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Perspective: The Mar-a-Lago raid is a risky move on Trump and a sobering moment for the country

Deseret News logo Deseret News 8/9/2022 Jennifer Graham
A man stands outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump said in a lengthy statement that the FBI was conducting a search of his estate and asserted that agents had broken open a safe. © Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press A man stands outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, Monday, Aug. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump said in a lengthy statement that the FBI was conducting a search of his estate and asserted that agents had broken open a safe.

While there is still much we don’t know about the FBI’s unannounced raid of former President Donald Trump’s West Palm Beach estate, we know this: Whether or not the action rises to the level of “prosecutorial misconduct,” as commentators on Fox News have already charged, it is a dangerous move that is seemingly unprecedented in U.S. history and will further inflame the nation’s highly charged political environment.

If Trump has broken the law, he must face the consequences. As David French wrote on Twitter, “Neither the former president nor the FBI are above the law,” and few people have seen the warrant that enabled the raid.

But if there’s thin justification for today’s events, the raid might guarantee the former president stays politically viable despite fallout from the Jan. 6 hearings.

Trump himself announced the news in a statement on Truth Social, saying that the FBI had searched his residence at Mar-a-Lago Monday morning, even breaking open a safe. The New York Times reported that Trump was not at home and was in New York at the time of the raid.

“After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate,” Trump wrote, adding, “Such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries.”

That idea was quickly echoed on social media and TV. “We’ve crossed the Rubicon to some extent,” Matt Whitaker, former acting attorney general under Trump, said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” adding, “This is something from banana republics, not the United States of America.”

And South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was not the only person to suggest that the move was political in nature, part of an effort to destroy Trump politically before he could again ascend to the White House.

“The Justice Department has two known active investigations connected to the former President, one on the effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and January 6, 2021, and the other involving the handling of classified documents,” CNN reported.

Initial reports suggest that material collected Monday was related to the investigation into classified documents and the president’s records.

While Trump supporters were decrying the action after the news broke, others pointed out that Christopher Wray, the FBI director, was appointed by Trump in 2017. When Wray’s appointment was announced, Trump called him “a man of impeccable credentials,” and legal analysts said that today’s raid would have likely been authorized by Wray and the current attorney general, Merrick Garland.

Speaking to Fox News personality Sean Hannity, however, Alan Dershowitz said when dealing with “a former president and future candidate,” prosecutors “darn well have smoking-gun proof” of wrongdoing before conducting an unannounced raid. He questioned why a raid was necessary, saying that a subpoena for the documents should have sufficed.

It’s certainly hard to overstate how apoplectic Trump’s opponents would have been if his Justice Department had authorized a raid on the residence of Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden.

With so much unknown, it’s vital to reserve judgment on what happened today at Mar-a-Lago. We the people are not yet privy to all the details.

But millions of people who voted for Trump in 2020 believe the former president when he tells them that the Jan. 6 committee hearings, the impeachments and other investigations into his dealings are a witch hunt. They will see today’s raid as politically motivated theater. And they will vote again for Trump, newly impassioned. Indeed, supporters were already gathering outside Mar-a-Lago Monday night.

Democrats, who were beginning to hope that Joe Biden’s prospects were ever so slightly improving, might now have more reasons to despair of November’s midterms and the presidential election of 2024.

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