There is something peculiar going on with the post facto attempts to justify the search of Donald Trump’s home. At first we were told that he had purloined American nuclear secrets, complete with rank speculation that he sold them to the highest bidder. Then the magistrate who authorized the search warrant ordered the release of a highly redacted supporting affidavit.
The affidavit said nothing about nuclear secrets and also had no specificity about the documents being sought; rather, it showed that the whole affair arose from a spat with the National Archives, the presidential equivalent of overdue library books.
When the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago, evidently they took everything, including personal effects, passports, and a large number of sensitive documents protected by attorney-client privilege. In a separate lawsuit brought by Trump, another federal judge appointed a special master to review the seized documents. This decision implicitly recognized that Trump’s claims of executive privilege may have some weight.
After this, the leaks changed. The leakers dropped the nonsense about American nuclear secrets, and said, instead, that Trump possessed a report about an unnamed nation’s nuclear capability.
Like Schrödinger’s Cat, the seized documents have two fates at once. They are at once so secret that they justify an unprecedented imposition on a former president, and they are simultaneously fully suitable for being leaked and discussed in the pages of the Washington Post.
One may recall that during the Obama years, the administration went hard against leaks, including subpoenaing phone records and other documents from reporters whose stories suggested access to classified information. Here, there has been no substantial effort to identify the leaker. Whoever is talking to the Washington Post is likely someone very high up, and the leaks are being made with the White House’s blessing.
Russiagate Precedent Suggests This Is All Pretextual
Because of the leaks and their earlier track record, it is hard to take the critics and their claimed concern for national security seriously. They told us for years about the other shoe would drop on Russiagate. The cloud created by these investigations hurt Trump and the nation for more than half of his term in office. But it turned out the foundation of these investigations was completely made up.
There was no evidence of Russian collusion or compromising information about Trump. Worse, FBI Director James Comey and Special Counsel Robert Mueller knew early on that the Steele dossier was full of lies concocted by the Hillary campaign, but they kept that information to themselves. These tall tales were the pretextual reason for a two-year, distracting, and defamatory investigation of the president.
Biden and partisan Democrats insist on the propriety of the recent raid, but there has been a substantial public backlash, and the documents supporting the raid do not match the gravity of the initial reporting.
After all, Trump could share, use, or declassify anything he wanted in any manner he wanted as president. While in office, he was privy to the most sensitive secrets imaginable. Whatever he learned then, he still knows today. Just as important, he remains the former president, entitled by law to a staff, Secret Service protection, and national security briefings.
Illegitimate from the Start
Trump was an enemy of business-as-usual and had a unique everyman style, and they hated him for it. Members of the executive branch, whose power is on loan from the president, imagined themselves to be part of the Constitution’s system of checks and balances, accountable only to the hive mind of Washington, D.C.
At first, they said he “stole the 2016 election” through “Russian collusion.” Once he was in office, they treated him as an interloper and continued to obstruct him in the name of middlebrow, career-government-worker ideology. Recall Lt. Colonel Alexander Vindman’s paeans to the “interagency process.” During his presidency, military subordinates lied to Trump and sabotaged his plans, the civilian bureaucracy made a virtue of being #TheResistance, and he was harried for most of his term by FBI investigations and plots among the intelligence services.
The contrast between the unelected government’s treatment of Trump and Biden is manifest. General Mark Milley was all broken up about “being used for a photo-op” when Trump visited a riot-scarred Lafayette Square. Today, Milley has no problem with two Marines flanking Joe Biden in an extreme partisan speech last week.
This is why the establishment has lost it after Judge Aileen M. Cannon’s ruling on a special master. While critics have suggested she is a partisan whose decision was poorly reasoned, their real complaint is that Cannon treated Trump as an ordinary former president.
As a consequence, the special master’s review will focus not only on legal privilege, but also executive privilege. Her decision referenced relevant Supreme Court precedent, which contradicts the Biden Administration’s dangerous claim to have the power to waive the executive privilege of its predecessor. Ultimately, she ruined the Department of Justice’s plans to be the “fox guarding the henhouse” by having their own personnel do a review of material protected by attorney-client and executive privilege.
If the military, the Justice Department, and the deep state would not treat Trump as president while he was in office, they certainly won’t give him deference as a former president today. The current persecution of Trump is designed to keep him from becoming president again. Like his persecution during his presidency, the process is distracting and expensive and staged to embarrass and humiliate him regardless of the outcome.
If Trump is arrested—which I think is increasingly likely after Biden’s speech last week—they hope to use the optics of an arrest as an additional basis to prevent his reelection in 2024. They will also use his supporters’ angry reaction, as well as any excesses, to further demonize and crack down upon “MAGA Republicans.”
How the deep state, the media, and the current president have treated Trump reveals that all the pious talk of Our Democracy™ is a pretext and a lie. For four years, they bent and broke every rule in the book in order to keep the people’s choice from governing. Today, they are breaking every rule to prevent him from becoming president again. This is the very opposite of democracy.