Why The Trump Search Warrant And Civil Trial Matter


Why The Trump Search Warrant And Civil Trial Matter


Leonard Zwelling

It doesn’t take much of an effort to hear about the raid upon Mr. Trump’s compound in Mar-A-Lago and his invoking of the Fifth Amendment in a civil suit in New York. What does matter is that the former President be treated fairly, legally, and without prejudice. While he is not above the law, neither should he be victimized by overzealous prosecutors or an out-of-control Justice Department. From what I can tell so far, neither is the case. The search warrant was cleared by the Attorney General, probably the FBI Director, and a federal judge. We all will have to wait to see what was in the warrant and what was actually found, if anything. It does not sound like we will learn much about the affidavit to get the warrant—the probable cause. The Justice Department wants that to remain sealed because revealing it may sully their on-going investigation.

Similarly, Mr. Trump is innocent of any civil misdeeds until proven guilty. His use of the Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination cannot be interpreted as him being guilty of anything.

Now, all that being said, his behavior during the campaign and after the election, in the run-up to January 6 was horrendous and worthy of the still-on-going investigation by the House Committee. I believe that Speaker Pelosi made a major error in not allowing Minority Leader McCarthy his picks to sit on this committee. Instead, we have received a one-sided presentation of the case against Mr. Trump presented by a panel of Democrats and two Republicans (and some great TV producing) who hate the former President. This committee has unearthed a ton of details that indicate that Mr. Trump was responsible for what happened on January 6, not so much by what he said before the insurrection reached The Capitol on that day, but by how he encouraged his followers to descend on Washington and to do so with arms in the weeks prior to January 6. Whether what he did was illegal will rest on the Department of Justice making the case before a grand jury at some point in the future and seeing whether that grand jury hands down an indictment. Merrick Garland needs to get all his ducks in a row if he really wants to prosecute a former President especially if that trial overlaps with the campaign season that leads up to the 2024 election for Mr. Trump is undoubtedly running again. I believe that his reluctance in make the warrant to search Mar-A-Lago public is to allow him to make his best case when the time comes.

Mr. Garland has to carefully weigh whether he has sufficient evidence to bring the case to a federal court room and whether to do so would be overly traumatic to the nation. I actually never thought President Ford should have pardoned Nixon and never doubted that the country could have handled Nixon as an indicted co-conspirator in a court room. I think the same here. If Garland has the evidence, go to trial. If he does not, forget about it. Garland may not be ready to let everyone know his strategy by revealing the probable cause that got him his warrant. Fair enough.

Mr. Trump is still going to have to make the case that a man of his temperament and age is what the American public want in the White House. Mr. Biden has to make a similar calculus as he is even older than Mr. Trump.

If either gentleman really wanted to spare the country additional trauma, they would both step aside and give new blood an open chance at the Presidency. In essence, the present has passed both men by. Trump has a rabid following, but that following may not be enough to get him a win in the Electoral College. It wasn’t in 2020, but that was before this economic bad news wrapped in Covid fatigue captured the country. Mr. Biden doesn’t even have that. As long as gas prices are high, groceries are even higher, and home owning is an ever more distant dream for so many Americans, Biden can sign all the bills he wants. It won’t help.

One thing is for sure though. The election in 2024 would be a lot more competitive and probably more issue-oriented if neither Mr. Trump nor Mr. Biden ran. If it takes convicting Mr. Trump to get him on the sidelines, so be it. If it takes the Democrats convincing Mr. Biden that their interest would best be served by someone other than the incumbent, well they need to get to work on that.

But above all, make sure that Trump gets a fair shake even as he has given so few others the same. “With liberty and justice for all.”

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