August 9, 2022 Wayne Northey

Perspective On: The Mar-a-Lago Raid Proves the U.S. Isn’t a Banana Republic

A bedrock principle is that no one—not even the president, much less the former president—is above the law, and if they commit crimes, they must answer for them.

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By David A. Graham

AUGUST 8, 2022

image above: nbcnews.com

WN: There is a great punchline to the article highlighted below.

While the sheer buffoonery of Trump and acolytes in a normal universe would have him laughed off the American and world stages, he remains instead Public Enemy Number One in America and in the world.

Lord, in your mercy . . .

Please see this brief commentary in:

🤷  Several right wing figures compared the FBI’s Monday raid of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort to the actions of the German police. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former Trump advisers Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon, and Rep. Paul Gosar, a Republican from Arizona, used terms like “East German Stasi,” “brown shirts” and the “Gestapo.” (Twitter)

🎖️  Speaking of which … while in the White House, Trump wanted his Pentagon’s brass to be like Nazi Germany’s generals, according to a forthcoming book by journalists Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. In an excerpt of the book published in The New Yorker, the authors quote Trump’s former chief of staff, John Kelly, who recalled reminding the president that Hitler’s own military tried to assassinate him “three times and almost pulled it off.” Trump’s reply: “No, no, no, they were totally loyal to him.” (JTA)1

@Angry_Staffer
Trump: Those are mine!
11th Circuit: Nope. They’re the government’s.
Trump: But I declassified them.
11th: No, and also: still the government’s if you did.
Trump: But I want them.
11th: People in hell want ice water.

This article also is very helpful in giving perspective: U.S. joins other democracies in investigating former leaders, by Ishaan Tharoor with Sammy Westfall Email. We read:

If you were immersed in the right-wing media ecosystem of the United States, you would think the end times had come. The Monday evening FBI search on former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Florida was “the worst attack on this republic in modern history,” declared Fox News host Mark Levin. That remarkable demonstration of myopia was followed by a slate of Republican lawmakers who insisted that if Trump was not safe from investigation, neither were ordinary Americans.

The FBI was acting Monday with a search warrant signed by a federal judge, apparently as part of an investigation — a rarity in the annals of former U.S. presidents but relatively common in much of the world — into the potential mishandling of classified White House documents, some top secret. Trump might have taken them to his private golf club residence, it appears, rather than sending them to the National Archives, as is mandated by the Presidential Records Act. Though Trump, in a statement, likened the search to Watergate, neither he nor his lawyers had yet to release details of the warrant they were served.

There’s no evidence Trump’s political opponents, let alone President Biden, demanded the search. As my colleagues catalogued, Trump, who was impeached twice and has a long history of legal troubles, is involved in a sprawling series of investigations into his political and personal conduct. He also, at times, showed open disregard for the rule of law while in office — raging at U.S. generals to start shooting protesters on the streets of Washington, according to a forthcoming book by journalists Peter Baker and Susan Glasser.

Republican lawmakers seemed unencumbered by the irony, let alone rank hypocrisy, of representing the faction that openly called for the prosecution of its chief presidential campaign opponents not long ago. Only now that Trump is feeling the squeeze do they have cause for outrage. “Using government power to persecute political opponents is something we have seen many times from 3rd world Marxist dictatorships,” tweeted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) “But never before in America.”

The history of executive power in the United States is replete with conspiratorial intrigues, skulduggery and acts of corruption. It is true that very few U.S. presidents have been held accountable for alleged criminal acts — former president Richard M. Nixon, for example, received a full pardon just weeks after he departed office. But the Republican pearl-clutching over the current administration replicating the habits of autocratic regime elsewhere ignores the obvious counterexample — that it is normal for healthy democracies to investigate, convict and sometimes imprison their former leaders. Indeed, the principle that no one is above the law is a fundamental cornerstone of all democracies.

Often, investigations into the alleged misdeeds of former presidents have served as a litmus test for democracies. In South Africa, the prosecution of former president Jacob Zuma on a string of corruption charges was widely viewed as a necessary move to bolster rule of law in the country. On the other hand, the Brazilian investigation and conviction of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has become irrevocably tainted as one shaped by political bias. Lula, no longer in prison, may find vindication this year in presidential elections where polls show him holding a commanding lead.

In Asia, countries that have looked to the United States for inspiration and support in building their democracies have prosecuted and imprisoned their former presidents. In 2009, a Taiwanese court gave former president Chen Shui-bian a life sentence after he and his wife were found guilty of embezzling funds and receiving bribes that were laundered through overseas banks. The sentence was later commuted to 20 years, and Chen received medical parole in 2015 on condition that he not participate in political life.

“A high-profile example of accountability would indeed strengthen U.S. democracy, not undermine it, and boost the rule of law,” tweeted Arturo Sarukhán, a former Mexican ambassador to the United States. He added that such accountability also “ensures the U.S. doesn’t speak out of both sides of its mouth when it pursues these values abroad.” (As do Western democracies routinely . . .)

Please also see: Special Master Judge Dearie Issues Order, September 24, 2022. We read:

Following the first hearing in the case of Donald J. Trump v. United States of America, held on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, Special Master Judge Raymond J. Dearie has issued his first order on the case.  The Case Management Plan and Order, issued September 22th, sets forth a deadline for the parties to produce documents, which are the subject of disputed claims . . .

excerpts:

Donald Trump would have you believe that Monday’s surprise FBI raid on his Florida estate was, like so many things he disdains, un-American.

Trump is right that nothing like this has ever happened to a former president of the United States before—he always omits the former, a way of refusing to acknowledge that he lost the 2020 election—but he’s wrong about what it means about the rule of law in the United States.

Trump was always more banana republican than Reagan or Lincoln Republican. Unlike his presidential predecessors, and despite his open disdain for Latin America and Latin Americans, he often styled himself as a sort of caudillo, trying to rule with an iron fist, circumvent the Constitution and legislature, enlist the military into his schemes, and use the power of the state to further his own electoral and personal fortunes. Just today, Susan Glasser and Peter Baker reported on how Trump pushed the military to conduct the sort of garish parades that, as one general put it, characterize foreign dictatorships, and complained that U.S. generals were not as loyal to him as Hitler’s top brass was to the führer. And at the end of his term, Trump retired to a palatial estate fringed by palm trees to plot his next moves.

In a real banana republic, he might have hoped to live with impunity—as long as he could outwit his political opponents’ schemes. Instead, Trump has found himself beset on many sides. He was impeached, a second time, after leaving office; a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, continues to investigate his meddling in vote-counting after the election; the New York attorney general is investigating his company, and will soon depose him; and a House committee is probing his attempt to overturn the election and pressuring the Justice Department to bring charges against him related to that. (The DOJ has refused to comment on any related investigations.)

“What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democrat National Committee?” Trump asked in his statement. But this question is simple enough that any AP U.S. History student could easily manage it: Watergate was an illegal break-in conducted by a team of political operatives, not law-enforcement agents with judicially approved warrants, working for an FBI director appointed by Trump.

In a real banana republic, he might have hoped to live with impunity.

For all Trump’s bluster, he hasn’t been charged with any crimes. If he is, he will have every opportunity to defend himself in court. (Contrast that with his own disdain for due process for other people accused of crimes.) Some legal scholars are nervous about the precedent set by potentially prosecuting a former president. But the precedent set by giving him a free pass by virtue of his electoral history would be even more troubling.

Watergate was an illegal break-in conducted by a team of political operatives, not law-enforcement agents with judicially approved warrants, working for an FBI director appointed by Trump.

Even though Trump’s rise to the White House in 2016 owed much to “her emails”—Hillary Clinton’s sloppy handling of classified records—his administration was particularly brazen about not maintaining records from the start. Trump ripped up documents at will, leaving teams to comb through the scraps and literally tape them together. On Monday, Axios published photos that appeared to show notes in a toilet. In recent weeks, news reports have brought attention to the destruction of records by the Secret Service, Pentagon, and Department of Homeland Security relating to the January 6 insurrection.

Over four years in office, Trump’s behavior was often egregious. . .

Please click on: The Mar-a-Lago Raid

Footnotes
  1. Further to this quote, one reads in that article as well:

    A U.S. president speaking admiringly of Nazi Germany’s military prowess is unusual considering it was largely employed for the systematic mass slaughter of Europe’s Jews, but Trump was known for prizing staff loyalty above all else. This made his military officers uncomfortable, yet many of them continued to stick around, according to the book.

    Milley, for example, drafted a letter of resignation the week after he accompanied Trump on a militarized photo-op to a Washington, D.C., church at the height of the nationwide Black Lives Matter protests during the summer of 2020, writing that the president is “ruining the international order” formed on the back of an earlier generation that “has fought against fascism, has fought against Nazism.” Yet Milley stayed in his role, and today remains chairman of the Joint Chiefs under President Joe Biden.

    In the run-up to the 2020 election, Milley also feared that Trump might seek out a “Reichstag moment” to exploit his own lies about the election being rigged, referring to Adolf Hitler’s propagandistic exploitation of the Reichstag fire in 1933 as justification for seizing control of Germany. Milley even believed Trump’s behavior to be “Hitler-like,” according to the book. His fears included that the president could declare martial law or invoke the Insurrection Act; Milley secretly communicated with a back channel of administration and military officials in attempts to keep the peace.

    Trump’s volatility in the period after the election was also provoked by Israel’s then-prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Milley, who believed that Netanyahu was trying to provoke the president to launch a military strike against Iran before he left office. In a conversation Glasser first reported in the New Yorker last year, Milley said he personally confronted Netanyahu in Jerusalem and told him to back off, then warned Trump, “If you do this, you’re going to have a f–king war.”

    Several attempts to assassinate Hitler were made by German military officers during World War II, of which the most famous ones were the Oster Conspiracy of 1938 and Colonel Claus Schenk von Stauffenberg’s bomb plot of 1944.[]

Always appreciate constructive feedback! Thanks.