The search of Trump’s house in the post-truth age - analysis

Whether America’s reigning political parties can live up to those bipartisan expectations in this post-fact, post truth age is an open question.

 Former US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally ahead of Arizona primary elections, in Prescott Valley, Arizona, US, July 22, 2022. (photo credit: REUTERS/REBECCA NOBLE)
Former US President Donald Trump speaks during a rally ahead of Arizona primary elections, in Prescott Valley, Arizona, US, July 22, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/REBECCA NOBLE)

Last week’s search of former US president Donald Trump’s house at Mar-a-Lago might in historical perspective turn out to be an even larger point dividing Americans than the January 6, 2021, riots.

If that is how things play out, both Republicans and Democrats will have played a role in this post-truth, post-fact age. In this particular incident, the Republican role is the most obvious.

How was it that powerful GOP government officials condemned the FBI’s search as illegal and anti-democratic before the Bureau had issued a single detail on what it was searching?

This anachronism became obvious fairly quickly. Some Republicans changed their tune when the FBI revealed (or had someone leak) that some of the classified documents seized involved the US nuclear weapons program, as well as highly secret special forces operations.

Suddenly, there was an increase in Republicans who were saying, “Let’s wait and see what the FBI finds,” or, “The FBI better have a really good reason for this.”

Donald Trump departs Trump Tower two days after FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach home, in New York City, New York, US, August 10, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO)Donald Trump departs Trump Tower two days after FBI agents raided his Mar-a-Lago Palm Beach home, in New York City, New York, US, August 10, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/DAVID 'DEE' DELGADO)

These later reactions might be completely appropriate.

It is highly controversial to search a former president’s residence. There is an expectation that this was done for serious, even grave reasons, and not just to fulfill some technicalities for which other individuals might have been given more slack.

What were the knee-jerk, anti-FBI Republicans thinking?

A federal judge approved the search. There was no evidence the FBI broke any laws. And everyone, including Trump, admits he took classified documents to his house.

In fact, he had already returned more than a dozen boxes to the US government after being “caught.” One of the interesting questions observers should wait to have answered will be: what led the FBI to lose its patience and act aggressively? If it has a good reason, like obstruction of justice – and there is a leak that one or more Trump insiders were guiding the FBI – this could justify the search and seizure.

If the reason for the search was more amorphous, it will reflect poorly on the FBI.

In any event, it seems that those who criticized the FBI without any facts on which to base their attacks think attacking federal law enforcement based on blind loyalty to Trump is good for the United States.

If the FBI eventually provides a smoking gun, those attacks will be difficult to explain .

Less clear, however, is that some Democrats were also somewhat divorced from the facts in their response.

Those Democrats who assume Trump is guilty until proven innocent, and accuse him of endangering people’s lives before the FBI has made any concrete allegations, are also jumping the gun.

It would not be the first time.

Attempt after attempt

PART OF THE problem is that this is at least the fourth major round of Democrats hoping to end Trump’s career on some kind of legal grounds. The first two attempts were flops, with the third effort still up in the air 20 months into the probe.

Former FBI director Robert Mueller’s Russia report on Trump was not at all flattering. Many legal officials thought Mueller should have accused Trump of obstruction of justice.

But it was clear that what many Democrats had vowed would happen – catching Trump red-handed conspiring with Russia President Vladimir Putin to rig the 2016 presidential election – had no legal proof of a criminal standard on which to stand.

To spend all this time, money and resources while distracting so much of the government’s and public’s attention – yet without making any charges against Trump – seemed to show that the FBI used poor judgment.

Although Mueller and most of the FBI acted objectively, there were multiple FBI officials who had to be removed from the probe for expressing blatant political views during the investigation.

Democrats then attempted to impeach Trump over his use of presidential powers in an attempt to influence Ukraine into undermining his presidential challenger, Joe Biden.

Many people feel Trump’s actions were illegal, or at least highly problematic.

Once again, Democrats promised he would be removed or found guilty.

But to date, the Biden administration has never prosecuted Trump for collusion with the Russians. Meanwhile, a majority of the US Senate voted twice – 52-48 and 53-47 – to acquit him.

Holding impeachment proceedings that failed to remove a president were viewed by many independents and even some Democrats as a failure, regardless of whether setting the historical record straight has some value.

Similarly, no legal proceedings have ended Trump’s career in relation to the January 6 insurrection.

Things might change following former top Trump administration aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s jaw-dropping testimony. That damaged Trump in new ways.

The 57-43 Senate vote, in which a small group of Republicans voted to convict Trump, was the closest to landing a lasting punch. However, 67 votes were needed for a conviction. It is also unclear if those Republicans would have voted to convict if he was still in office.

The 57 votes indicate that a large majority of Americans detested or at least disapproved of the January 6 riots. But Democrats who predicted they could impeach over that issue and end any future political role for Trump again fell short.

The point is not to doubt the FBI.

A good starting point is to trust that a Democratic country’s law enforcement is trying to protect the country by enforcing the law.

The greater question then becomes: even if the FBI had grounds to search Trump’s residence, was it worth it?

That is a question the FBI will need to answer, and the public should show some patience about it.

Many will say that nothing short of a slam-dunk criminal charge against Trump could have justified the search of his property.

One can only hope that if the FBI reveals that Trump endangered national security, Republicans will praise law enforcement for its work. And if Trump is not charged, one hopes that Democrats will ask the FBI some tough questions.

Whether America’s reigning political parties can live up to those bipartisan expectations in this post-fact, post-truth age is an open question.