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Tweets that have aged extremely poorly, FBI executes search warrant at Mar-a-Lago edition
Not so long ago Republicans pretended to care about how classified information is handled.
Republicans are now angrily opposed to the FBI investigating presidential candidates. But they sang a very different tune six years ago.
It’s almost like their abiding principle is whatever they think will help them take or keep power.
On the heels of news that the FBI executed a search warrant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, prominent Republicans got busy portraying it as something akin to a combination of 9/11, Pearl Harbor, and JFK’s assassination. Their theory of the case is that a rogue FBI is working together with the Biden administration to take out Trump before he can retake the White House in 2025.
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But there’s a big problem with this line of thinking that I delved into yesterday — namely, that FBI Director Wray is anything but a Democrat. He’s a former George W. Bush administration official who was nominated to his current position by Trump and confirmed by Republicans. So the idea that he has it out for a Republican leader and is doing something other than following the facts doesn’t hold water.
Nonetheless, even Mike Pence, against whom a remorseless Trump incited a violent mob on January 6, pushed this conspiratorial narrative. On Tuesday he offered a string of tweets suggesting with no evidence that the raid was a product of “partisanship by the Justice Department.”
Pence now says he’s concerned that the appearance of political motivation undermines confidence in our system. But he didn’t have those worries back in October 2016, when the FBI reopened its investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails just days ahead of the presidential election, prompting an avalanche of bad press that arguably tipped the election to Trump. (You might recall that when Trump fired James Comey months later, his administration absurdly cited how unfairly he had treated Clinton as a reason.)
This Pence tweet from that time, somehow, is still up:
In short, Pence once at least paid lip service to the belief that “no one is above the law.” And yet here he is years later suggesting that Trump is just that.
It’s insane to believe anything other than Trump had this coming
Setting aside the fact that Trump has been a one-man crime spree dating back to well before he decided to run for office, news reports from February made clear that his handling of classified material as he left the White House under duress in January 2021 was highly problematic.
Reporting about the Mar-a-Lago search indicates it pertained to Trump’s handling of classified materials. While we still don’t know exactly what the FBI was looking for, we’ve already received hints they found incriminating stuff.
On Tuesday, two separate Trump attorneys went on right-wing TV shows and suggested, unprompted, that the FBI planted evidence in Mar-a-Lago.
Suffice it to say these are not the sorts of things you say if you’re confident investigators have bupkes.
But Republicans aren’t waiting for the facts to emerge. Instead, Pence and Kevin McCarthy are already running with a narrative that, as McCarthy put it in a tweet, “the Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.” McCarthy even went on to threaten Attorney General Merrick Garland, telling him to “preserve your documents and clear your calendar” — the implication being Republicans will make his life miserable if they retake the House majority next year.
Notice that nowhere in that statement does McCarthy express concern about Trump’s handling of classified material. But when McCarthy was trying to get Trump elected back in October 2016, he seemed to think it was a very big deal. Back then, he responded to the reopening of the Clinton email investigation by saying it showcased Clinton’s “fundamental lack of judgment and disregard for protecting and handling of our nation’s classified secrets.”
Not only are Republicans not waiting for facts before pushing wild conspiracy theories about the circumstances surrounding the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago search, but as Jim Banks explained on Laura Ingraham’s show, a dozen of them met with Trump at his Bedminster resort Tuesday to urge him to announce his presidential run ASAP.
It’s like bizarro Watergate where Republicans respond to damaging revelations about their party’s leader not by distancing themselves and ultimately nudging him to bow out of politics, but by rallying around him. And at this point every new incriminating revelation just seems to bond them to Trump even more.
“When you’re attacking FBI agents because you’re under criminal investigation, you’re losing”
I’d be remiss if I ended this newsletter about poorly aged tweets without citing this early November 2016 classic from Sarah Huckabee Sanders, which, like the Pence and McCarthy tweets above, referred to the FBI reopening the Clinton investigation.
But lo and behold, Sanders, now running for governor of Arkansas, responded to the Mar-a-Lago search warrant by suggesting it’s the result of “the total abuse of power from Democrats in Washington.”
The thing is, if Dems were really colluding with the DOJ and FBI to abuse their power, Trump could help make that clear quickly. As former US Attorney Barb McQuade explained on Twitter, while the DOJ can’t discuss a search warrant that’s under seal, Trump can share all the details he wants.
And yet instead of doing that, Trump’s lawyers are on TV suggesting the FBI planted evidence. You’d hope Republicans like Pence and McCarthy could see through this, but even now they insist on remaining on the Trump train, even as it continues to take our democracy off the rails.
That’s it for today
I’ll be back with more Friday.