Democrats see a criminal finally getting his due. Republicans see a martyr for the right-wing cause of liberty.
The wonder and sadness of a detailed list, released Friday, of records seized from former US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate is that both sides of the American political divide came away with diametrically opposed views.
The list, part of a search warrant unsealed by a Florida judge, was detailed enough to suggest violations of a federal law related to espionage and vague enough for Trump supporters to conclude the FBI was involved in the crime. another one of his unfounded fishing trips in the Deep State.
It revealed that investigators had removed 20 boxes of classified items, including four sets of records marked “Top Secret,” the most sensitive designation in the US classification hierarchy, three marked “Secret” and another three marked “Confidential.”
Aside from an article referring to the “president of France” and another about the presidential pardon Trump granted his friend Roger Stone, we don’t know exactly what the documents contained.
More importantly, no one has explained why the documents were both so sensitive that they required a police raid, but why the administration only decided to act now, a year and a half after Trump’s removal from the White House.
A fuller explanation is presumed to be contained in the still-sealed affidavit submitted to the judge by investigators to justify the search warrant, which the US media is requesting to be made public.
A report from the Washington Post said some documents are believed to contain information about nuclear weapons, while New York Times reported that there were concerns about documents in Trump’s possession with details of “special access programs.”
These are among the government’s best-kept secrets related to sensitive operations, technologies, or capabilities: information that is shared on a “need-to-know” basis.
Trump no longer needs access to that information as a former president, even if he has thinly veiled intentions of returning to the presidency in 2024.
Writing on his social media accounts Friday, Trump said the documents were “all declassified” and that police could have obtained them “any time they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago.”
“ALL THEY HAD TO DO WAS ASK,” he wrote.
Violations of US laws intended to protect national security can result in serious jail time. The maximum penalty for collecting, transmitting, or losing defense documents under the federal Espionage Act is 10 years in prison.
But past cases of officials caught playing fast and loose with sensitive documents have tended more often toward leniency.
Former General and Director of the CIA David Petraeus received two years probation and a $100,000 fine for sharing classified information with his biographer and lover when he was a former National Security Advisor Sandy Berger paid a $50,000 fine for stealing classified documents from the National Archives on his pant leg.
The idea that top-secret presidential documents are stored in the confines of a private club, a historic 58-bedroom, 33-bathroom seaside mansion that describes itself as “The Pinnacle of Palm Beach,” is just another strange chapter in the book of oddities. marking the Trump presidency and its consequences.
The most disturbing aspect, however, is that Mar-a-Lago’s unprecedented incursion has been met not with pause and soul-searching, but with political entrenchment, duplication by Democrats and Republicans alike.
It seems to matter little to supporters what Trump did or did not have in his possession, how he should or should not have acted, what crimes he may or may not have committed.
Meanwhile, his opponents see the raid as a long-awaited reckoning for a reckless politician who sullied his high office in a brief but eventful four-year term.
“Just to be clear,” wrote Joe Walsh, a former Republican congressman turned Trump critic, “we are here once again because Donald Trump broke the law. One more time.”
And instead of reflecting on Trump’s long-documented history of being careless with sensitive intelligence and defense information, as well as his apparent fondness for authoritarian rulers like Russia’s Vladimir Putin, North Korea’s Kim Jong-Un and others, supporters of Trump reflexively charge that the FBI investigation is aimed at silencing and sinking the American right.
“It’s official. We are now fully into another anti-Trump witch hunt,” Fox News host Sean Hannity declared, even before the documents were released.
“They never seem to find the crime in the Donald Trump case because there isn’t one.”
Therein lies the modern American political dilemma. Two sides observing the same situation and drawing completely opposite conclusions.
Perhaps the stakes are too high and the political divisions too deep for Democrats to question the sudden and inexplicable urgency of an FBI raid — one of the most drastic investigative police techniques — or for Republicans to question the blind faith they have deposited in its former leader, often erratic.
Or perhaps the prospect of Trump being attacked, investigated, and perhaps sworn into his own future criminal defense is as important an image for rallying Democratic voters to the cause as it is for energizing their Republican counterparts for the upcoming presidential election. which is only two years away
JOIN THE CONVERSATION