By Hossein Jelveh
When news broke that FBI agents had raided former US President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8, the shock reverberated across the United States, if not the world. Upon learning of the news, most people believed that the Justice Department, an arm of the Biden administration, must have had strong reason to green-light agents from the country’s internal security apparatus to search a former president’s private residence and go through his personal belongings in such unprecedented fashion.
The extraordinary raid was part of a monthslong investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents since he left the White House in January 2021.The information that is public in the case shows prosecutors were looking into whether Mr. Trump or his aides took secret government material to his residence in Palm Beach, Florida. According to unsealed documents, the FBI recovered 11 sets of classified files, including four that were marked “top secret.”
But it remains to be proven whether or not Mr. Trump took any of those documents with criminal intent. If no such intent is found, prosecution may be meaningless.
Still, the entry of the Justice Department and the person of Attorney General Merrick B. Garland into the case leaves little room to think that it has been a casual undertaking. In fact, Mr. Garland significantly ratcheted up the stakes when he said he personally approved the decision to seek the Mar-a-Lago search warrant. And Mr. Trump has accused the attorney general of carrying out a political “witch hunt.”
Given the brazen nature of the effort against Mr. Trump, some experts believe that political motivations may actually have been involved.
“Basically, the ‘probable cause’ that prosecutors used to convince the judge to sign the search warrant was based on a suspicion of criminality. That indeed is very telling,” said Hamid Javadi, a chief editor at Press TV’s website and a political expert on the United States. “Would the Justice Department have acted on the hunch if Trump had been on their side, in other words, a Democrat? Probably not.”
Although he earlier agreed to publicize the warrant used in the search, Mr. Garland has refused to release the affidavit, a more basic document that most likely includes the reason or reasons why prosecutors believed incriminating evidence could be found at Mar-a-Lago. The Justice Department has argued that that would undermine the investigation.
The raid and the subsequent conduct of the investigation quickly gave Mr. Trump and his supporters a wedge issue. The former president called the operation “an assault that could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries.” One Trump supporter issued death threats against FBI agents on a social media app popular with the far right. And Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader in the House, threatened to investigate Mr. Garland if the GOP wins the November 8, 2022 midterm elections.
Republicans and Democrats in the United States already agree on little domestically. And it is a chasm that grows by the day as the November elections draw close and as another Congressional investigation continues of whether Mr. Trump attempted to unlawfully change the results of the 2020 election that he lost.
While the FBI search and the broader investigation that it falls under are unrelated to the Congressional probe, the very fact that it is being conducted in such outstanding fashion is likely to affect arguments on both sides in that case as well. Mr. Trump’s supporters are likely to take the DOJ involvement and the FBI raid as proof that the former president is being treated unfairly. His opponents may argue that a president who takes secret documents after he loses an election could be potentially found to want to use them against his nemeses, including in a future presidential run.
Whatever comes out of the investigations, it is clear that the Democrats are involved in an exceptional gamble.
“Regardless of whether or not Trump has broken the law or misused the office of presidency,” Javadi said, “there’s no doubt that Democrats have primarily been driven by one motive, and that is to block Trump’s path to the White House, especially now that President Biden’s popularity is in decline and polls show most Americans, including many Democrats, would not want Biden to run for a second term.”
That risky undertaking by the Democrats can end up changing Mr. Trump’s fate, denying the 76-year-old another chance at the presidency. But the implications will be huge with regard to how the former president’s base or other aggrieved Republicans will react, and how the overall fissures in the United States will be affected.
Javadi said the investigation will likely galvanize Mr. Trump’s supporters “in the face of what they see as a deliberate attempt by Democrats to get Trump out of the picture.”
“But one thing is for sure,” he said, “this gamesmanship by Democrats and Republicans alike will only deepen the political divide in America.”
(The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Press TV.)