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By Robert Scott
There have been several stories in the news this week that, in normal times, would be the top story of the month, if not the year. Inflation is abating, up about 8% since last year but not rising at all during the month of July. Congress passed bipartisan major legislation funding healthcare for Mideast War veterans who suffered from long-term effects of smoke from burn pits. On a party-line vote in both chambers, Congress passed major legislation with many of the Democrats’ priorities for this year, includingexpanded federal healthcare and “Green New Deal” items countering climate change; the bill funded itself by way of increased taxes, but only on the wealthiest Americans and the most profitable corporations. Overshadowing them all was last week’s so-called FBI “raid” on former President Trump’s home and golf club estate at Mar-A-Lago.
The extreme members of both political parties reacted predictably. The most liberal Democrats reacted with glee, as yet another investigation into Donald Trump’s questionable political / financial past. The most conservative Republicans loudly recoiled from the perceived specter of a police state. The FBI was cast in the role of the Gestapo raiding the home of an honest American, a patriot whose only crime was belonging to the wrong political party.
Here is a summary. The FBI carried out a search and seizure based on a judicially approved warrant at the behest of the Attorney General. The warrant followed requests and subpoenas asking for the return of various documents former President Trump had taken after he lost the election. After the search, the Trump legal team approved release of the warrant and a summary of the material the seizure had returned to government custody. They are now available online. The key items were documents described as classified Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS-SCI) and others with lower classification. The warrant had ordered the FBI to retrieve not only all the classified documents at Mar-A-Lago, but also “any other containers/boxes that are collectively stored or found” with those documents; the inventory lists 33 items.
President Trump has compared this so-called “raid” on his home to the Watergate break-in which, of course, was a surreptitious act of burglary and not an open search following a judicial warrant. Several Republican “Law and Order” Congressmen have demanded a version of “Defund the Police” in which the police in question are the federal police, the FBI. Did the Attorney General and/or the Magistrate overstep their authority in tasking the FBI? Did the FBI go beyond what was required in the warrant? Did the removal of those documents from the White House violate federal law? What was so important in those documents, and what was President Trump’s motivation in taking them? If there was a violation, how serious was it?
All these questions need to be answered, and they surely will be. Another question: afterward, will it be the Republicans or the Democrats who apologize for a rush to judgment in mischaracterizing this search? I can answer that last one: neither. Unfortunately, in today’s toxic political climate politicians have learned to double-down on their errors rather than acknowledging them. Here’s hoping some of those politicians will change one way or another, following this November’s midterm elections.