The Strategy of the Raid

August 15, 2022 Updated: August 16, 2022

Commentary

The New York Post raises good questions in an editorial on Aug. 11 about the shocking FBI raid on former President Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago: “Why was it so urgent to retrieve possible classified documents? What led a federal judge to OK raiding a former president’s home? And why exactly did [Attorney General Merrick] Garland personally approve the raid? (Without, he says, even alerting the White House.)”

We may assume that what transpired was a political move. Everyone in the relevant chain of command, from President Joe Biden on down, probably knew about the raid in advance. Since the former president was cooperating in handing over classified material to the FBI, which in some cases he himself had declassified, there was no security need for this armed raid. It involved ransacking Trump’s property, breaking open his safe, making a mess of Mrs. Trump’s wardrobe, and behaving in a surly manner toward those who were present when the raid occurred.

I have no doubt that the less than politically impartial FBI and our thoroughly partisan attorney general were on a fishing expedition to locate incriminating material that could be used in criminal proceedings against Trump for his possible connection to the Jan. 6 “insurrection.” (They’ve already impaneled a grand jury in what for Trump is a hostile environment in Washington, D.C.)

Trump’s enemies also found an exceedingly cooperative federal judge in Bruce Reinhart, who had openly expressed animosity toward Trump and who clearly venerates Barack Obama. Reinhart signed the warrant for the raid without apparently asking whether it was overkill, given the fact that Trump was graciously releasing to the FBI all the material it requested. Nor was there evidence that Trump’s home held material that could not be obtained in a less intrusive fashion. Needless to say, the FBI let Hillary Clinton go unpunished for destroying tens of thousands of emails on her server, some of which may have been classified.

I won’t even question the contention that what happened to Trump was an attempt by the Deep State working on behalf of the Democratic Party to remove our ex-president from the political scene. Equally obvious, Garland, Reinhart, and possibly FBI leadership were all trying to shape the outcome of the midterm elections. Through the raid they were diverting attention from inflation, high crime, open borders, and other problems bedeviling the Biden administration and shifting public attention to a more congenial subject, namely Donald Trump and his controversial hold on the GOP. If the raid and the flood of sympathy it created among Republican partisans could push Trump into announcing his run for the presidency before the midterms, then the Democrats could make the elections a contest about Trump, not about Biden’s failures.

Will this strategy work? Quite possibly it will. Trump has as many people who hate him as adore him; 58 percent of those polled by Ipsos in June thought that criminal charges should be brought against the former president for his role in the events of Jan. 6. According to a poll conducted by Politico, 49 percent of likely voters approved of the raid. It goes without saying that the highly partisan media and the congressional hearing about Jan. 6 have intensified dislike for Trump. Admittedly the Left has pushed questionable narratives against this hated figure in cooperation with the Democratic National Committee. This was especially true of the Russia-collusion charge, in which the entire story eventually fell apart. But this demonization has been aided by Trump’s verbal missteps and the reckless manner in which he lashes out at his detractors.

We may also question Kimberly Strassel’s recent judgment that what has been done to Trump by the Democrats will initiate a cycle of revenge, which will reach a new phase once the Republicans take back Congress. It’s an open question whether the Republicans will be in a position after November to inflict the “brutal payback” that Strassel believes will be coming. At this point, it certainly doesn’t look as if the Republicans will easily take the Senate. It’s not even certain that the Democrats will be hurt by passing an inflationary spending bill last week, which among other features will result in hiring 87,000 new IRS investigators. Since this bill includes lots of Green New Deal stuff and since the audits can be turned against Republican taxpayers, the Democrats may have energized their base by ramming their act through Congress. And a few days ago, the overwhelmingly Democratic Twitter has stepped up to the plate by announcing that in preparation for the midterms it will take special care to remove “misinformation.”

Finally, I can’t imagine even a Senate that has any kind of Republican majority behaving as boldly as their Democratic opposition. There are several Republican senators who, like Mitt Romney and Susan Collins, place a premium on bipartisanship. The Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, isn’t only committed to that course but clearly dislikes Trump, with whom he’s feuded for years. McConnell took an embarrassingly long time to criticize, however minimally, the raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. Although there are two ideological blocs in this country, the party that represents the right is far less morally passionate. It’s also painfully aware the mass media are in the corner of its adversaries.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 14 books, most recently Antifascism: Course of a Crusade (Cornell-NIU Press, 2021), and numerous articles and book reviews.