethics Train Wreck that has been exhaustively—some claimed too exhaustively, and they were wrong—documented here for nearing six years. No President has been subjected to treatment like the raid, and no President was ever subjected to the abuse, disrespect and obstruction that Trump was from the minute he was elected. Many of his comparisons above lack legal and factual traction, but in general he is right, and particularly right regarding how the raid will appear to the average members of the public who are not completely Trump Deranged.
Trump was impeached the first time based on the theory that he was abusing his position and power attempting to find dirt on a likely opponent for reelection. Hillary Clinton also mishandled classified data. The Democrats haven’t even tried to hide their frenzied efforts to find something, anything, sufficiently damning on Trump to remove him from the political scene.
GOP Senator Mike Lee, a former federal prosecutor and current member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, nicely amassed many of the most troubling questions about the raid:
Did Attorney General Garland personally sign off on this action?
Why break into the safe rather than seize it, take it into custody, and then seek a warrant to open it?
Why obtain and execute a search warrant rather than first seeking the items in question either through an informal process or with a subpoena? perhaps there’s something here we don’t know—something that, once known, will clarify the reasons for the raid. If there is, FBI needs to bring forward the justification for this unprecedented action—as soon as possible. But if there isn’t, we’ve got problems at the FBI.
Classification authority belongs to the president of the United States — and NOT to bureaucrats at the National Archives.
If this turns out to be the product of the growing political weaponization of federal law enforcement agencies, shouldn’t this incident cause all Americans to be even more outraged by the Democrats’ plan to hire an additional 87,000 agents?
How is this aggressive action defensible in light of the FBI/DOJ treatment of Hillary Clinton, who was never subjected to a raid like this, even though she (1) mishandled classified material, and (2) destroyed evidence?
What should we make of the fact that this is occurring while FBI and DOJ have taken no discernible action regarding (for example) flagrant violations of the law by (a) Hunter Biden, or (b) pro-abortion extremists threatening Supreme Court justices at their homes?
Why should we assume that the FBI is above targeting Republicans when it creates documents like this one, which encourages agents to be suspicious of people who display the Betsy Ross Flag or the “don’t tread on me” Gadsden Flag?
Shouldn’t all Americans be suspicious of the FBI based on its use of warrantless “backdoor searches” under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (about which Christopher Wray expressed very little concern when I questioned him at last week’s hearing)?
Good questions all, and fertile campaign issues too, as the Republicans seek to seize control of Congress.
- President Biden claims that he knew nothing about the raid before it had occurred. This is unbelievable on its face. The tempestuous political implications of such a move by the Justice Department made advance notice to the White House mandatory: I would fire an attorney General who did this without consultation.
- The most damning hypocrisy in my view arises from the comparison to Trump’s over-heard call with the President of Ukraine urging him to see that Biden’s involvement with his son’s machinations in that country were properly investigated. That was an example of Trump being subjected to a standard never applied to other Presidents, who have often used forms of aid as ammunition for bargaining and negotiation to prompt foreign governments to take actions politically beneficial to a POTUS’s standing. Raiding the home of a likely opponent for the President is s far more sinister and unequivocal means of using the Executive Branch to clear away political opposition.
- How much longer can the Democrats run on the upside-down fiction that they are the champions of an imperiled democracy when all of the tactics smelling of totalitarian regimes and “banana republics” are coming from their side, and are focused on Republicans, the alleged threats to the Republic? Can Americans possibly be so gullible and dim as to watch all this without figuring out where the real threat lies?
- The comments on Althouse’s blog are instructive: there is virtually nothing but contempt for the raid, and Althouse is not a Trump booster. This is another in a series of tests to determine whether your friends and relatives are so biased that they can’t function. I have a large number of Facebook friends cheering the raid. Morons. Republicans, even NeverTrumpers, shouldn’t cheer the raid because it strongly suggests the criminalization of politics by Democrats. Progressives shouldn’t cheer, because the raid is likely to energize conservatives and prove to be a massive blunder. Americans shouldn’t cheer, because they are watching (have been watching, as Ethics Alarms has attempted to show) the most serious assault by a political party and an administration on our democracy in over 200 years.
I don’t know what the raid turned up; I don’t know if the six-year fishing expedition to “Get Trump” finally hit pay dirt (investigating anyone for the purpose of discovering a justification to prosecute is unethical); I don’t know for certain that there wasn’t a legitimate need for the raid. I maintain that Presidents and ex-Presidents (and ex-Vice-Presidents, sons of Vice_Presidents and former Secretaries of State married to ex-Presidents) must not be above the law. However, prosecutoral discretion is often a crucial ethical consideration, and absent considerations that we haven’t seen yet, Garland’s raid is stunningly incompetent: divisive, destructive, embarrassing to the nation, an abuse of power and irresponsible.