August 9, 2022 - 9:01 pm
In an extraordinary move, the FBI on Monday night raided — or, depending on your perspective, conducted an unannounced search of — Donald Trump’s Florida estate, apparently as part of an investigation into his handling of presidential documents. The law enforcement agency remained tight-lipped on Tuesday — and that’s a mistake.
At first glance, the FBI move appears a monumental overreach. The former president has known for months that there have been accusations about his taking White House records — including classified papers to his residence. CNN reports that the FBI interviewed aides to Mr. Trump on the matter in April and May. In June, the network revealed, Mr. Trump’s attorneys “received a letter from investigators asking them to further secure the room where the documents were stored. Aides subsequently added a padlock to the room.”
But if Mr. Trump and his attorneys were cooperating with the probe, why use an over-the-top law enforcement tactic usually reserved for hardened criminals? You can imagine the reaction had the FBI taken a similar approach to Hillary Clinton’s emails and her use of a private server to view top-secret documents.
A magistrate obviously signed off on a warrant based on an affidavit outlining the probable cause. It’s highly unlikely that the agency would have taken such action without the consent of Attorney General Merrick Garland. Yet so far, mostly crickets. That’s unacceptable and only feeds the suspicions of many Trump supporters that the ex-president is being unfairly hounded in a vengeful political persecution. Absent a more detailed explanation from the Department of Justice, who can blame them?
“My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” Mr. Trump said Monday evening. He added that agents “even broke into my safe.”
Several analysts speculated that the escalation by the FBI indicates it has more damaging information against Mr. Trump regarding the papers. Perhaps. But this isn’t a case in which the suspect is a flight risk or presents a danger to others. We’re talking about White House papers, not the nuclear codes.
Mr. Trump is not above the law, of course. But the FBI and Department of Justice have an obligation to be overly transparent in this case and have an responsibility to show this action was appropriate. Otherwise, as Andrew Cuomo noted, “it will be viewed as a political tactic and undermine any future credible investigation.” This is no run-of-the-mill probe. A more detailed explanation from the Justice Department is a necessity.