There Is No Removing Trump Case from Broader Context

Listening to critical comments about former President Trump’s alleged criminal behavior in his treatment of classified documents, especially in interviews with William Barr and Andrew McCarthy, I was struck by a glaring omission in these supposedly dispassionate analyses. According to his Republican critics, Trump blocked the FBI’s effort to investigate his holding of classified material, and, to make matters worse, Trump’s lawyers shamelessly misrepresented this situation in communicating with the grand jury.

Supposedly, we should not view Joe Biden’s even more reckless relationship to classified documents in quite the same way, McCarthy explained in an interview on June 10. Unlike Trump, Biden never lied about holding classified material to a grand jury. It may also be the case that the Department of Justice should have gone after Hillary Clinton for ignoring a subpoena to turn over classified material, which Clinton destroyed instead of giving up. But that was an oversight that can no longer be undone. In any case, argues former Attorney General Barr, one cannot set right a past sin of omission by refusing to punish others who commit similar illegal acts. Such a move just adds to the unpunished criminality that is polluting the world. 

Although most of the jurists making this case clearly dislike Trump, I won’t challenge their insistence that the multiple counts in the indictment against the former president, including violation of the Espionage Act, are truly grave. Even if half of these charges can be made to stick, Trump may be spending the rest of his life in the slammer. I won’t even deny that Trump took unwarranted liberties with the documents by waving them around in front of observers and allegedly storing some of them in his bathroom. Like Trump’s critics in the Republican Party, I shall even look past the less-than-impartial special prosecutor whom our partisan attorney general chose to investigate Trump’s handling of classified documents. What is harder to look past, however, is the obvious context of this case, namely a prolonged political war, most of which was directed against our former president.

Pace McCarthy, there is no way Biden will have to explain any of the illegal things he may have done, whether taking bribes from foreign governments or stealing and holding classified documents as a senator and later vice president.  That’s because no one in his government will indict him; and even if someone did, the “fake media” would likely black out the information. That is how our Fifth Estate has treated any harmful news pertaining to Biden or his family, and they’ve been following that script ever since Joe became the Democratic presidential nominee in 2020. What Barr treats as an oversight in the case of Hillary Clinton was not that at all. It was an obvious case of a politicized FBI working in tandem with the media to protect their preferred presidential candidate. 

Trump’s Republican legal critics would do well to take account of some recent history. Since 2016 the FBI has worked energetically to discredit Trump and if possible, remove him from office. The misuse of the fictitious Steele dossier, eavesdropping on Trump and his team during the 2016 presidential campaign and then on Trump after he became president, phony investigations of Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russian government, leaks of confidential material to a Trump-hostile press, and finally keeping damning information about Biden and his family from reaching the public just before the 2020 election are just a few of the questionable actions carried out by a rogue surveillance organization targeting the former president. Now the same enemies are going after him one more time and making a criminal act out of his holding of classified material. 

Victor Davis Hanson notes the utter hypocrisy of the FBI and Biden’s special prosecutor, Jack Smith, pursuing selected enemies for mishandling classified material when the FBI interim director, Andrew McCabe, committed obvious felonies without being held to account. McCabe, a Democratic Party stooge, leaked classified material repeatedly to friendly news sources. Hanson asks whether it is “now the policy of the United States government that an FBI director can lie with impunity, and leak, and mishandle sensitive classified information.”

Other than the fear of repercussions, why should Trump treat a rogue agency that now seems totally out of control with any degree of respect? Why should we even expect him to? 

McCarthy, Barr, and others who speak of Trump’s grave offenses act as if we’re still living in an earlier era, when the FBI deserved our respect because it at least tried to stay above politics. That is clearly no longer the case. 

Moreover, what the FBI and the Biden Administration are doing to Trump is unmistakably partisan. Their actions are clearly intended to shape the outcome of the 2024 presidential election. Trying to remove the legal case against Trump from its broader context is like starting a narrative at the end.  It may be useful to fill in the rest of the story before making judgments about the last scene.

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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

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