Partisans quickly retreated to their corners late Monday when news broke that the FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s Florida home.
Republicans and hard-right commentators declared the United States a banana republic, where the ruling regime sics law enforcement on its political enemies. On the left, there was glee over Trump surely heading for prison, even though few know exactly what federal agents were after or why.
Given the history of both the FBI and Trump, the smartest reaction is wait and see.
Federal law enforcement hasn’t covered itself in glory recently. Politics seemed to infuse the handling of accusations that the Trump campaign colluded with Russia, especially the credulity (or convenience) that prompted officials to buy into the ridiculous Steele dossier.
More recently, the Department of Justice swallowed specious accusations of “domestic terrorism” to push for investigation of parents with the temerity to address their local elected officials about school operations.
Even the handling of the gymnastic doctor Larry Nasser’s despicable sexual abuses came with scandal.
The left seems to have forgotten its anger at the tail end of the 2016 campaign, when FBI Director James Comey briefly reopened the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s classified emails. When she narrowly lost to Trump, many blamed Comey. Suddenly, the FBI is unimpeachable?
MAGAS: Defund the police!
Libs: Infallible federal law enforcement is the font of justice itself!
These nights are fun. https://t.co/HtfGNCspDh
— Mary Katharine Ham (@mkhammer) August 9, 2022
So, no, don’t automatically trust that the FBI told the complete truth to get a judge’s permission to raid Mar-a-Lago. Wait for the receipts.
This is, however, Trump. It’s preposterous to think that the only possible explanation for the raid is politics.
For many Trump supporters, no amount of paperwork will penetrate their fog about the man. They see no culpability for him in the Jan. 6 riot. The evidence that he should have known that the 2020 election results were legit, that he seemed fine with the assault on the Capitol, that insurrection planners took his words as instructions — it’s all “Trump hatred.”
They can’t acknowledge that Trump’s character and narcissism have driven him to ignore rules all his life, so it’s not exactly implausible that he violated federal laws without breaking a sweat.
Initial reports suggest that the basis for Monday’s raid was classified documents that should have gone to the National Archives, not Trump’s private collection. If that’s the extent of it, there are serious questions about whether this is an appropriate response.
But if it’s about proving he committed a crime in the Jan. 6 case, there better be a mountain of evidence for probable cause — and the American people need to see it ASAP.
It’s not about the fact that he’s a former president; it’s that he’s the leading contender to oppose the current president (or his party’s nominee) in the 2024 election. The bar should be high, nearly impossibly so, for law enforcement investigating a political foe of the current administration.
Keep all this in mind before you measure Trump for an orange jumpsuit.
Ryan J. Rusak is opinion editor of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.