Former President Donald Trump, with the help of his lawyers, launched a counteroffensive after the search of his residence in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. Meanwhile, polls show that the scandal has not diminished Trump’s popularity.
FBI agents collected dozens of boxes of classified documents from the residence, which the former president allegedly kept at his home illegally after leaving office rather than send them to the National Archives. On Monday, Donald Trump sued the Department of Justice, which ordered the search. Trump demanded the court appoint a special master, a lawyer who would review the confiscated material and and seek an explanation of the grounds for the search.
Trump Took His Time
Experts said a special master was legitimate as this is a matter involving independent government control of its activities. Trump, however, accused the FBI of being politically motivated, and accused the agents of taking certain documents that were not justified, including his passport. (It was returned soon after.) The special master is expected to identify any seized items that Trump’s lawyers claim are allegedly protected by executive privilege. This suggests that law enforcement does not have access to these records. Trump’s lawyers have also argued the search was unnecessary because Trump cooperated with authorities and returned subpoenaed materials. Some defense attorneys add that, as a former president, he had the right to declassify documents.
Most lawyers commenting on the search have strongly rejected these arguments. The Department of Justice sought to avoid a search and asked Trump to voluntarily hand over the materials in question. In January, he returned the first 15 boxes of documents, including classified material from the CIA and the National Security Agency, a year after Trump left office. In May, he was asked to hand over the next batch of documents. In early June, Department of Justice officials showed up at Mar-a-Lago, spoke to Trump, and persuaded him to hand over another installment. According to the congressional Presidential Records Act, all official presidential material is owned by the U.S. government and must be archived upon leaving office.
28 Boxes and 300 Top Secret Documents
After talking to Trump’s entourage, Justice Department prosecutors realized there were still documents missing. In the belief that the former president was lying to authorities, the department took the unprecedented step of searching Trump;s residence on Aug. 8. FBI agents removed 28 boxes of documents, including top-secret material. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that more than 300 documents classified as top secret have been recovered since January. It is not known exactly what data they contain. According to unconfirmed information last week, the records include information about nuclear weapons. Experts note that if these documents pertained to weapons from the U.S. arsenal, it would pose a huge security threat to the country, particularly because Trump more than once mishandled state secrets by tweeting information useful to America’s enemies. Trump’s son, Don Trump Jr. recently said that the nuclear codes were safer in his father’s hands than in the hands of the current president.
Trump and his henchmen are asking the government to disclose the affidavit submitted in support of the search. The search warrant for Mar-a-Lago was made available to the public, but it is brief and states that it was ordered only because there was reasonable suspicion that a crime had been committed.
The affidavit can provide exactly what the FBI was looking for in the dozens of pages that supported probable cause to issue the search warrant.. Normally such documents are not disclosed where confidentiality is involved, but the Department of Justice has stated that it is prepared to publish a redacted version to protect sensitive information. A federal judge in Florida with authority over the matter said documents that are overly redacted might not be worth releasing.*
GOP Voters Are Already Mobilizing
The search in Florida sparked a political storm. Analysts are wondering if it will have consequences for Trump and this year’s congressional midterm elections. His faithful supporters, as well as mainstream Republican politicians who are trying to distance themselves from Trump backed the former president. Radical right-wing members of Congress, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz and Trump’s supporters on Fox News such as Sean Hannity, declared that their idol was being politically prosecuted. Hannity called on the Biden administration to disclose the grounds for the search, a move that was seen as suggesting the president was being harrassed.
Following the search, Trump called a senior Justice Department official to ask him to warn Attorney General Merrick Garland that the “raid” on the Mar-a-Lago residence had caused “anger” across the country. Experts aid that this kind of phone call could implicate Trump in the crime of intimidating authorities. The anger of Trump’s fans, fueled by him and his people, is a fact, however. The blogosphere swarmed with threats and against FBI agents, comparing them to the KGB and the Gestapo.
One thing is certain: If any liberal Democrat thinks the scandal over removing confidential documents will reduce Trump’s chances of returning to the White House, they’re definitely wrong. The search has further mobilized the electorate ahead of the November congressional elections. Polls show that the scandal has not undermined Trump’s popularity in the Republican Party, and now an even larger number of voters are backing him as a 2024 presidential candidate than are supporting Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the choice of the GOP establishment. Observers say he search increased the likelihood that Trump would run for office again.
Okay, someone may interject here, after all, a former president can be formally charged with serious crimes! Hannity said on his radio program that the Constitution does not prohibit Trump from making a presidential run even if found guilty and imprisoned. He did not mention, however, that a criminal record would prevent him from holding the highest office if he won.
*Editor’s note: On Aug. 25, a federal judge ordered that a redacted version of the affidavit used to obtain the seartch warrant for Trump’s residence be unsealed.