Mole Hunt In Mar-a-Lago
The tea leaves indicate an indictment for former President Trump
So it’s a mole hunt now. I’ll have more in my podcast interview with Andy McCarthy out later today, but here’s the reality: If the actions of the FBI and the indications from the Inspector General are taken at face value, they suggest steady progress on the part of the Department of Justice toward the unprecedented and insane action of indicting former President Donald Trump, potentially in Washington, D.C., where his conviction is virtually assured, on the basis of criminal acts related to January 6th.
It’s hard to read it otherwise. As much as the FBI may maintain publicly or via sourcing that they were just looking for documents that may be classified, the timing of the escalation — paired with the seizure of Rep. Scott Perry’s phone — seems to suggest otherwise, coming as it does after Congress has left town and as Trump’s potential announcement of a presidential campaign nears.
Around lunchtime on June 3, a senior Justice Department national security supervisor and three FBI agents arrived at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida to discuss boxes with government records sitting in a basement storage room along with suits, sweaters and golf shoes.
A few days later, the FBI sent a note asking that a stronger lock be installed on the storage room door, signing off: “Thank you. Very truly yours, Jay Bratt, chief of counterintelligence and export control section.”
In the following weeks, however, someone familiar with the stored papers told investigators there may be still more classified documents at the private club after the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes earlier in the year, people familiar with the matter said. And Justice Department officials had doubts that the Trump team was being truthful regarding what material remained at the property, one person said. Newsweek earlier reported on the source of the FBI’s information.
Two months later, two dozen Federal Bureau of Investigation agents were back at Mar-a-Lago with a warrant predicated on convincing a federal magistrate judge that there was evidence a crime may have been committed. After hours at the property, the agents took the boxes away in a Ryder truck.
Many elements of what happened between those events—one seemingly cordial, the other unheard of—remain unknown. But the episode points to a sharp escalation in the Justice Department’s inquiry into Mr. Trump, which also includes an investigation into the events leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot on the Capitol. And it has prompted outrage from Republicans, who have rallied around Mr. Trump as he contemplates running again for president.
The mystery may only be resolved by the Justice Department’s next steps. FBI Director Christopher Wray, appointed by Mr. Trump in 2017, on Wednesday referred questions to the Justice Department, which declined to comment.
Mr. Trump and his lawyers contend they have cooperated with a monthslong effort by the government to retrieve some of the material he took from the White House and expressed outrage with Monday’s unannounced visit to Mar-a-Lago. A timeline of events, they say, demonstrates this cooperation, down to quickly fulfilling the June request to place a new lock on the storage door.
Since the FBI raided Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago compound on Monday, the Democratic Party’s resistance leaders have been tumescent. Former Justice Department officials are going on television to give an expert gloss to the prospect of the 45th president finally getting prosecuted.
Former solicitor general Neil Katyal, for example, told MSNBC on Monday evening that if he was the former president’s lawyer, he would tell him to prepare for prison time. Marc Elias, the Democratic Party lawyer who commissioned the infamous Steele Dossier, went on Twitter to suggest the raid might mean Trump was guilty of destroying government property and thus ineligible to run in 2024.
It feels like 2017 all over again. And that is what makes this latest episode of Get Trump a farce. At least back in 2017, the hype, speculation and innuendo about the FBI’s probe into Trump world was about the possibility that a grave crime had been committed by the sitting president. And while it turned out that Russiagate was a conspiracy theory hatched by operatives like Elias, no one at the time knew the FBI had run into a series of dead ends in their investigation.
This time, Trump’s alleged crime comes down to a dispute with the National Archives. He did not return all the documents the archive requested in 2021, so he is potentially in violation of the Presidential Records Act. In addition, it’s possible there are classified documents that have not been returned to the archive.
If this is all there is, then the FBI and Justice Department must be reformed. Taking the unprecedented step of requesting a search warrant of a former president’s residence in connection with a dispute that should be handled through civil litigation is using a howitzer to kill a mosquito. If this is an investigation into a former president mishandling classified material, it begs the question of whether Trump himself — when he was in office — used his discretion to declassify documents he took with him to Mar-a-Lago. If that is the case, there is no crime.
Jonathan Tobin has more. We can make as many predictions as we like about where this goes politically, but doing so requires assumptions about what the DOJ will do that are not yet in evidence. If they continue on the path they are on, it seems that they are determined to go after the former president in court no matter the costs to the reputation of these agencies of law enforcement or to the country they stopped serving long ago.
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