The PDF of the unsealed search warrant and attachments is available here.
- The central ethical conflict in this mess is between the danger of criminalizing politics, a warning sign of, as conservative talk show host Mark Levin says, creeping Stalinism, and appropriate revulsion at allowing anyone, including Presidents, ex-Presidents and would-be Presidents, to be “above the law.”
- This inevitably leads to “whataboutism” arguments, and legitimate accusations of double standards. Hillary Clinton committed acts that other, lesser mortals have been prosecuted for, despite James Comey’s typically dishonest statements to the contrary. The Clinton Foundation, which operated–cleverly, creatively and mostly carefully—as a money laundering, pay-to-play and influence peddling operation for the benefit of Clinton family members in perpetual violation of basic non-profit practices and guidelines, mysteriously wound down to nothingness once Hillary had no influence left to peddle and no prospects for regaining any. An FBI raid of Clinton Foundation offices would have almost certainly turned up some fascinating documents, but the Trump Justice Department, which was, as we know, stuffed with Clinton loyalist holdovers, never went that far in its investigation, such as it was. There is a substantial distinction between crowds chanting “Lock her up!” and serious attempts to actually lock her up.
- In the same vein as the old line, “Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean everyone isn’t out to get me,” the fact that the raid on Mar-A-Largo (it was a raid—come on, be serious—and it obviously didn’t have to be) was another link in the chain stretching all the way back to 2016 and determined efforts by the Axis of Unethical Conduct to Get Trump! by any means necessary doesn’t mean that there wasn’t finally something of substance to get Trump with. And if Trump indeed really broke laws, shouldn’t he be held accountable like any other American who breaks laws? I mean except for Bill and Hillary Clinton and Joe and Hunter Biden, of course…
- This is ethics zugzwang, and both Trump and the party of Javerts hunting him bear responsibility for the quagmire it has placed the country in. The Democrats have been tipping toward totalitarianism, but Donald Trump has been—no surprise—arrogant, reckless and stupid, stupid, stupid. Keeping classified, secret or whatever the hell they are documents at his Mar-A-Largo home instead of turning them over as the law requires may be the worst example yet. He’s known that he was a target under hyper-scrutiny by powerful people and institutions that want to destroy him for at least seven years. He should have been making certain that his conduct was clean as the proverbial whistle—indeed, as President, former President and supposed exemplar, he should have be that clean anyway. As an American citizen, he should be that clean. Is it really so hard not to violate, appear to violate or seem to violate important laws? For Trump, it apparently is.
- It would have been nice—you know, that “avoid all appearance of impropriety” thingy that government officials are supposed to follow as their ethics north star?—if Merrick Garland didn’t have a bright, shining reason to be biased against Trump (he should have recused himself from the warrant decision) and the magistrate approving the warrant hadn’t been an outspoken Democratic partisan and anti-Trump critic. A neutral magistrate wouldn’t be hard to find.
- The “nuclear documents” scaremongering just doesn’t make sense. Substack pundit Jim Treacher, hardly a Trump acolyte, properly asks,
Nuclear documents? What, like launch codes? Schematics? Locations? What are we talking about here?
What did they think the guy was going to do with this stuff? Is any of it even current? Don’t they change the launch codes every day? And nobody missed these documents for 18 months? What’s the danger here?
I can’t imagine. That doesn’t mean that it should be acceptable for Trump to flout the law and keep documents he shouldn’t have, but still…what’s the big deal that justifies an armed raid? Many have pointed out that the actual search for the documents was delayed: if there was actual danger to “national security” posed by Trump having documents in his possession, then the raid should have taken place the immediately after a warrant had been secured.
- Naturally, Trump is weakening the resolve of rational critics of this partisan hit by making his usual hyperbolic and factually dubious counter-accusations. Shortly before the release of the warrant yesterday, Trump implied that Obama had committed far worse offenses, writing,
“What happened to the 30 million pages of documents taken from the White House to Chicago by Barack Hussein Obama? He refused to give them back! What is going on? This act was strongly at odds with NARA. Will they be breaking into Obama’s ‘mansion’ in Martha’s Vineyard?”
- One silver lining in polarizing fiascos like this is that it tempts bad actors and ethics villains into exposing their true nature to all. Thus did once respectable (a long, long time ago) presidential historian Michael Beschloss despicably hint via Twitter that Trump should be executed for those “nuclear documents”…
The man might as well wear giant neon signs on his head flashing “I am an unprincipled hack!,” “I have no professional integrity!” and “I am a trustworthy scholar like Sean Hannity is a trustworthy journalist!” See, the people who watch and believe the network Beschloss sold his soul to “contribute” to still think Trump is in league with Putin, and he has these “nuclear documents,” see, so he’s obviously planning on selling them to Russia, right? The historians association should kick Beschloss out, and might, if 90% of he members weren’t almost as biased as he is. Yes, this is the same guy who went on CNN election night and 2016 and lied (when a Presidential historian makes a ridiculously false statement about Presidential history to cover for his favorite losing candidate, he’s lying) about how Hillary’s loss was in part attributable to the “fact” that it is “very hard” for any party to win the White House three terms in a row. That tweet, however, is even lower on the ethics scale. How despicable for anyone, but for a respected historian, astounding.
- The reporting is confusing and spinning in all directions, but it does appear that a President can declassify any documents he chooses. However, we are told, there is a certain procedure that has to be followed. So this is all going to come down to dotted i’s and crossed t’s and court battles over whether the documents were properly declassified or not? And what: if they were, Trump is as pure as the driven snow, and if not, Rosenberg him? Now the Trump defense is that the documents were “automatically” declassified when they were shipped to Mat-A-Largo. Sounds dodgy, but would any jury convict a former President on the grounds that he misunderstood the right way to declassify documents he had the power to declassify, and so, “Gotcha!”?
I don’t believe it.
- Professor Turley asked five excellent questions after the warrant was released, including the one that exposes the true nature of the raid:
Attorney General Merrick Garland said that the DOJ would have used other less intrusive means if they were possible. Yet, it would seem that such options were not just possible but obvious, including the use of a second subpoena. Moreover, even if a raid was necessary, it is not clear why the DOJ would descend upon Mar-a-Lago with such a massive show of force rather than send a few agents over with the warrant.
Why? Because it was political theater and part of a strategy to remove Trump as threat to win the White House again, that’s why. Duh. And Turley knows this as well as Garland does.
A new poll from Convention of States and Trafalgar Group claims that the 53.9%, of independents believe Trump’s political enemies are behind the Mar-A-Largo raid. Gee, Independents, ya think? I thought they were smarter than that. 76.7% of Republicans hold the same view, which is similarly surprising.
Meanwhile, about 70% of the Democrats polled said they believed the raid was “the impartial justice system at work.” Are Democrats that gullible, that biased, that dishonest, or that stupid? I only see those four options.
Finally, here is some ethics fodder for debate. If I were Joe Biden, I’d pardon Trump for any crimes real or imagined related to his Presidency, a Nixon pardon encore. Not only is it the right thing to do for the country, it would be politically astute. Trump would try to refuse it, I bet, but he can’t. The most deranged Democrats would be apoplectic,to which the only response can be “Good!” Joe, meanwhile, could salvage some shred of dignity and statesmanship from his debacle of a Presidency.