FBI Raids Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Home

The former President and his supporters are crying "weaponization of the justice system."

WaPo (“FBI searches Trump safe at Mar-a-Lago Club, former president says“):

Former president Donald Trump said Monday that the FBI had raided his Mar-a-Lago Club and searched his safe — activity related to an investigation into the potential mishandling of classified documents, according to two people familiar with the probe.

One of the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss its details, said agents were conducting a court-authorized search as part of a long-running investigation of whether documents — some of them top-secret — were taken to the former president’s private golf club and residence instead of sent to the National Archives when Trump left office. That could be a violation of the Presidential Records Act, which requires the preservation of memos, letters, notes, emails, faxes and other written communications related to a president’s official duties.

The PRA was passed in 1978 and established that, starting with the next Presidential administration (which turned out to be Ronald Reagan’s but could have been Jimmy Carter’s second term) all Presidential documents are the property of the US Government and not the officeholder and set forth the particulars of managing said records. Violation is potentially a felony, although I don’t know that anyone has ever been prosecuted. But Trump’s violations were repeated, well-documented, and brazen.

Searching a former president’s property to look for possible evidence of a crime is highly unusual and would require approval at the top levels of the Justice Department. It represents a historic moment in Trump’s tortured relationship with the Justice Department, both in and out of the White House.

A department spokeswoman declined to comment when asked whether Attorney General Merrick Garland approved the search. The FBI also declined to comment.

The FBI absolutely is not in the business of “breaking in” to the homes of former Presidents or, indeed, anyone without proper authority.*

In a lengthy statement in which he equated the raid to Watergate, Trump accused the FBI of “even” breaking into his safe. He provided no further details on what federal agents were looking for, or what else happened during their visit.

“My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Trump said in a statement released through his political action committee, Save America.

Trump said the raid was “unannounced” and claimed it was not “necessary or appropriate.” The former president, without evidence, accused Democrats of weaponizing the “justice system” against him.

Naturally, the usual suspects are going along:

Many Republican lawmakers and political candidates also reacted with outrage Monday night, declaring the search of Mar-a-Lago a politically motivated attack intended to impede Trump’s chances if he runs for president again.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is poised to possibly become speaker should Republicans win the majority in November’s midterm elections, vowed to launch oversight investigations into the Justice Department.

“The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” he said on Twitter. “Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”

And this analysis doesn’t help contain this nonsense:

Trump nominated the current head of the FBI, Christopher A. Wray, to the position in 2017, after firing the previous FBI director, James B. Comey, amid a probe into whether any Trump campaign advisers had conspired with Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election.

But Trump’s relationship with Wray also soured, and the president considered firing him on multiple occasions, former advisers said. Through most of Trump’s presidency, the two men had limited interactions.

One would have FBI Directors don’t make these decisions based on whether they happen to have a good relationship with the party under investigation. Absent evidence to the contrary, the press shouldn’t imply otherwise.

Also interesting:

Mar-a-Lago is closed in the hot months of Florida’s summer, and Trump’s advisers said he was not there on Monday when the search involving more than a dozen FBI agents was conducted. Trump advisers said a coterie of agents arrived Monday morning and left by late afternoon. There were few Trump employees around, but the Secret Service was present.

The former president has spent much of the summer at Bedminster, his golf resort in New Jersey. But on Monday he was in New York, according to a person familiar with his whereabouts. Trump’s team was given no heads-up about the search, several advisers said. There was no indication the FBI had searched any of Trump’s other properties, and advisers said law enforcement had not.

The Newspaper of Record, the NYT, has a weird live-blog under the heading “F.B.I. Searches Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Residence in Florida” instead of a news report.

It notes this:

The search marked the latest remarkable turn in the long-running investigations into Mr. Trump’s actions before, during and after his presidency — and even as he weighs announcing another candidacy for the White House.

Not that it will make much difference with his most ardent supporters but, given the number of these investigations bearing down on him, I’m surprised that he didn’t preemptively announce his candidacy for his old job. An FBI raid on an announced Biden opponent would have strengthened the argument that this was a “political act.”

They also remind us of this:

Criminal codes, which carry jail time, can be used to prosecute anyone who “willfully injures or commits any depredation against any property of the United States” and anyone who “willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates or destroys” government documents.

Samuel R. Berger, a national security adviser to President Bill Clinton, pleaded guilty in 2015 to a misdemeanor charge for removing classified material from a government archive. In 2007, Donald Keyser, an Asia expert and former senior State Department official, was sentenced to prison after he confessed to keeping more than 3,000 sensitive documents — ranging from the classified to the top secret — in his basement.

In 1999, the C.I.A. announced it had suspended the security clearance of its former director, John M. Deutch, after concluding that he had improperly handled national secrets on a desktop computer at his home.

I knew about Berger (it happened in 2005, not 2015) and Deutch but either never read about or had forgotten about Keyser. Regardless, the juxtaposition is once again confirmation that low-level offenders tend to be punished much, much more harshly than big-wigs. Berger, especially, should have received much harsher treatment. My guess is that, even if Top Secret documents were found in Trump’s safe, the consequences will be minimal.

And, alas, there is also this:

The question of how Mr. Trump has handled sensitive material and documents he received as president loomed throughout his time in the White House, and beyond.

He was known to rip up pieces of official paper that he was handed, forcing officials to tape them back together. And an upcoming book by a New York Times reporter reveals that staff members would find clumps of torn-up paper clogging a toilet, and believed he had thrown them in.

The question of how Mr. Trump handled classified material is complicated because as president he had the authority to declassify any government information. It is unclear whether Mr. Trump, before leaving office, had declassified materials the archives discovered in the boxes. Under federal law, he no longer maintains the ability to declassify documents after leaving office.

While in office, he invoked the power to declassify information several times as his administration publicly released materials that helped him politically, particularly on issues like the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.

Toward the end of the administration, Mr. Trump ripped pictures that intrigued him out of the President’s Daily Brief — a compendium of often classified information about potential national security threats — but it is unclear whether he took them to the residence with him. In one prominent example of how he dealt with classified material, Mr. Trump in 2019 took a highly classified spy satellite image of an Iranian missile launch site, declassified it and then released the photo on Twitter.

Earlier this year, Kash Patel, a former Defense Department senior official and Trump loyalist whom Mr. Trump named as one of his representatives to engage with the National Archives, suggested to the right-wing website Breitbart that Mr. Trump had declassified the documents before leaving the White House and that the proper markings simply had not been adjusted.

While Nixon’s admonition that “it’s not a crime if the President does it” has often been ridiculed as an example of peak authoritarianism, it may well be the case in this particular instance. One would think a President would have to take some sort of documented action to declassify documents but his power in that regard is vast and plenary.

A separate WaPo report (“Top Republicans echo Trump’s evidence-free claims to discredit FBI search“) dives deeper into that aspect of the matter, observing

The quick defense of Trump and combative posture by leading Republican officeholders and potential 2024 presidential aspirants underlined the former president’s status as a standard-bearer in the party, even as he was tainted anew by another investigation. With fewer than 100 days before the midterm elections, many Republicans continue to rally around Trump’s false claims about the 2020 election, his baseless attacks on a slew of officeholders and his divisive rhetoric.

and notes the irony

Many of the Republicans aghast at the FBI raid had supported FBI probes of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in 2016. When then-FBI Director James B. Comey found no reason to charge Clinton after an initial investigation, and after another probe of emails on a laptop belonging to a Clinton aide shortly before the election, they asked whether the Democrat had gotten off easy.

“Secretary Clinton’s fundamental lack of judgment and wanton disregard for protecting and keeping information confidential raises continued questions about the exposure of our nation’s diplomatic and national security secrets,” McCarthy said in 2016, after Comey initially announced the end of the investigation.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), a onetime Trump critic turned Trump defender during the 45th president’s tenure, said Monday on Twitter: “We’re 100 days away from midterm elections. President Trump is likely going to run again in 2024.” He added, “Launching such an investigation of a former President this close to an election is beyond problematic.”

Six years earlier, however, Graham was critical of the FBI after it found no crime to charge in its probe of Clinton’s email server.

“We need a special prosecutor, someone outside the Justice Department, to look into this matter,” said Graham in an August 2016 interview on Fox News, 75 days before that year’s presidential election. “If you’re waiting on this Justice Department to hold anybody in the Obama-Clinton world accountable, you’ll die of old age. It’s sad but it’s true.”

Media Matters, which granted is far from an impartial source, reports “Fox is furiously poisoning the well after the Mar-a-Lago search.” After some inflammatory lead-in, they get to the facts:

Jesse Watters claimed on his 7 p.m. ET show that the search “is going to absolutely enrage the country, especially the Republican base, a base that is clearly behind the ex-president.” He later called it “insane,” adding, “and the people in this country are not going to go for this.”

Later in the program, Watters said that Christopher Wray, the FBI director who was appointed by Trump, “has to be fired by the next Republican president. Got to be fired on day one. Don’t even wait. Just fire him right off the jump because this guy is so corrupt.”

Talk radio host Buck Sexton told Watters that the situation “almost feels like a preemptive coup, we’ve heard so much about the insurrection and the coup, but this is preventing, this is meant to prevent Donald Trump from being able to run again.” He also called the search “the Rubicon being crossed” and “thug, police state tactics.”

He later added, “This is undermining our faith, not only in the peaceful transition of power, but of the executive arm of the government under an opposition party. Not to act like the Stasi, not to act like the secret police that we’ve seen in totalitarian regimes.” 

“This is some Third World bullshit right here,” Fox host Dan Bongino told Watters. “Let me say it again: Third World bullshit.”

“I think there is going to be some more action you are going to see out on the streets from the base after they see this break tonight,” Watters concluded. “There are a lot of honest Americans that’ve had it with what this corrupt government and what the FBI has done.”

Fox’s Will Cain, in for prime-time host Tucker Carlson, opened the 8 p.m. ET hour by asking, “Was there a legal basis? Or was this a partisan witch hunt?” His guests that night overwhelmingly said it was the latter.

They included former Trump aide Stephen Miller, who called the FBI executing a warrant against the former president’s residence “an abomination”; Trump’s daughter-in-law and Fox contributor Lara Trump, who said it was “about weaponizing the justice system as it has been so many times in the past against somebody who you politically do not like”; and former Trump White House strategist Steve Bannon, who called on congressional Republicans to cut off funding for the FBI, saying that “the FBI, right now, is the Gestapo.”

Fox host and Trump adviser Sean Hannity opened his 9 p.m. ET show by mourning “a dark day for our republic, the Department of Justice, the rule of law, what looks to be potentially a shocking overreach – we’ll find out in due time – that will have serious ramifications potentially for many, many years to come.” He added that “DOJ is now being used as a weapon against Biden’s top political rival, that’s the former president of the United States of America, Donald Trump.”

This is borderline incitement to riot. It’s good for ratings, though.

MediaITE (“Bernard Kerik Says Democrats May Try to Orchestrate Trump’s ‘Assassination’ After FBI Raid“) reports that NewsMax is going further still:

Former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik said Monday he is worried Democrats might try to assassinate former President Donald Trump.

[…]

The Department of Justice has not commented publicly on the raid, but Kerik claimed on Newsmax TV he is afraid for Trump’s life.

Kerik joined The Balance with host Eric Bolling, where he said he feels Trump is in grave danger – not only from politically-motivated prosecution – but from the threat of death. He said:

If you remember back in 2016, right before he got elected, I was in Washington D.C. I was at a couple of different social events, and I hear people talking, they said the Democrats want this guy so bad that they wouldn’t put assassination behind it. And I’m gonna tell you something. they’ve tried impeachment, they’ve tried another impeachment, they’ve tried one investigation after another.

This is about one thing: this is about stopping him from running in 2024. And I’m gonna tell you something, I’m not into conspiracies, I’m not into anti-government rhetoric. This is the first time in my lifetime that I would say I am deathly afraid for Donald Trump. I would not put assassination behind these people.

This is just insanity.

__________________

*That said, and completely independently of Trump, if the FBI actually broke open the safe, I find it egregious unless they first tried to get someone in possession of the code to open it for them. There’s just no need for law enforcement to destroy property in cases where there’s zero expectation of being met with violent resistance.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jen says:

    I’ve been trying to wrap my head around his taking documents since that came to light many months ago. Why he wasn’t instructed to immediately return them is beyond me–those are not “his” documents, no matter what they pertain to, those belong to the archives.

    It’s troubling and astonishing that Republicans are defending the removal of official documents from the White House. One assumes they would not have been as sanguine about it had, say, Pres. Obama decided to cart off a box of files.

    The question we might never have an answer to is which documents did Trump remove, and why? The confluence of this raid after the Saudi golf tournament is interesting timing. I’m beginning to think that MarkedMan’s assessment that a red flag went up when something was passed to someone else makes a lot of sense.

    10
  2. Kathy says:

    No, third world bullshit is letting the dictator get away with everything he wants, and whitewashing his high crimes.

    Enforcing the rule of law is what free, democratic countries do.

    31
  3. Rick DeMent says:

    TFG is just playing four dimensional chess. You notice all you heard about yesterday was Mar-A-Lago, not Biden’s fresh new Senate win.

    2
  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The GOP in public: “Waaaah… Those mean old Demoncrats are trying to enforce the law!”

    The GOP* in private: “Hip hip HOORAY!”

    *looking at you DeSantis, Abbot.

    2
  5. drj says:

    One would think a President would have to take some sort of documented action to declassify documents but his power in that regard is vast and plenary.

    Well…

    To actually declassify something, though, [Trump] absolutely had to take that action before he left office. He lost his authority when the clock struck noon. And to actually declassify a document, the letter of the law requires actual follow through. […] this is what DOJ and the White House conceded in FOIA litigation during the Trump years when he would tweet out declassification orders, or issue them via press statements. Unless he actually followed through with a declassification order that went to the agency with control over the document, the agency did not treat the statements as self-executing declassification orders and insisted the documents were still classified.

    Apart from this, it is pretty far-fetched to assume that Trump actually (and lawfully) declassified these documents. Because that would mean that these documents (and the secrets they contain) would officially become public information and thus acessible to anyone.

    Why take public information away to Mar-a-Lago in the first place?

    17
  6. MarkedMan says:

    @Jen: It seems hard to believe that they would do this just based on his retaining memorabilia that technically should have gone into the archives. And, if it’s true the FBI had to drill his safe, Trump must have refused to open it even when presented with a valid warrant. Hard to believe any lawyer advised him to do that.

    8
  7. Jen says:

    @MarkedMan: Yeah, something precipitated this. I wouldn’t classify official documents as memorabilia, though. I think there’s one of two explanations here: either 1) the FBI and intel community know exactly what was removed and have been keeping a close eye on TFG, and something popped up somewhere that it shouldn’t have, OR, 2) other information they are collecting pointed to something that the government didn’t realize he had that is either sensitive or incriminating.

    Trump was in New York yesterday, I really wonder how that request to open the safe went down. Who at Mar-A-Lago had to make *that* phone call? Yikes.

    5
  8. Gavin says:

    Trump desperately sought to politicize everything – not just the justice system. As always with Republicans, every accusation is projection. Trump simply wanted the system biased in his favor. Wilhoit’s Law was supposed to be something thrown around the interwebs as 50% joke rather than total reality.. and coming soon in Indiana, criminal code!

    7
  9. SC_Birdflyte says:

    There aren’t enough mental institutions to treat all the QOPers who believe this nonsense. Of, if they’re not insane, they’re even more ignorant about American government than TFG.

    3
  10. Mikey says:

    Agents showed up at 10:00 AM in suits. That’s not a “raid.”

    If the only source for “breaking open” the safe is Trump, assume it’s a lie and someone with the combo opened it for the agents.

    Various Trumpist imbeciles are equating the FBI with the Gestapo. As my German-born wife points out, if the Gestapo showed up at someone’s house that someone was not subsequently around to complain about it.

    Also, do these idiots think the FBI just decides to show up? They were executing a search warrant, signed by a federal judge. Trump worshipers conveniently omit that fact.

    15
  11. Kathy says:

    I’ve a theory that fear of consequences of an action is often more of a deterrent than actually suffering the consequences of said action. That when you actually go through with it and things happen, they are not as bad as you thought they’d be, or you find you can live with the consequences.

    So, going after a former oval office occupant will have consequences, sure. And fear of what might happen makes people like Ford pardon Nixon.

    Now it’s happening. The Cheeto compound cannot be un-searched, the warrant can’t be un-executed. Consequences will occur. They may not be as dire as feared, or they may be much worse. But the fear of taking the action is gone.

    We’ll see.

    9
  12. Scott says:

    Some 15 boxes of material was sent to Mar-a-Lago after the election. There was classified among them. I imagine they were returned. However, it is not beyond the realm of reason that word got back that much of that was copied prior to its return which is the reason for the raid.

    That is my uninformed speculation.

  13. Kathy says:

    @Gavin:

    Yup.

    I’ve begun hearing downright idiotic things like “If the FBI can come after Benito, they can come after any of us.” Never mind this search shows that no one is above the law. And, yes, the FBI can come after anyone engaged in a federal crime. at least now we know it can.

    6
  14. KM says:

    @Kathy:
    It really goes to show the entitlement and privledge these people have. “They can come after any of us.”?? Yep – that’s how it should be and only someone who thinks they’re untouchable would express such a thought. Even if they’re trying to convey “OHHHH evil Jackboots coming to get you!!!” there’s no reason to think they *wouldn’t* come for you if we descend into fascism…. unless you always expected to be on the other side of the arrest.

    2
  15. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    – Let’s just say that this must be some serious shit for the DOJ to take this historical and unprecedented action.
    – To Republicans, the USAG putting together a warrant affidavit and getting a Federal Judge to sign off on that warrant and the DOJ notifying the Secret Service that it was going to execute that warrant and then showing up in plain clothes to avoid a spectacle, amounts to tyranny.
    However, the Government forcing a 10 year old rape victim to carry her rapist’s fetus to term is just God’s will for a Christian Nation.
    – No need to go into the irony of a guy who campaigned hard on his opponent mis-handling recipes for risotto…LOCK HER UP…now getting his base stirred up over what actually appears to be a serious violation of the law.
    – Fun to watch the Party of Law and Order excuse Trump for his actions and go after the FBI and DOJ for enforcing…you know…law and order.

    11
  16. Jim Brown 32 says:

    I know our gracious hosts here, the gentleman that they are, would love a non-confrontational, Democratic even– way out of the Political tension.

    In a different dynamic there would be such an escape hatch.

    But I said after Jan 6 there way no way out with directly confronting these people. They are not invested in any type of civic values. They will only respond to fear of loss of life, liberty, property, or money. Very sad–but it will only get harder they longer Garland waits.

    As a Black man, I know this quality of White men well. These are the Arm Society/Polite Society people—what they are telling you is: Unless you are a threat, they don’t give an eff about your feelings.

    I just spent 30mins talking my Trumper secretary off the ledge about IRS agents…she makes 40K. Republican media have millions of people shitting their pants. Fear makes mammals do irrational things, even when you trying to help.

    For once I’d like to see Democrats say: Youre Gawd Damn Right I Ordered The Code Red.

    27
  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    “Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”

    My guess is that Garland is very good at preserving his documents.
    Given the reason for this search warrant…irony is dead.
    Every accusation is a confession of guilt.

    10
  18. Jen says:

    @Scott: It appears as though they were NOT returned. That’s what is so flabbergasting to me. They’ve apparently assigned Eric & Lara Trump to be the spokespeople for this raid, and Eric was saying that they were “in process of returning them” and Lara was bleating on about how everyone knows that Trump likes to keep newspaper clippings and such, basically trying to downgrade the whole thing to an old man keeping clips and stuff.

    It’s appalling.

    5
  19. Not the IT Dept. says:

    I think it would be a good idea to wait a day or two and find out more from the feds on this. Immediate reactions by a lot of people will have to be walked back, we can pretty much be sure of that. Let the popcorning commence!

    7
  20. CSK says:

    I like presidents whose homes weren’t raided.

    26
  21. CSK says:
  22. Kathy says:

    Hm. McCarthy si proposing a committee to investigate the DOJ. Once he wins the House and is elected Speaker.

    Well, he might not like where such investigations lead. I mean, if done with open, public hearings, FBI agents and DOJ personnel will detail all of Benito’s wrongdoing under investigation, what has been found, etc. This may serve to keep El Cheeto out of jail (try and find a jury after that), but it will damn the GQP.

    If done entirely behind closed doors, they may claim all sorts of falsehoods. But then the people who testified would talk to the media about what they really said.

    Sunlight may not be the best disinfectant, but it’s certainly no friend of scurrying vermin.

    7
  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Kathy:
    I have a wild guess. Like MM I don’t think this was all about improper document retention. And I don’t think it’s because random FSB agents might find relevant national security docs in Trump’s safe. I think he’s either monetizing stolen national security docs by selling them to foreign powers, or using them for blackmail.

    Kevin McCarthy denounces Trump, then goes down to Mar-a-Lago and comes out completely cowed and subservient. Was Kevin shown something?

    The interesting thing politically will be to see which Republicans don’t scream and yell about this. There’s a notion that this will cause a rally-round effect, but I suspect not. Orange Jesus just had his house invaded by the FBI. Orange Jesus is just a man. Weakness does not attract new followers or encourage old followers.

    8
  24. gVOR08 says:

    I suspect there’s less to this than speculation says. And if so, it’s momentous. I have a mental picture of a conversation in Garlands’ office:
    Agent in charge – Sir, we have a problem. The former president took a lot of stuff with him he shouldn’t have, the Archives want it back, he returned some but they say he still has a list of stuff.
    Garland – Has anyone been talking to him?
    Agent – the Archives have, we have, for months and we’re at an impasse. The usual, “It doesn’t exist, it’s rightfully ours, we don’t have it, we’re not giving it back.” No progress at all. We don’t know what to do.
    Garland – What’s the book say to do?
    Agent – The book says get a warrant and go get our stuff.
    Garland – Do what the book says.
    And deciding to treat the TFG per the book has momentous implications elsewhere.

    Everything this morning is speculation, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we never learn what was recovered, the Archives get their stuff and DOJ decides not to prosecute and per policy, not say why. (These various policies about proper behavior by DOJ never seemed to apply to Hillary.)

    7
  25. Scott F. says:

    The sub-headline is the real headline. You have the top Republican in the House threatening the sitting Attorney General with retaliatory hearings for approving a search warrant signed off by a federal judge.

    For this search warrant to have executed, Garland, Wray, and a federal judge all would have known there would be an incendiary reaction. They searched his house anyway. They knew what they would find and they knew where to find it.

    11
  26. MarkedMan says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    I think he’s either monetizing stolen national security docs by selling them to foreign powers, or using them for blackmail.

    Ding! Ding! Ding!

    If I had to bet, that would be it.

    5
  27. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Was Kevin shown something?

    “One ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.”*

    I wonder if Benito will claim he issued himself a pardon before leaving office. As I understand, there’s little or no formal procedure or protocol for pardons. The thing would be to have someone lie to back him up, which shouldn’t be much of a problem.

    It’s the simple, obvious solution.

    Of course, then he can be grilled on all he’s done he can’t be prosecuted for. By whom? Well, the FBI, say

    *No, I never read those books, but I like that line.

  28. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Kathy:
    If you can pardon yourself, then you are truly above the law.
    You cannot pardon yourself.

    3
  29. Jen says:

    @Kathy:

    there’s little or no formal procedure or protocol for pardons.

    I don’t think that’s correct. The Justice Dept. has a full list of FAQs on this topic, and IIRC, a pardon request needs to be made in writing and the pardon granted needs to be recorded. The only question is whether or not a President can pardon himself, which is a whole ‘nuther can of worms entirely.

    If Trump asserts that not only did he pardon himself–a questionable action itself–but that there’s no written record of it, I hope to god he’s laughed out of the country. That would be some weapons-grade nonsense.

    2
  30. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    To follow on that thought…I think someone flipped on the former guy…and told the DOJ that he had documents and was using them as blackmail.
    Pure speculation, of course.
    But I promise you this…you don’t jump to be the first FBI Director, the first Attorney General, and the first Federal Judge in history to sign off on a search and seize warrant for the home of a former guy unless you’ve seen both the smoking gun AND the powder burns.

    7
  31. Kathy says:

    Now Pence is defending Benito on Twitter.

    I don’t know. Maybe he wants to be hanged.

    6
  32. @Jim Brown 32:

    For once I’d like to see Democrats say: Youre Gawd Damn Right I Ordered The Code Red.

    It always seems worth noting that that is the bad guy’s line in that movie.

    16
  33. @Kathy:

    No, third world bullshit is letting the dictator get away with everything he wants, and whitewashing his high crimes.

    100%

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    I think it would be a good idea to wait a day or two and find out more from the feds on this. Immediate reactions by a lot of people will have to be walked back, we can pretty much be sure of that.

    Sound advice.

    11
  34. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “It always seems worth noting that that is the bad guy’s line in that movie.”

    It also seems worth noting that far too many Americans don’t see him as a bad guy.

    4
  35. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Jim Brown 32: I’m with you on substance but on movie quotes I think I prefer “I feel a great swell of pity for anyone who comes to my democracy looking for trouble”

    1
  36. Beth says:

    @Kathy:

    It’s kinda fun to get choked a little bit. I can see Pence quietly being into that. I can’t imaging hanging from the neck is any fun. Arms, legs, maybe. Not the neck.

    3
  37. @Moosebreath:

    It also seems worth noting that far too many Americans don’t see him as a bad guy.

    Accurate. (and disturbing).

    4
  38. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    To follow on that thought…I think someone flipped on the former guy…and told the DOJ that he had documents and was using them as blackmail.

    If it eventually comes out that the info that triggered this raid was something that was on Alex Jones’s phone that got turned over to the 1/6 committee, I may die from the schadenfreude.

    7
  39. CSK says:

    We shouldn’t call this a raid, as I’ve been doing. It was a court-ordered search.

    10
  40. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Moosebreath:
    @Steven L. Taylor:
    No…they see him as this macho/alpha guy who always tells the truth and has the best interest of the MAGA crowd in mind at all times.
    Not to start this conversation – but essentially the definition of a cult. The only difference between Jim Jones and Trump is that Trump would over-charge you for the kool-aid.

  41. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..*No, I never read those books, but I like that line.

    I did read those books. All three of them but it was more than 50 years ago and I had to Google the line to see where it came from. You would think the word Ring would have given it away. I even had a cat that I named Frodo.
    After I finished the trilogy I took up The Hobbit. I couldn’t do it. Put it down after a chapter or two.
    Years later I discovered Bored of the Rings. It can be good for a laugh.

    4
  42. Gustopher says:

    Steve Bannon, who called on congressional Republicans to cut off funding for the FBI, saying that “the FBI, right now, is the Gestapo.”

    Defund the police!

    4
  43. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @MarkedMan: The article noted that FG doesn’t stay at Mar al Lago during the summer as it’s too hot for a fragile snowflake-like person such as himself and that the raid was conducted without notice–which would explain his lawyer not being there even after the raid started. No sense in stiffing a lawyer when “the outrage” will sell to the rubes better.

    That said, when I read the comment late yesterday, I assumed the FBI punching the safe because no one owned being able to open it rather than suggesting an egregious FBI overstep of power. It seems perfectly reasonable to me that a guy as egomaniacal as FG probably doesn’t have people who can go in his office when he’s not there. Certainly not ones who can open his safe.

  44. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @SC_Birdflyte: No, but there are enough potentially institutionizable voters to elect FG to office again given favorable tilts in the Electoral Vote.

    1
  45. Kurtz says:

    Of course there’s an Epstein connection.

    The judge who signed the warrant is the guy who was entangled in both legal teams when Epstein got his sweetheart Florida deal.

    1
  46. dazedandconfused says:

    The DOJ Strikes Back

    Btw, Trump has a copy of the search warrant and could settle the rampant speculation as to the nature of the crime being investigated by publishing it…and hasn’t.

    4
  47. Tony W says:

    @Kurtz: Well, the judge was a Trump nominee, so an Epstein connection is implied.

    3
  48. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I’ma wait for the Supremes to decide on that one, but I really don’t think it will ever show up on the docket. DOJ would have to charge him with something for him to need to play that card. I’ll not live long enough to see him charged and I’m 4 or 5 years younger than he is.

  49. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    Hairy toes! I love hairy toes!!

    2
  50. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Jay L Gischer: Can you elaborate on the quote? I pasted it into a search bar and got no hits.

  51. dazedandconfused says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    I was luckier, after reading the LOTR trilogy I picked up The Silmarillion Really a collection of short stories from the times before the age the LOTR took place in. Wonderful stuff and the movie makers have been after it but the family refuses to release it, most likely reserving the enormous sum releasing stands to bring for the next generation. The industry could make a franchise of at least a half dozen movies from it, as the tales span a vast time and each has a heroic character (or more).

    1
  52. JohnSF says:

    @Mister Bluster:
    @Flat Earth Luddite:
    And the immortal wisdom of the Rules of Fergus. 🙂

    1
  53. JohnSF says:

    edit

  54. MarkedMan says:

    From Josh Marshall:

    In the letter, NARA says that it found “classified national security information” in 15 boxes that Trump had improperly taken from the White House. The letter says that he gave the boxes back in January, after spending 2021 in communication with NARA.

    NARA also said in the letter that there were additional categories of records that the agency had not obtained from Trump: some social media materials “that were not captured and preserved by the Trump Administration” as well as the results of the habit of some White House aides to conduct official business “using non-official electronic messaging accounts,” without then backing up the data.

    So, I think we all agree that this warrant wasn’t issued because of un-returned social media posts. I suppose it could have been the stuff that used private accounts. After all, they subpoenaed (and received) Hillary Clinton’s and all her staffs stuff. More intriguing, though, is the following:

    More interestingly, NARA noted that even after Trump sent the 15 boxes of records, it still wanted more from the former President’s representatives.

    “NARA has asked the representatives of former President Trump to
    continue to search for any additional Presidential records that have not been
    transferred to NARA, as required by the Presidential Records Act,” the letter reads.

    So it seems that NARA knows that Trump has records that he hasn’t acknowledged or returned.

    1
  55. Jon says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: I think it is a rephrasing of a quote from one of the x-men movies, from Prof. Xavier. In the original it was ‘school’ rather than ‘democracy.’

  56. MarkedMan says:

    @MarkedMan: FWIW, as much as I love to play amateur detective, we don’t actually know anything concrete here. The reporting is that it has to do with documents illegally taken from the Whitehouse, and given the reporters, their newspapers and the level of fact checking, I would bet that is true. But we should also take into account that the document thing could be a sideshow, and there could be other reasons entirely, with the leak meant to misdirect or put Trump at a sense of false ease.

    Bottom line, it’s easy to go down a delightful rabbit hole of suppositions, but the truth is – we don’t have enough info to make a decent guess.

    3
  57. Jen says:

    @MarkedMan: That aligns with what the NYT is reporting.

    Their updates include:
    – The search relates to the materials Trump carted off with him (in violation of the Presidential Records Act) when he left office
    – Trump dragged his feet about returning the materials (this must be what Eric & Lara were going on about), which were finally returned in January

    “The search was at least in part for whether any records remained at Mar-a-Lago, a person familiar with it said. It took place on Monday morning, the person said, although the former president said agents were still there many hours later.”

    It sounds to me like Trump either didn’t return everything or made/kept copies of something. If it’s the first (that he didn’t return everything), they likely knew exactly what they were looking for. If Trump made/kept copies, I’m not sure how they’d know that unless he acted on something that indicated he still had the materials.

    Because the National Archives “identified classified information in the boxes,” the agency “has been in communication with the Department of Justice,” David S. Ferriero, the national archivist, told Congress at the time.

    Federal prosecutors subsequently began a grand jury investigation, according to two people briefed on the matter. Prosecutors issued a subpoena earlier this year to the archives to obtain the boxes of classified documents, according to the two people familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the ongoing investigation.

    Again, interesting. Then we have this:

    In the spring, a small coterie of federal agents — including at least one involved in counterintelligence — visited Mar-a-Lago in search of some documents, according to a person familiar with the meeting.

    Spring, of course, is after January, when the boxes were supposedly returned. Someone must have realized something was missing.

    1
  58. CSK says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    Yeah, I know. Why not just tell us what they wanted?

    Rhetorical question.

  59. MarkedMan says:

    @Jen:

    including at least one involved in counterintelligence

    Whoa. Forget what I said about not over-speculating!

    counterintelligence
    [ koun-ter-in-tel-i-juhns ]
    noun
    the activity of an intelligence service employed in thwarting the efforts of an enemy’s intelligence agents to gather information or commit sabotage.

    1
  60. MarkedMan says:

    The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that the House Ways and Means Committee can access former President Trump’s tax returns from the Internal Revenue Service.

    Mr. Schaden, meet Mr. Freude

    2
  61. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    IIRC the rights to the LOTR and The Hobbit were signed over back in the 1980’s (?) with the family estate as a whole retaining royalty rights etc.
    But Christopher Tolkien was the exclusive literary executor, and controlled all the other unsigned works.
    Not to mention being editor (in fact effectively co-author) of much of the material.

    The family trust had a dispute with New Line Cinema over payments for the LOTR films.
    And Christopher apparently seriously disliked the films.

    (As do I, to some extent, despite their acting, atmosphere, and visuals. “Denethor should sue!”. And as for the Hobbit film, Dain/Billie Conolly nails it: Rock eating worms? “Oh, come on.”)

    It may be only his death in 2020 that’s allowing any further projects to go ahead; but IIRC family trust have indicated they are only willing to sign over rights if they get a veto on treatment.

  62. Michael Reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Bottom line, it’s easy to go down a delightful rabbit hole of suppositions

    It’s August, too hot for anything else.

    4
  63. a country lawyer says:

    @dazedandconfused: What Trump got was the search warrant which describes the location to be searched and what the agents are looking for. Unless and until a criminal complaint or indictment is issued, he will not see the affidavit which sets out the facts on which probable cause for the search is based.
    You can make some inferences from the search warrant, but until you read the affidavit you won’t have a complete picture of the government’s motivation and possible plan for prosecution.

    3
  64. Kurtz says:

    @Tony W:

    He’s a magistrate, so I don’t think he’s a Trump appointee.

  65. MarkedMan says:

    @JohnSF: Each to his own. I consider the LOTR trilogy to be an almost unbelievable film making achievement and eminently watchable. I should caveat that last with an acknowledgment that I only saw the theatrical release once for each, in the theater and then exclusively watched the extended versions. Multiple times. As well as watching them in the entirety four more times with the alternate sound tracks. And all the supplemental tracks. There is some great stuff on there, some of which has nothing to do with LoTR. For instance, the story behind Annie Lennox’s “Into the West” literally brought me to tears.

    “The Hobbit”, though, 100% in sync with you. An abomination.

    1
  66. CSK says:

    @a country lawyer:
    Thank you. But it would be interesting to know what they were looking for.

  67. JohnSF says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Oh, I like the films.
    As I say, they are visually stupendous, wonderfully atmospheric, well cast and acted etc.
    And obviously Jackson had to cut stuff out, and to “show not tell”, and to up the set piece scenes.

    But…it was the total inversion of some characters that bugged me after, and still does.

    Denethor, for instance, who makes no sense at all in the films, if you think about it.
    Why not light the sodding beacons!
    What sort of idiot sends cavalry charging archers in mounds of rubble?

    Or Aragorn having “renounced the throne” in the film, when in the book it is the dedicated purpose of his entire life!

    Also, a visual goof that bugs me.
    Bilbo: “I want to see mountains again, Gandalf…”
    And a couple of scenes later, Frodo and Sam are walking just outside Bag End with bloody towering mountains in the background!
    Gandalf: *smacks Bilbo upside the head* “Just look out your front door, y’ hairy footed nebbish!”

    Oh, and the thing about Frodo, Sam, and Faramir, and the orcs, and Jackson completely messing up which side of the river was which.

    2
  68. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Sound advice.

    But no fun at all. Besides, this is the internet. Baseless speculation is what we do here.

    2
  69. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Good Point– How about: “YES they deserved to die–AND I HOPE THEY BURN IN HELL!”

    A little less moral ambiguity–but just as gangsta

  70. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    The poem about the rings was the solution of an Asimov Black Widower mystery*, and that’s where I ran across it.

    Later, a year or so before the movies came out, a friend loaned me his books. I tried reading them, but I found my mind wandering after a few sentences. I tried days later, same thing. I tried months later, same thing. So, I decided “this is not going to happen.”

    *Definitely not one of his best.

  71. Jen says:

    @MarkedMan: The WSJ apparently has a similar report, but the descriptor there is “including an official who supervises investigations involving classified information.”

    2
  72. Jen says:

    Sounds likely:

    “One adviser who spoke to Trump after the search said the former president sounded buoyed by the development, bragging about how many Republicans were supporting him publicly, and said he thought the search would help him politically in the end, this person said.

    “It furthers his inclination to run and galvanizes the Republican base on his behalf,” said Jason Miller, a longtime adviser and former spokesman.”

    Mmmph:

    After Monday’s search, lawyers close to Trump sought advice or recommendations of criminal defense lawyers who could represent Trump, said a person familiar with the lawyers. According to this person, the lawyers said the warrant was related to allegations that classified information was retained by Trump.

    Via WaPo: https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/08/09/trump-fbi-search-mar-a-lago/

  73. Stormy Dragon says:

    The problems with the Hobbit movies is entirely the studios’ fault. The original LoTR movies were made and distributed by New Line, but because of rights, they had to bring other studios in for the Hobbit movies.

    The other studios wouldn’t agree to a long pre-production, which forced Jackson to switch from practical effects to much more heavy use of CGI. Also, two months before the start of principal photography, they demanded they go from two movies to three movies, without pushing back photography to rewrite the scripts.

    The biggest problem with the films is because there is really only two narrative arcs spread over three movies, all of the major narrative points you need to make a movie into a coherent story are either in the wrong place or missing entirely as well as lots of narrative “dead space” that got packed with fluff to pad out the run times.

    2
  74. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    His living expenses should be much lower in prison.

    Of course, it’s hard to hold rallies even in an overcrowded cell.

  75. dazedandconfused says:
  76. dazedandconfused says:

    @a country lawyer:

    Yes, I suppose the basic nature will be revealed soon enough. It’s interesting Trump isn’t eager to discuss it is all.

    1
  77. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Jen: One adviser who spoke to Trump after the search said the former president sounded buoyed by the development, bragging about how many Republicans were supporting him publicly, and said he thought the search would help him politically in the end, this person said.

    Because to trump, it’s all a game. DOJ investigations have never been existential threats to him. They are just another marketing opportunity for fleecing the rubes, while he who has the most lawyers wins. Meanwhile, his most earnest supporters go to prison while he strolls the back nine.

    3
  78. dazedandconfused says:

    @JohnSF:

    I’m convinced JRR started writing a children’s book but his WW1 trench-inflicted trauma took the driver’s seat in LOTR. The One Ring is a metaphor for the astounding, almost incomprehensible power of strident nationalism and the madness which afflicts those who wield it.

    1
  79. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Hillary Clinton is selling “But Her Emails” T-shirts and hats.

    Really.

  80. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Because to trump, it’s all a game. DOJ investigations have never been existential threats to him.

    Why would the investigations be existential threats? Who’s going to prosecute him (really, not theoretically)?

  81. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Good for her. Unlike trump, I doubt she will line her pockets with it.

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: You get my point.

  82. JohnSF says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    It’s interesting if you read Christopher Tolkien’s “Histories of Middle Earth” books.
    Though the outlines of the development were mentioned by JRRT in the LOTR Foreword, and in interviews.

    After The Hobbit was so successful, he tried to interest the publishers in some of the Silmarillion material.
    They took a look and punted; especially as it was unfinished, and a lot of it was in poetic form (see the Lays of Beleriand)
    Publishers said what they’d like was “more on hobbits”.

    So Tolkien began working, on and off.
    There was already some Silmarillion derived bits here and there in The Hobbit(Elrond, Gondolin, etc); and there was also Tolkien’s unpublised material for a “time travel” novel which had bits of the history of Numenor; and some bits of the old material re. “fading” elves and the Red Book of Eriol and Aelfwine etc.

    Apparently as he worked on the “Hobbit sequel” he incorporated more and more of this and developed an entire post-Silmarillion history which took on an impetus of it’s own.
    And agreed, and stated by Tolkien, also influenced by both the First World War and the coming of the Second.

    Tolkien himself IIRC described the elvish Rings of Power in general as attempting to perceive, direct, and command, the the natural order of the world, and to understand and communicate with other minds.

    The elvish versions were, arguably, not evil but inherently perilous as a temptation.
    While the One Ring as an expressly aimed at the subjugation of other wills, corruption of minds, warping nature, and aspiring to godlike power, and so inherently evil.

    Tolkien seems to have viewed the Ring as emblematic both of misused, and untrammelled, technology, and of a political/psychological outlook aimed at mastery of others.
    (So, yes, nationalism, and fascism, and other “groupism”; but also individual self-elevation)
    Freedom for the one; slavery for all other.

    Which also related to the fall of the Numenoreans, and to some extent the moral failings of the elves. Though he never really worked all that out, as he stated in some letters.
    The Numenorean rulers were corrupted by their desire for immortality; the Eldar by their experience of immortality.

    The interesting thing is, that two crucial aspects, for Tolkien, from quite early on, that the films left out were the retuning Hobbits rescuing the Shire, and Tom Bombadil as the antithesis of Sauron (though Tolkien never explicitly spelled it out, his other writings make it pretty clear.)

    Now, I wonder if there was a concept-sketch for a ring in that safe at Mar-A-Lago…
    😉

  83. Kari Q says:

    Rep. Scott Perry, a Trump supporter, claims that the FBI seized his phone. Curioser and curioser.

    3
  84. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: Jon is correct. It’s from the end of the first X-Men. And yes, I have replaced “school” with “democracy”.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sS7vjpUwn1E

  85. mattbernius says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    Lol… its a better write, but man that movie/book makes absolutley no sense from any sort of moral or legal perspective (unless you see it as a simultaneous arguement for both the death penalty and a defense of action movie heros).

    Still a hell of a performance from Samuel L. J.

    1
  86. John430 says:

    Many of the Republicans aghast at the FBI raid had supported FBI probes of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in 2016. When then-FBI Director James B. Comey found no reason to charge Clinton after an initial investigation, and after another probe of emails on a laptop belonging to a Clinton aide shortly before the election, they asked whether the Democrat had gotten off easy.
    “Secretary Clinton’s fundamental lack of judgment and wanton disregard for protecting and keeping information confidential raises continued questions about the exposure of our nation’s diplomatic and national security secrets,”

    Funny how Joyner glossed over this hot potato. Shows me how much Kool-Aid he’s been drinking.

  87. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @John430:

    “Secretary Clinton’s fundamental lack of judgment and wanton disregard for protecting and keeping information confidential raises continued questions about the exposure of our nation’s diplomatic and national security secrets,”

    a couple of quibbles, John:

    First, I realize it’s a foreign concept to you, but it’s only polite to identify the person you’re quoting. In this case, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a paragon of rational speech (insert snark emoji here).

    Second, may I introduce you to the concept of pot/kettle? Seriously, dude, when you leave your place of employment, you don’t get to take confidential work product home with you and squirrel it away. Doesn’t matter if you’re the person handling the books at Acme or the POTUS. They don’t belong to you, you don’t get to keep them.

    Lastly, hot potato? Really? My man, this potato has been peeled, sliced, diced, mashed, fried, and served so many times that it’s as welcome as leftover turkey hash the week after Thanksgiving.

    1
  88. John430 says:

    @Flat Earth Luddite: Kool-Aid for you too! You pointedly ignored any reference to Hillary’s criminal mishandling of classified documents and can only see “bad” GOP. Gimme a break. You’ve been a Flat-Earther too long.

  89. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    @John430:
    Really? Kool-Aid? Well, ok, but the real reason I ignored your rant about Hillary is that, in the last 6 years, despite numerous Senatorial inquisitions, various media witch hunts, and way too much $$$, even her worst detractors couldn’t even hang a misdemeanor on her. Either she didn’t do anything wrong, or she’s the freaking criminal mastermind of the ages. Either way (hapless dupe or Lex Luthor in drag), I’ll salute that dedication!

    Either way, as I mentioned in a later column, good to have you back. You keep a-chasin them Duke boys, Rosco. Bound to catch her at something…someday.

    2