COMMENTARY: FBI raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate inevitable– and necessary

Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate was the scene of an FBI raid yesterday

THE SERAAJ REPORT, by Kevin Seraaj

After the FBI executed a search warrant yesterday the Florida home of former president Donald Trump he released a statement on Twitter complaining about “dark days” ahead for the nation because the FBI conducted “an unannounced raid” on his property that was, he said, “[neither] necessary or appropriate.” He should be glad the officers who raided Breonna Taylor’s home were not part of the entry team.

However Trump might dispute the “appropriateness” of the search warrant, the fact is that there has been an on-going investigation– that he was aware of– into how classified documents ended up in more than a dozen boxes at his Mar-a-Lago home earlier this year. He says nothing like this has ever happened before– referring to the search of a former president’s home– but there has never been a former president found to be in possession of classified government documents after leaving office before. And there is a very good reason search warrants are routinely “unannounced”– evidence disappears.

The National Archives and Records Administration confirmed months ago that there were classified documents — some top secret — among the dozen or so boxes retrieved from among the White House records Trump had taken to his Florida residence when he left office. By law, all of it was supposed to be handed over to the National Archives.

According to 18 U.S. Code § 1924, the unauthorized removal or retention of classified government documents is a crime. Whoever removes the documents from a secure location or possesses the documents in an unauthorized location is guilty of a crime. Trump’s home, as richly appointed as it may be, is not an authorized location.

There are those who believe execution of the search warrant was political– that the search of his premises was a “weaponization of the criminal justice system” and a Democratic-driven effort to keep him from winning another term in 2024. But had he not taken the documents in the first place, there would have been nothing for authorities to investigate. Keep in mind that the current FBI director– Christopher Wray– was appointed by Trump five years ago and served without GOP criticism as a high-ranking official in the DOJ when it was run by Republicans.

Still, Republican lawmakers addicted to Trump, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, tried to draw a comparison between the former president’s unlawful taking of classified documents and the transgressions of Hunter Biden. But apples to apples, the younger Biden never stole classified documents.

Let’s look at who did:

NSA contractor Harold T. Martin took classified documents and hoarded them in his home and his car. He was prosecuted for willful retention of national defense information.  

Kendra Kingsbury, an employee of the FBI’s Kansas City Division in Dodge City, Kansas, stole classified documents and kept them in her home for years. She was proscuted under a two-count indictment for stealing and retaining classified documents.

Yen Cham Yung was a top FBI agent who worked in Chicago’s organized crime division. He took classified documents home and kept them there. He was prosecuted for taking classified documents and keeping them “in an unauthorized location.”

Former National Security Adviser (under Clinton) Sandy Berger removed classified documents and hid them under a construction trailer. He was also prosecuted and pled guilty to the charge of unauthorized removal and retention of classified material.

If Trump is not similarly prosecuted, the United States government owes each of these individuals an apology.

None of these people were prosecuted for espionage, or for trying to sell secrets. Taking the classified documents home or to an office site is enough to be prosecuted under the law.

Curiously, some Republican lawmakers (i.e., the people who make the laws the FBI and DOJ are told to enforce) believe the law doesn’t apply to the former president. They prefer to ignore the crime and focus on the “wrongfulness” of enforcement.

Senator Rick Scott is one:

Tne fact that a lawmaker needs someone to explain to him what the FBI was doing is a pretty good indicator that he should be in a different occupation. Senator Marco Rubio, in a bizarre tweet, likened the FBI’s investigation of a federal crime (18 U.S. Code § 1924) to “Nicaragua under Ortega.” He prefers America under Trump.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist seized the opportunity to respond to DeSantis’ pro-Trump tweet. He released a statement saying that “no one is above the law, not even a former president. . . . Governor DeSantis’s knee-jerk partisan response to this law enforcement action proves yet again he is more interested in playing politics than seeking justice or the rule of law.”

When it comes to Trump, Republicans seem to gleefully overlook every impropriety– no matter how egregious.

Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is also running for the Democratic nomination for Florida governor, responded to DeSantis on Twitter:

Again, this investigation has been ongoing since the National Archives and Records Administration said it recovered classified– and top secret– documents from Trump’s home earlier this year. It makes perfect sense that The National Archives asked the Justice Department to investigate the former president to find out if he took anything else.