Feds in Palm Beach
Some analysis on the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago
On Monday, August 8, 2022, the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida. The Feds claimed they searched for mishandled classified documents and opened up his safe. As many are quick to point out, the search was court-authorized by a typical warrant looking for particular documents.
This raid demands further analysis because of its serious consequences. The United States Department of Justice has historically shown reluctance when administering law enforcement on former US senior officials, especially presidents. The most obvious, recent, and well-publicized example is Hillary Clinton's personal email server. This Mar-a-Lago raid is a substantially more severe use of FBI resources than anything involving the Clinton server, with further political consequences.
One of the key points to understand is that the FBI as an institution generally holds itself outside of ordinary ethics because of its duties. Under its banner, all sorts of crimes too big, too nuanced, and too weird fall under its authority (or similar federal agencies). Pertaining to this raid is the Presidential Records Act and the handling or mishandling classified documents.
I believe the Twitter punditry when they claim there was no leak of the raid before its execution. This silence makes sense, not only because of its sensational status but because the FBI is one of the US’s secret police forces in the European sense of the term. While not as sinister as the Russian versions, the FBI also has a dark history. Whether the botched raid on the Waco compound, selective enforcement of laws, illegal surveillance, or Robert Hansen, the FBI is not above reproach.
With all this said, law enforcement tends to rely on informants, as discussed in the Daily Mail on Tuesday, August 9. The problem compounds itself with the politics and motivations of those reporting to law enforcement. Widespread Trump Derangement Syndrome and current events exaggerate the consequences of inappropriate use of power. Before even discussing the internal motivations of particular agents, the same sources of information they rely on can manipulate the FBI itself.
The Trump Derangement Syndrome permeates the permanent party bureaucracy. Especially dangerous is the brain-rot that inhabits the intelligence community, law enforcement, and prosecutorial offices. The Trump years ripped the mask off of many bureaucrats looking for quick get-rich schemes from book sales and speaking tours. Whether ill-advised investigations based on disinformation spread by deceased Senator John McCain (where’s Christopher Steele?) or whatever you call Comey’s scam, the incentives loom large for persons to reject common sense on the chance of revenge or fame.
While this seems novel to some, this isn’t exactly new regarding the FBI question. Beyond anything contemporary, the FBI has a habit of covering for some criminals while prosecuting others. Recently, FBI Director Christopher Wray detailed the lack of resources to pursue all leads nationwide. While a rare and respectable admission in light of the lack of answers from so many tragedies, there is an insidious side to this claim – that FBI and prosecutors largely determine what cases are important. There’s no transparency to this triage method, just expectation of the public trust.
The raid on Mar-a-Lago is an expectations violation. We expect judicious use of law enforcement assets. Without a reasonable belief that there was some kind of blackmail or selling of state secrets, I’m confident that this raid is an overblown use of federal resources.
Beyond the rodeo of the raid and its media coverage, the damage to the body politic is immense. A substantial growing portion of the United States electorate believes that the federal government is actively working to harm them. It’s hard to argue against that when only the most casual of attention was paid to issues like the supply-chain crisis, baby food crisis, inflation, illegal immigration, soaring living costs, housing shortages, and many more. The raid on a beloved, popular public figure like former President Trump hurts the public confidence in the system. No matter how flawed Donald Trump is, the reality is that he’s one of the most significant celebrities in the United States, if not the world.
Government works by consent and participation of the electorate. Activities by the US Government that actively sow disharmony, alienation, and disenfranchisement among a serious chunk of our republican system are as bad or worse than any similar activities by a foreign government. Regardless of one’s stance on the 2020 Election, President Trump, or any number of issues, I hope a bipartisan sentiment can coalesce for answers.
Furthermore, we need to discuss serious reforms in our political and government systems. While this is not part of the scope of this article, I want to make one central point: in every agency, there are whistleblowers and leakers. It is fascinating to see this rarely happen in particular law enforcement agencies like the FBI over practices, procedures, and operations. There’s clearly something more peculiar going on behind the scenes.
Knowing the US Congress, we won’t have answers, just grandstanding and memes. We live in clownish times.
Image Credit to CNBC