Most Americans have long believed former President Donald Trump perpetrated multiple felony offenses both before and after entering the White House, according to opinion surveys — and yet those same citizens have also assumed that Trump would never be held accountable. But just at the moment that his escape from the law no longer seems quite so certain, the Republicans have almost all fallen into line behind him like lemmings.
There can be little doubt that the former president is in deep legal trouble. To evade the law, he is employing his usual tactics, from slick spin to torrential lying to feigned outrage to threats of mob violence, but mostly delay.
Let us leave aside for a moment the various crimes that Trump clearly appears to have committed in his attempts to overthrow the U.S. government and Constitution leading to the insurrection of January 6, as well as his schemes to defraud tax authorities. Currently under investigation by grand juries in New York, Washington and Georgia, and being prepared for referral by the House committee investigating the January 6 insurrection to the Justice Department, these crimes will be addressed in due course.
What we have before us now are a whole new set of specific potential crimes enumerated in the federal warrant that enabled FBI agents to search Trump's offices and home at the Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Revealed on August 12 pursuant to an unusual request "in the public interest" from Attorney General Merrick Garland, the warrant and accompanying receipt for items seized during the search confirm that Justice Department prosecutors had "probable cause" to believe that Trump violated three federal statutes.
By taking hundreds of pages of top secret, secret, and classified documents to his private home, they believe he violated the Espionage Act, 18 U.S. Code 793, which prohibits the removal of national defense materials from government facilities without authorization; they also believe he obstructed repeated attempts over the past 18 months to retrieve those documents, in violation of 18 U.S. Code 1519, and concealed, altered, or defaced them in violation of 18 U.S. Code 2701.
All are serious crimes subject to punishment by long prison terms and heavy fines.
The list of items removed from the Mar-a-Lago premises last Monday includes 11 boxes of classified documents. At least three boxes held "miscellaneous documents" at the very highest level of secrecy that requires them to be examined only in a "secure compartmented information facility" or SCIF — a heavily fortified space that doesn't exist at the porous country club and Trump abode at Mar-a-Lago. Among those are thought to be nuclear secrets that the Washington Post reported have caused grave concern to Justice Department officials.
Ever since the search and seizure occurred, Trump and his apologists have aimed to provoke rage against federal law enforcement by concocting lies about what was happening and why. The Republican yes-men offer a rotating set of excuses and distractions to cover up Trump's transgressions.
Following Trump's brazen lie, his echo chamber in right-wing media blasts that FBI agents "planted" the many boxes of documents on Trump's property, an outlandish accusation to match their absurd claims of "voter fraud." Trump and his gang. have also ludicrously pointed to former President Barack Obama, claiming that he took millions of documents with him, including "lots" of nuclear data, all debunked by the National Archives and Records Administration, which oversees the Obama White House records.
They have claimed — and this one is calculated obviously as a possible criminal defense — that Trump had the authority to declassify all the documents he stole. But that argument suffers from at least two major flaws. Trump didn't possess the lawful power unilaterally to declassify top secret materials, which must undergo a process that never occurred here; and Trump's absconding with these documents and failure to return them finally on the demand of a grand jury subpoena in June violated the law whether they were classified or not.
In short, the rhetorical confetti spewing from the Trump clown cars just gets swept away when the elephants leave the ring. It's just another act to distract his endlessly gulled marks, who are dunned every day to hand over their money to defend him.
Since his first trip to Moscow in 1986, we have known that Trump, despite his "America First" blather and his flag-kissing antics, always has had self-aggrandizing motives at the heart of everything he has done. For the moment, we can see only the bare outline of these grave misdeeds. How far he went — whether he tried to monetize national security information or destroyed incriminating documents — we may only find out when he is prosecuted.
What we have learned from Merrick Garland is that he means business when he talks about the rule of law. Trump is only at the beginning of a long process of unraveling his nefarious plots.
Reprinted with permission from Creators.
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