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Mar-a-Lago raid sparks questions

Peter Goodman


Insurrection:“an act or instance of rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against civil authority or an established government.”

What happened in January, 2021, in the U.S. Capitol appears to qualify. Judges have concluded it does. New Mexico District Judge Francis Mathew held that under the 14th Amendment Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin couldn’t hold public office because he’d participated in that insurrection. (Judge Mathew noted the irony of Griffin’s argument that Mathew should “respect the will of the people” of Otero County when Griffin admitted trying to overturn “the will of the people” of the United States.)

The Donald Trump who inspired, abetted, and tried to join that insurrection seems to be the same Donald Trump whose criminal conduct regarding top-secret classified documents has endangered U.S. interests. Since documents showing what the U.S. knows about other countries could tell those countries where Washington got that information, he may have endangered lives; or the U.S., uncertain where things stand, might pull someone out of danger, foregoing further useful information.

Trump’s response has not been reassuring. Of course he attacked and lied, his default responses to anything negative. (His followers physically attacked the FBI.) He said the documents were mostly keepsakes and mementos that belonged to him. He falsely claimed to have declassified the documents; then he claimed he’d given them all back, and one of his attorneys signed a sworn statement to that effect; then, after the search, Trump claimed it was unnecessary, because everything was rosy and cooperative between him and the government.

The documents (NOT mementos!) are top-secret for a reason. Some concern other nations’ nuclear capacities. They are, however, valuable, especially to a man with a long history of monetizing anything he can, and maximizing his income, no matter whom or what he destroys.

The sole rational motive for keeping those documents is to make money. Lots of money. As a former FBI head has recently said, any country “would give its right arm” to know what the U.S. knows about its nuclear situation. Would a former president take their money for that? Even one who has a long history of putting his own interest in front of the nation’s, as in holding up Ukraine aid to browbeat Zelensky into a bogus investigation of Hunter Biden? (Like Putin, Trump figured an ex-comic would fold when threatened.)

We should want to get to the bottom of this, whatever the truth is.

Trump-appointed Federal District Judge Aileen Cannon has provided Trump a potential delay by granting his request to appoint a special master to review material seized from Mar-a-Lago. Experts deplore the ruling. Even Trump’s former Attorney-General, William Barr, says Cannon’s ruling is “deeply flawed in a number of ways” and should be appealed.

Attorney-General Merrick Garland’s measured pace provides a healthy contrast to the Justice Department under Trump. Trump kept pushing the Justice Department to bend the law to prosecute folks he didn’t like, such as former Senator John Kerry. Garland heard a lot of criticism for not acting quickly on information from the Select Committee and other sources that pointed to probable Trump crimes. When Trump’s home was eventually searched, no one even gave Joe Biden advance notice. Garland must want to go after Trump, but he’s weighing that against the damage prosecuting a former president would do to Justice Department credibility, and has repeatedly delayed.

Meanwhile, Trump urges us to give him a further opportunity.