Jurisprudence

With the Trump Raid, Merrick Garland Draws a Line in the Sand

The resort in the background, the bird in the foreground.
A great egret stands near former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on February 11, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Around 7 p.m. Monday night, the tweets starting flying. The FBI had “raided” Donald Trump’s home in Palm Beach, Florida. Or so he said. And, trusted journalists who have access to the platforms that he still covets, said he said. And so we all retweeted. Then turned on the television for proof, and for details.

The FBI had arrived around 10 a.m. in plain clothes blending in with the few people who would be present in and around Mar-a-Lago in August. The club is officially closed for the summer, and few people would be wandering about outside, the temperature feeling at times like 100° plus with the humidity. The agents remained several hours to execute the search warrant that sought top-secret documents apparently pilfered by the former president on his way out of the White House in late January of 2021. Documents that may have originally been in the 15 boxes that he held onto for a full year before supposedly returning, despite efforts to get them back sooner. Areas searched in the residence included Trump’s personal office and safe. The planned “raid” was kept close. Not even the Biden White House or local law enforcement were told in advance. The FBI only warned the Secret Service just before arriving.

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But we didn’t know all those details at first. At first it was all vibes. Oh. My. God. Is this happening? Shock and awe.

All we had in those first glorious minutes before reporters from the New York Times and Washington Post filled in the missing pieces, were basic facts and related inferences. Fact. A judge approved a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. Inferences. Ever-cautious Attorney General Merrick Garland must have signed off on this. And he and a judge were convinced there was probable cause of a federal crime. Particular evidence to be found on site. But what crime? So many to choose from. And which documents? Anything was possible. And would this result in an indictment? And, did that even matter?

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But it was fine not to know. It felt good to just feel so good. It had been a week of landmark legislation to tax corporations, fight climate change, protect veterans, invest in the semiconductor industry, and more. Like the Passover song, Dayenu: It would have been enough. And now the FBI at flipping Mar-a-Lago. And Garland drawing a line in the sand.

Where will this lead? It is unclear. And I’m okay with that. My friend Mary Trump cautioned that it is too soon for schadenfreude. But she also said of her uncle “This may be the very first time in his life that he’s not protected. He’s not protected by the office anymore, he’s not protected by the banks anymore, he’s not protected by his father anymore” and this put him in the position to be subject to a search warrant.

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And, one thing is for sure, something has shifted. As Mary noted, after Monday night, we learned that the playing field is a little more level than it was before. The words “no one is above the law,” always an aspiration, was now looking like a reality.

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After five plus years tracking the potential legal troubles of this deranged narcissist, I had finally come around a couple weeks ago to the conclusion that we should actually trust Garland, and I was beginning to detach from my hobby of collecting all Donald details to work on new research projects. I was able to finally put down my Mueller investigation spreadsheets and their attendant spreadsheets: Civil RICO. Campaign finance violations. Seeking Russia’s help to interfere in the 2016 election. Emoluments. Hatch Act. Obstruction of the special counsel investigation. Bribery. Seeking help from Ukraine to interfere in the 2020 election. Conspiracy to defraud the United States. Obstruction of a Congressional Proceeding. Seditious Conspiracy.

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I cannot even accurately count the number of opinion pieces and tweet threads I’ve written, academic talks, interviews I’ve given, that focus on Trump’s post-election misconduct. And, I’ve tried. Even my recent book on white collar crime called Big Dirty Money devotes space to his pre-election predation, concluding that had he been held accountable for his many bad deeds before he first ran for president, he would have spent time in federal prison and not the Oval Office.

All of that plus the books and articles and court decisions and reports. A mind and office shelves and drawers jam-packed with information. And, nothing, nothing getting anywhere. A pressure cooker of infinite details and theories. Suffocating.

Then last night, the sky broke open and it began to rain. A rain of joy, and of memes, and of hopes. There will be time for “a hundred visions and revisions.” In the meantime, I’m singin’ in the rain. What a glorious feeling. I’m happy again.

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