Bob Sheak, August 23, 2022
The central question for this post is whether U.S. democracy can survive the onslaught by Trump and his vast right-wing allies against the constitutional rights of Americans and institutions of the country. There is no doubt that Trump is the leader of the Republican Party. There is no doubt he and his supporters could care less about democracy. The reaction to the FBI raid on Trump’s residence Mar-a-Lago is an example of the willingness of Trump’s base to believe whatever he says, however devoid of verifiable evidence, however outlandish. There is also evidence that some in Trump’s electoral base are willing to engage in violence when Trump claims he is under attack or when he promotes “the big lie.”
Part 1 – Trump at the center of the political disarray and challenge to U.S. democracy
There is little doubt that Trump retains the dominant role in the Republican Party. His power rests on the unquestioning, cult-like support he gets from tens of millions of Americans. Recall that 74 million Americans voted for his presidential bid in 2020. Republicans now running for office at all levels of government tap into this massive force by publicly supporting Trump and his right-wing policies.
#1 – Trump’s base and their interests
Trump has won the allegiance of his large electoral base by supporting unhindered gun ownership, an end to legal abortion, strong anti-immigrant policies, Christian nationalism, a culture of white supremacy, ignoring or being dismissive about global warming and promoting the unlimited use of fossil fuels, and going along with whatever his largest constituency of extremist evangelicals wants. On the latter point, Nicholas Powers reports on how “wealthy donors bankroll Christian Nationalists to sustain unregulated capitalism” (https://truthout.org/articles/wealthy-donors-bankroll-christian-nationalists-to-sustain-unnregulated-capitalism). But there is more. Many of Trump supporters are drawn to support him because he also represents, however ambiguously, opposition to the present political order. Here are some of what stands out from these dark corners of the political system.
#2 – A vision of anti-democratic transformation
From the perspective of Trump and his allies, the values of liberal or progressive democracy are viewed as inimical to the kind of political system they want. They want to limit the vote of black and brown people. (See Kathleen Belew and Ramon A. Gutierrez’s book, A Field Guide to White Supremacy, or Carol Anderson’s One Person, No Vote.) They want to eliminate or censure information in the schools and media that contradicts their anti-democratic views. They attack the right of privacy and other “rights.” They view existing political institutions as posing barriers to their view of “freedom.”
And, for some, if the society’s laws cannot be changed to suit the extremists, then sometimes violence or threatened violence is necessary. See Malcolm Nance’s new book, They Want to Kill Americans: The Militias, Terrorists, and Deranged Ideology of the Trump Insurgency.
Additionally, Trump’s base seems to care little about how Trump lies or his malicious narcissism (Bandy Lee, ed., The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump) or the financial benefits he and his family have accrued during his presidential years (David Cay Johnston, The Big Cheat: How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family).
#3 – An increasingly violent society
Tom Nichols, an American writer, academic specialist on international affairs, and retired professor at the U.S. Naval War College, considers that a “new era of political violence is here” (https://theatlantic.com/newsletter/archive/2022/08/the-new-ear-of-political-violence-is-here/671146). Nichols does not think that the country is about to enter a civil war like the one fought in the 1860s. Nonetheless, it is serious. Trump and his followers appear to be unrelenting and uncompromising in their beliefs and determination to radically change the system.
“The United States now faces a different kind of violence, from people who believe in nothing—or at least, in nothing real. We do not risk the creation of organized armies and militias in Virginia or Louisiana or Alabama marching on federal institutions. Instead, all of us face random threats and unpredictable dangers from people among us who spend too much time watching television and plunging down internet rabbit holes. These people, acting individually or in small groups, will be led not by rebel generals but by narcissistic wannabe heroes, and they will be egged on by cowards and instigators who will inflame them from the safety of a television or radio studio—or from behind the shield of elected office.
“Occasionally, they will congeal into a mob, as they did on January 6, 2021.”
Nichols delves into what draws them to Trump. “There is no single principle that unites these Americans in their violence against their fellow citizens. They will tell you that they are for ‘liberty’ and “freedom,’ but these are merely code words for personal grudges, racial and class resentments, and a generalized paranoia that dark forces are manipulating their lives. These are not people who are going to take up the flag of a state or of a deeper cause; they have already taken up the flag of a failed president, and their causes are a farrago of conspiracy theories and pulpy science-fiction plots.”
“What makes this situation worse,” Nichols writes, “is that there is no remedy for it. When people are driven by fantasies, by resentment, by an internalized sense of inferiority, there is no redemption in anything. Winning elections, burning effigies, even shooting at other citizens does not soothe their anger but instead deepens the spiritual and moral void that haunts them.
Donald Trump is central to “this fraying of public sanity.” He is lauded “because he has done one thing for such people that no one else could do: He has made their lives interesting. He has made them feel important. He has taken their itching frustrations about the unfairness of life and created a morality play around them, and cast himself as the central character. Trump, to his supporters, is the avenging angel who is going to lay waste to the ‘elites,’ the smarty-pantses and do-gooders, the godless and the smug, the satisfied and the comfortable.”
The danger to U.S. democracy intensifies.
Nichols continues: “When enough Americans decide that a cult of personality matters more than a commitment to democracy, we risk becoming a lawless autocracy. This is why we must continue to demand that Trump and his enablers face the consequences of their actions: To cave in the face of threats means the end of democracy. And it would not, in any event, mollify those among our fellow citizens who have chosen to discard the Constitution so that they can keep mainlining jolts of drama from morning ’til night.
“We are going to be living in this era of political violence for the foreseeable future. All any of us can do is continue, among our friends and family and neighbors, to say and defend what is right in the face of lies and delusions.”
Trump continuously looks for opportunities to incite the anger of his electoral base and to consolidate their ongoing support. Verifiable facts are dismissed or ignored.
#4 – Trump’s record of disinformation
Fred Wertheimer, the founder and president of Democracy 21, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that seeks to promote government accountability and integrity, reviews Trump’s record of lying, arguing that he “has no allegiance to the truth or rule of law” (https://commondrams.org/views/2022/08/19/trump-has-no-allegiance-truth-or-rule-law-mar-lago-edition). Here’s some of what he writes.
“Trump constantly attacks the integrity of our government institutions, our constitutional system, and the rule of law in order to support his autocratic and demagogic ways.
“During Trump’s presidency, he made 30,573 false or misleading claims—a stunning average of 21 per day—according to The Washington Post.
“Trump is a bald-faced liar. His nonstop lying that the 2020 election was stolen from him is a classic version of the Big Lie made infamous by Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels.
“Trump also practices the art of ‘lie shifting,’ strategically bouncing from one lie to the next to minimize the ability of the truth to catch up with him.
“Trump’s latest example of “lie shifting” began when the FBI exercised a court-approved search warrant at Mar-a-Lago last week to recover classified government documents.”
Part 2 – Reactions to the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago, Trumps palatial property in Palm Beach, Florida
On August 8, the FBI, with the approval of Attorney General Merrick Garland, carried out the search as part of an investigation into whether Trump mishandled classified documents when he was president.
The FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago generated a blizzard of diverse responses. Generally, the majority of Democrats support the action, Republicans criticize it, and Independents lean more toward opposition than support (see, for example: https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/articles-reports/2022/08/17/trump-fbi-and-mar-lago-raid-economist-yougov-poll).
#1 – Republicans rally in support of Trump
Republican strategist John Thomas told Newsweek’s Xander Landen,
“The FBI‘s raid of former President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago property turned him into a ‘victim’ and boosted his support among GOP voters.” From Trump’s perspective, the raid is a “watershed” event for Trump that led “people who liked him but might have softened on him to now run to his support or run to his defense” (https://newsweek.com/mar-a-lago-made-trump-victim-boosts-support-gop-strategist-1735432).
Landen refers to three polls to substantiate the right-wing reaction.
“A poll conducted by Morning Consult and Politico two days after the FBI’s raid showed Trump with his highest level of Republican support since he lost the 2020 election, with 58 percent of GOP voters saying they would back the former president if he ran for reelection in 2024. Nearly 70 percent of the Republicans polled said they believed the search was primarily conducted to damage Trump’s political career.
“Another poll published by The Economist/YouGov on Thursday found 57 percent of Republicans with a favorable view of the former president—up from 45 percent from the same poll taken the week before.
“Another recent poll by conservative-leaning polling firm Rasmussen Reports shows that the Mar-a-Lago raid may also be chipping away at independents’ trust in the FBI. It found 46 percent of voters who don’t identify with the two major political parties trust the agency less after the event.”
#2 – Funds pour into Trump’s coffers
Washington Post journalists Josh Dawsey and Isaac Arnsdorf report on how in the wake of the FBI raid the president’s fundraising rose to over $1 million a day, after sagging earlier this year in 2022
(https://washingtonpost.com/politico/2022/08/17/trump-fundraising-fib-raid). Trump sent out “more than 100 emails asking for money based on the FBI’s search of the Mar-a-Lago Club for classified materials last week. They paid off.”
“The fire hose of [false or misleading] Trump fundraising emails referencing the Mar-a-Lago search exceeded the PAC’s average pace of about nine per day. The messages used alarming phrases in bold and all-caps such as ‘THEY BROKE INTO MY HOME,’ ‘They’re coming after YOU,’ and ‘THIS IS INSANE.’ One message included a poll asking, ‘Do you agree that President Trump is being politically persecuted?’ Another promised ‘an exclusive 1300% MATCH today only!,’ a common tactic used to encourage people to respond immediately.”
Dawsey and Arnsdorf continue.
“Contributions to Trump’s political action committee topped $1 million on at least two days after the Aug. 8 search of his Palm Beach, Fla., estate, according to two people familiar with the figures. The daily hauls jumped from a level of $200,000 to $300,000 that had been typical in recent months, according to the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss nonpublic information.”
“The influx comes at a crucial time for Trump as he considers an early announcement for a 2024 presidential campaign and has seen dwindling returns on his online fundraising solicitations earlier this year. The former president’s PAC brought in $36 million in the first half of the year, dropping below $50 million in a six-month period for the first time since he left office, according to Federal Election Commission data.”
A record of self-serving deception
“The House Jan. 6 committee has been investigating fundraising emails from Trump and Republican groups that promoted false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. At a June hearing, a committee investigator said the Trump campaign sent as many as 25 emails a day asking for donations to an ‘Official Election Defense Fund’ that did not actually exist. But the solicitations raised hundreds of millions.
“Since leaving office, Trump has raised more than $100 million for his PAC — often with misleading pitches — but has kept most of the money, only spending big on a handful of races and paying for some staff, legal fees and travel, according to a review of disclosure filings. He has told advisers he wants to keep the money and that it shows political strength.”
#3 – Why did Trump resist returning government documents?
Maggie Haberman considers Trump’s motives and his false explanations about the FBI raid on the Mar-a-Lago residence (https://nytimes.com/2022/08/18/us/politics/trump-fbi-classified-documents.html).
Classified government documents treated as his personal property
“For four years, former President Donald J. Trump treated the federal government and the political apparatus operating in his name as an extension of his private real estate company.
“It all belonged to him, he felt, melded together into a Trump brand that he had been nurturing for decades.
“‘My generals,’ he repeatedly said of the active-duty and retired military leaders who filled his government. ‘My money,’ he often called the cash he raised through his campaign or for the Republican National Committee. ‘My Kevin,’ he said of Representative Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader.
Trump also believed that the documents in question were his possessions.
“‘They’re mine,’ three of Mr. Trump’s advisers said that he stated repeatedly when he was urged to return boxes of documents, some of them highly classified, that the National Archives sought after Mr. Trump took them with him to Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Palm Beach, Fla., in January 2021. A nearly 18-month back-and-forth between the government and Mr. Trump ended in an extraordinary F.B.I. search for the documents at Mar-a-Lago last week.”
Haberman quotes lawyer Mark S. Zaid.
“‘From my own experiences with him, which is bolstered by those around him who are speaking in his defense, his actions seem to fit the pattern that as ‘king,’ he and the state are one and the same,’ said Mark S. Zaid, a lawyer who frequently handles cases related to national security and security clearances, including during the Trump presidency. ‘He seems to honestly believe that everything he touches belongs to him, and that includes government documents that might be classified.’”
Trump has been careless in handling documents.
“Although Trump White House officials were warned about the proper handling of sensitive material, aides said Mr. Trump had little interest in the security of government documents or protocols to keep them protected.
“Early on, Mr. Trump became known among his staff as a hoarder who threw all manner of paper — sensitive material, news clips and various other items — into cardboard boxes that a valet or other personal aide would cart around with him wherever he went.
“Mr. Trump repeatedly had material sent up to the White House residence, and it was not always clear what happened to it. He sometimes asked to keep material after his intelligence briefings, but aides said he was so uninterested in the paperwork during the briefings themselves that they never understood what he wanted it for.
“He also had a habit of ripping up paper, from routine documents to classified material, and leaving the pieces strewn around the floor or in a trash can. Officials would have to rummage through the shreds and tape them back together to recreate the documents in order to store them as required under the Presidential Records Act.
“On some occasions, Mr. Trump would rip up documents — some with his handwriting on them — and throw the pieces in a toilet, which occasionally clogged the pipes in the White House. He did the same thing on at least two foreign trips, former officials said.
#4 – Violent right-wing reactions are provoked
Hanna Allam reports on the “simmering violence” emanating from Trump’s reactions to the FBI search of his property (https://washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/trump-violence-threats-fbi-search)
She points out that right-wing agitators with millions of followers have for months
“peddled the idea that a moment was coming soon when violence would become necessary — a patriotic duty — to save the republic.” Then, within hours of the search at Mar-a-Lago, “a chorus of Republican lawmakers, conservative talk-show hosts, anti-government provocateurs and pro-Trump conspiracy theorists began issuing explicit or thinly veiled calls for violence.” For example, she refers to Steven Crowder, a right-wing podcaster with nearly 2 million followers on Twitter, who described the raid as something akin to “war.”
Research by Caroline Orr Bueno, a postdoctoral research associate at the University of Maryland has “compiled a collage of dozens of screenshots of tweets calling for violence in response to the search, or ‘raid’ in the parlance of Trump supporters. ‘I already bought my ammo,’ one person boasted in the sampling. ‘Civil war! Pick up arms, people!’ ordered another.”
Allam also refers to threats to the Judge who approved the search warrant, writing:
“An immediate concern is the safety of the federal judge in Florida who approved the search warrant. Once his name made its way to right-wing forums, threats and conspiracy theories soon followed. Online pro-Trump groups spread his contact information and, as of Tuesday afternoon, the judge’s official page was no longer accessible on the court’s website.”
“Since the search Monday, Telegram channels popular with right-wing militants have been awash with vows to ‘lock and load’ for civil war against what they deem a tyrannical federal government subverting the Constitution and ‘persecuting’ a patriotic leader. NBC News identified one user who referenced civil war on The Donald, a Reddit-like forum for Trump supporters, as Tyler Welsh Slaeker, who is awaiting sentencing for his role in storming the Capitol.
“In mainstream GOP quarters, extremism trackers say, the nudges toward violence are more subtle, with statements delegitimizing the government as a ‘police state’ or a ‘banana republic’ that must be opposed, starting with the dismantling of federal agencies. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) called the search ‘the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents.’
Consider other points Allam makes about the violent rhetoric stemming from the Right.
Tolerance for violence
“A recent Washington Post-University of Maryland poll found that about 1 in 3 Americans say they believe violence against the government can at times be justified, the largest share to feel that way in more than two decades. Other studies similarly have found a growing tolerance of violent ideologies that historically were confined to fringe elements.
Don’t trust government
“Extremism analysts said that’s what they fear is happening now, with a burst of inflammatory rhetoric this week telling millions of Republicans that they should abandon trust in the FBI, the electoral system, schools — virtually all functions of government.”
Seize power by force
“Holley Hansen, an assistant professor at Oklahoma State University who researches political violence and conflict mediation, cited a description of democracy as ‘governance through conflict,’ a system that encourages vigorous debate but with mechanisms to resolve disagreements peacefully. The problem, Hansen said, is that the 2020 election denial was a catalyst in the militant movement’s long game to undermine democratic institutions and seize power by force.
“‘If you can’t trust the institutions that are designed to peacefully resolve disputes and you begin to see the other side as an enemy,’ Hansen said, ‘the desire to act — and the need to act — really becomes more easily justified.’”
#5 – Attacks on FBI
Aishvarya Kavi reports on how Democratic lawmakers are demanding social media firms stop allowing posts on their platforms that encourage such violence (https://nytimes.com/2022/08/19/us/politics/social-media-threats-fbi-trump.html).
“The leaders of two House panels sent letters on Friday to eight social media companies demanding that they take ‘immediate action’ to address threats on their platforms toward federal law enforcement officials after a surge in right-wing calls for violence following the F.B.I.’s search of former President Donald J. Trump’s home in Florida.
“In the letters, Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney, Democrat of New York and the chairwoman of the House Oversight Committee, and Stephen F. Lynch, Democrat of Massachusetts and the chairman of its National Security Subcommittee, also expressed concern about ‘reckless statements’ from Mr. Trump and some Republican members of Congress. The statements have ‘coincided with a spike in social media users calling for civil war and violence toward law enforcement,’ they said.”
“The letters were sent to mainstream platforms like Twitter, TikTok and Facebook’s parent company, Meta, as well as right-wing social media sites like Gab, Gettr and Rumble. A letter also went to Truth Social, Mr. Trump’s social media site, which erupted with calls for violence last week, after F.B.I. agents carted away boxes of highly sensitive documents from Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Mr. Trump had apparently taken the materials from the White House and refused to return them.
“The lawmakers’ letters specifically cited comments from Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, accusing the Justice Department of being ‘weaponized’ against Mr. Trump, and inflammatory tweets from Republican lawmakers. Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, and Representative Lauren Boebert, Republican of Colorado, separately drew comparisons between the F.B.I. and the Nazi secret police. A state lawmaker in Florida wrote that F.B.I. agents operating there “should be arrested upon sight.”
“The House lawmakers asked companies to provide information on the number of threats they had identified against federal law enforcement, how many they had removed and reported to the authorities, and whether they were directly related to the Mar-a-Lago search. The letters also asked for information on the companies’ approaches to removing threats from their platforms.
“In the 24 hours after the Mar-a-Lago search, Twitter saw a tenfold increase in posts mentioning “civil war,” according to Dataminr, a tool that analyzes Twitter data. On Telegram, a messaging platform that the lawmakers also contacted, the Proud Boys, a far-right group, posted in the hours after the search that “civil war is imminent.”
“Truth Social users also posted messages urging others to take up arms and ‘fight back.’ An account matching the name of Ricky W. Shiffer, the Ohio man who tried to breach the F.B.I.’s field office in Cincinnati last week and was killed by law enforcement after exchanging gunfire in an hours long standoff, posted messages proposing war and urging others to kill federal agents. The House lawmakers cited the episode as an instance of how online vitriol had resulted in real-world violence, and they noted other clear threats to kill F.B.I. agents on sites like Gab.
“‘Violent rhetoric and personal threats and attacks toward law enforcement officers have deadly consequences,’ the lawmakers wrote.”
Part 3 -Trump’s criticisms of the FBI raid don’t hold up
Bill Blum, a Los Angeles lawyer and a former state of California administrative law judge, delves into what the FBI seized and the dubious justifications Trump and his advisers have offered for keeping the documents (https://progressive.org/latest/mar-a-lago-raid-trump-capone-blum-081522). Blum’s article was published on August 15, 2022.
What did the FBI seize?
“The return to the warrant indicates the FBI seized twenty-eight items of evidence, including twenty-one boxes containing unspecified materials, four sets of ‘top secret’ documents and one set of ‘classified TS/SCI [top-secret segmented compartmented information] documents,’ a reference to information concerning intelligence sources and methods that requires special handling and could involve nuclear science and design files. In addition, the FBI hauled away various photo binders, information about the president of France, and Trump’s signed grant of clemency to Roger Stone.”
Maggie Haberman and her colleagues at the New York Times report that Trump had 300 classified documents at Mar-a-Lago (https://nytimes.com/2022/08/22/us/politics/trump-mar-a-lago-documents.html). They write:
“In total, the government has recovered more than 300 documents with classified markings from Mr. Trump since he left office, the people said: that first batch of documents returned in January, another set provided by Mr. Trump’s aides to the Justice Department in June and the material seized by the F.B.I. in the search this month.”
Trump and his sycophants have floated various “defenses” against a possible future prosecution. Blum reviews the claims.
#1 – “In a post on his Truth Social media platform two days after the search, the former President suggested federal agents may have secretly ‘planted’ evidence against him. The claim has been echoed by at least one of Trump’s attorneys and by rightwing media personalities such as Jesse Waters of Fox News.”
“No evidence, however, has been made public to support the claim, and subsequent reporting has disclosed that Trump and family members, who were in Trump Tower in New York City at the time of the search, watched the entire operation via a closed-circuit security feed broadcast from Mar-a-Lago.”
#2 – “Trump and his minions have also protested that any documents the FBI found had been declassified before they were removed to Mar-a-Lago while Trump was still in office. Thus, they contend, no crimes were committed.
“Although Presidents do have broad authority to declassify information, this defense won’t save Trump, either. Detailed procedures must be followed to implement a declassification directive, the directive must be in writing, and even a President lacks authority to unilaterally declassify nuclear secrets.
“Equally problematic for Trump is that the three statutes he is alleged to have violated do not explicitly require that the records in question be classified. All that needs to be shown is that the records belong to the government, not Trump, and in the case of the Espionage Act, that the records pertain to national defense.”
#3 – “Apparently realizing that he’s been trapped by a predicament of his own making, Trump has argued that former-President Obama left the White House with ‘33 million pages of documents, much of them classified,’ including items related to U.S. nuclear programs, and that Obama faced no adverse consequences.
However, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) quickly issued a sharp rebuke of the Obama comparison. Obama, according to the agency, turned everything over.”
#4 – “As the Justice Department’s probe proceeds, Trump also can be expected to reprise his condemnation of Hillary Clinton, who narrowly avoided prosecution for her use of a private email server that contained classified documents while she was Secretary of State. This defense, too, will prove ineffective.
“Clinton was investigated by the FBI. But, as former Director James
Comey famously explained in a July 2016 press release, while Clinton was ‘extremely careless’ in her email use, it could not be shown that she acted with criminal intent to willfully mishandle classified information or obstruct justice.
National Archives first alerted Trump in Jan 2021
“The same cannot be said of Trump. The National Archives first alerted Trump in January 2021 of his obligation to return all official records from his time in office. Trump turned over fifteen boxes of records a year later, but withheld other records. NARA referred the matter to the Justice Department last February, and the Justice Department has been trying ever since to obtain compliance.
Lying and delaying
“Far from cooperating with the department, Trump hedged, delayed, and prevaricated. According to The New York Times, a Trump attorney signed a written statement in June, asserting that all classified material held at Mar-a-Lago had been returned. That assertion was untrue.
Some Trump supporters now demand to see the affidavit – not a bad idea
“In a sign of growing desperation, some of the former President’s staunchest allies, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are demanding to see the affidavit filed in support of the search warrant, upon which Judge Reinhart based his finding of probable cause.
“Affidavits are the heart of any application for a search warrant. In compliance with the Fourth Amendment, they are used to detail the facts and circumstances requiring the issuance of a warrant, and to specify the places to be searched and the items to be seized. They are typically sworn to by federal agents and are rarely released while an investigation is in progress in order to protect the identity of federal agents and any informants who have cooperated with the government.
“Still, if there was ever a case that merited the early release of a redacted version of an affidavit, the first-ever search and seizure involving a former President of the United States is such a case. And make no mistake: Releasing the affidavit is the last thing Trump and his supporters really should want. They would be well advised to devote all their energy and limited legal talent to suppressing the affidavit along with the evidence seized. If and when it sees the light of day, the affidavit will help to bury Trump.”
John Wagner reports that Trump and his lawyers seem now to agree that releasing the affidavit is not a good idea (https://washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/22/fbi-search-trump-affidavit).
“The affidavit would provide the most comprehensive rationale for why the government pushed to search Trump’s property — and what investigative steps it took beforehand. It would show whom the Justice officials had interviewed, what they believed was potentially on the premises and why they assessed there was probable cause that crimes had been committed.
“Writing on his Truth Social platform, Trump called last week for “’the immediate release of the completely Unredacted Affidavit.’ However, his lawyers have yet to follow through in court.
“The judge noted Monday that in the two weeks since the FBI seized classified documents, Trump has not filed a legal motion about whether the affidavit should be made public.
“‘Neither Former President Trump nor anyone else purporting to be the owner of the Premises has filed a pleading taking a position on the Intervenors’ Motions to Unseal,’ the judge wrote.”
Another Trump defense – material is protected by executive privilege
“On August 14, Trump offered yet another defense, demanding that the FBI return the seized material as some of the boxes taken allegedly contained confidential attorney-client communications, and items protected by executive privilege. The former President apparently doesn’t realize that by raising this objection, he has completely undercut his earlier claim that the documents were planted.
We may want to see Trump prosecuted for his role in the January 6 insurrection, but holding him accountable for serious records and reporting violations may be the easiest and quickest road to a felony conviction.
Part 4 – Potential government charges
Interviewed Aug. 15, 2022 on Democracy Now, Karen Greenberg, director of the Center on National Security at Fordham University School of Law, thinks that Trump faces Espionage and other federal charges (https://democracynow.org/2022/8/15/donald_trump_fbi_investigation_espionage_act). Here’s what she said.
“Well, I think it’s very significant, I think, symbolically, as well as legally. Now, the Espionage Act actually raises the specter of crimes against the country’s national defense. This part of the Espionage Act that’s referred to in the warrant is not the part that’s about spying, but about the handling of national defense information — in their words, gathering, transmitting or losing defense information. It’s illegal to remove documents related to national security from their proper place, which, as we know, is the National Archives, if they could pose a threat to national security. So that’s the big charge that gets all the headlines that was leveled against president.
“But then, there are also two other issues here, and they carry higher charges, and they’re very important. One is the criminal handling of government records, the destruction, alteration or falsification of government records or documents in investigations. And it’s a prison sentence that could be up to 20 years. This is the obstruction of justice charge that is referred to. And finally, there’s the potential charge of making illegal the destruction of, theft of any government document. And we’ve seen in the recent past use of this, for example, with Petraeus and sort of allegations of this with others, but Petraeus is the name that comes to mind by this. And this is punishable by three years.
“So, these are incredibly serious charges, not just in the espionage front, but in other possible charges. Now, he hasn’t been charged. This is what’s just said in the warrant could be what they are looking for. It justifies the search legally…. So, again, he hasn’t been charged, but this is what they’re looking for in the documents that they took away. And remember that some of the documents they took away were reported to be classified. So, we’ll see what happens.”
Trump and his allies have no interest in preserving democracy. They want power by whatever means. There are fascist implications of what they are doing. Their rage and duplicity over the FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago is just one recent example. If they get their way, the U.S. will end up with a fascist state that ignores constitutional restraints and that uses social and other media to attack opponents and to generate detailed information on what people think and do.
Bear in mind that after the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration introduced a program called Total Information Awareness. Matthew C. MacWilliams describes it in his book, On Fascism: 12 Lessons From American History.
“In the days immediately following 9/11, President George W. Bush issued a flurry of public proclamations and executive orders. With stroke of a pen, Bush declared a national emergency, ordered the ready reserves of the armed forces to active duty, and established the Office of Homeland Security. Three public pronouncements were accompanied by secret presidential orders that still remain under wraps today. One of these orders, uncovered by the New York Times four years later, authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to warrantlessly intercept telephone calls and emails made with the United States – a direct violation of both the Fourth Amendment and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. With a green light from the president to ignore Fourth Amendment protections against warrentless search and seizure, the NSA began a programs of surreptitious snooping into private conversations and communications of Americans far and wide.”
Trump and his allies seem to want a society that will be one that consolidate the privileges of some, while systematically denying it to the majority of Americans. It will be a society in which fear of those in authority and of violent, gun-toting militia is pervasive. It will be similar to other oligarchic regimes around the globe (see Moises Naim’s book, The Revenge of Power: How Autocrats are Reinventing Politics for the 21st Century, or John Feffer’s Right Across the World: The Global Networking of the Far-Right and the Left Response).
It doesn’t have to be. Politically, a majority of Democratic voters could vote for liberal and progressive candidates in the 2022 mid-term elections. Left-of-center social movements could have a positive influence in educating Americans and encouraging their political involvement – at least to vote. And the achievements of the Biden administration may sway some citizens. Fear of what Trump and his allies envision and work for may motivate opposition to Trump and his allies. Such influences, moreover, may be enough to draw independent voters to support Democratic candidates. Presently, the other side is well-organized, well-funded, covered by right-wing media, well-armed, and, with the additional support of a right-leaning Supreme Court, seems willing to ignore the constitution and employ violence to get their way. The question: Will democracy in America prove to be strong enough to weather the autocratic, fascist storm.