There’s no denying the significance of the developments. A former American president is suspected of improperly taking highly sensitive, classified materials to his golf resort. After months of investigating, federal law enforcement apparently decided to take matters to the next level and obtain a search warrant.
This, too, was a remarkable step. As Rachel explained on last night’s show, in order to get a search warrant, Justice Department officials needed to explain to a judge where they wanted to search and what they wanted to search for. What’s more, federal law enforcement also had to demonstrate probable cause to the judge, explaining why they believed they’d find evidence of a specific federal crime, all of which would have to be fleshed out as part of the legal proceedings.
At that point, the judge would have to be satisfied in the specificity and merits of the request. Given that all of this relates to a former American president, the judge very likely would’ve taken the application for a search warrant very seriously. Indeed, it’s safe to assume the attorney general himself had to sign off on this before the Justice Department even asked for the search warrant in the first place.
But it happened anyway. Federal law enforcement officials believed there was evidence of a crime, they took the necessary steps, they convinced a judge, and they executed a search warrant.
At which point Republicans became quite hysterical. NBC News reported:
Republican lawmakers and officials accused the Biden administration on Monday night of weaponizing the Justice Department for political ends after former President Donald Trump revealed that the FBI had searched his Florida home. Allies were quick to back Trump’s claim that the unprecedented search of a former president’s home was politically motivated, with some vowing to take action on Capitol Hill.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, for example, said in a written statement that the Justice Department had reached “an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” adding, “Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”
In other words, the would-be Speaker of the House is planning to retaliate against the Justice Department — not because it’s done something wrong, but because it’s investigating an alleged crime the House Republican would prefer go ignored.
Indeed, as GOP officials at multiple levels of government express hair-on-fire outrage over the search at Mar-a-Lago, there’s an overarching point that helps define the party’s position: Republicans aren’t arguing that Trump is innocent; they’re arguing that it doesn’t matter if he’s guilty.
It’s the position of a party that has concluded that the rule of law matters less than fealty to a failed, corrupt, twice-impeached former president.
Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee argued overnight, “If they can do it to a former President, imagine what they can do to you.”
Yes, and therein lies the point: If you were accused of improperly taking highly classified government documents, and deliberately putting them in your home, you should expect legal accountability. FBI agents would, inevitably, show up on your doorstep.
If your friends were to argue that federal law enforcement should simply leave you alone — not because you’re innocent, but because your friends like you — such arguments would be dismissed as ridiculous.
And yet here we are, watching members of a major American political party suggest that Trump should be seen as above the law — because they say so.
In theory, this is an enormous political gamble. Most of the former president’s Republican defenders have no idea what he took, what FBI agents found, or what evidence the Justice Department presented to a judge in order to secure a search warrant. Common sense suggests GOP officials might want to exercise caution: Depending on how this investigation proceeds, they might very well find themselves condemning federal law enforcement for doing its job properly and finding undeniable evidence of serious felonies.
But in practice, Republicans are acting as if it doesn’t matter. They’re not afraid of appearing foolish for defending criminal activity, because in their Trumpified party, it wouldn’t much matter to them if the former president were guilty anyway.
As these GOP leaders see it, what the Justice Department should do is ignore evidence of criminal wrongdoing, at least so far as one American’s alleged wrongdoing is concerned. It’s an indefensible position, but Republicans are taking it anyway.