Failure to find a smoking gun will improve his 2024 prospects
“If you come at the king, you’d best not miss” immediately springs to mind in the wake of the FBI’s surprise raid of Donald Trump’s Palm Beach estate yesterday, apparently as part of an investigation into whether he took classified records from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.
On the one hand, the stench of corruption has followed Trump from his days as a Queens real estate developer to his period as occupant of the White House as the nation’s 45th President. On the other, repeated attempts to impeach Trump — not once, but twice — when the full force of the US government was deployed against him, failed abysmally. So, it is difficult to escape the feeling of judicial overkill when it comes to the FBI’s latest investigation.
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Even some Democrats have questioned the FBI’s actions. Former NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (no stranger to hyped charges by the press that were subsequently dismissed), tweeted that the Justice Department must immediately start explaining itself or risk becoming the very thing that conservatives accuse it of: a political tool to harass Republicans. Similarly, former Democratic presidential candidate, Andrew Yang, warned that the FBI “raid strengthens that case for millions of Americans who will see this as unjust persecution”.
Needless to say, the GOP is promising payback if they secure a majority in the House or Senate (or both) after November’s mid-terms, with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy vowing to investigate the FBI and Attorney General Merrick Garland. But the real rage has come from Trump’s base; hours after the Feds searched the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home, his supporters gathered outside in an impromptu rally: Trump flags flew, pickups roared and “We’re Not Gonna Take It” blared.
It doesn’t take a swivel-eyed conspiracist to understand the suspicions of Trump’s base. From Russiagate onwards, the FBI (and other intelligence agencies such as the CIA), have consistently failed to find the smoking gun that would have validated their repeated accusations and investigations of Trump. Robert Mueller was given unlimited powers to investigate the former President and, in the end, came up with nothing that would justify impeachment. To the retort that “there’s no smoke without fire”, it should be noted that Democrats, and their allies in the mainstream press, did much to fan those flames, all the while ignoring the underlying reasons for Trump’s continued popularity among the so-called “Deplorables”.
Either way, this appears to be the overwhelming assumption among Democrats, as encapsulated by Obama presidential advisor David Axelrod: “One thing is very clear. Garland would not have authorised this raid, and no federal judge would have signed off on it, if there weren’t significant evidence to warrant it.”
Axelrod better be right. Failure to do so will almost certainly enhance Trump’s presidential chances in 2024 and turn him into a martyr. During his first term, Trump was able to exploit both attempts at impeachment and use them for his re-election campaign. This raid could well serve the basis for his 2024 campaign. In doing so, it will unleash political chaos to a degree that made the 2016-2020 period seem like child’s play.