IMMEDIATE RELEASE 12 Aug 2022WASHINGTON MERRY-GO-ROUNDToday’s Events in Historical PerspectiveAmerica’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932Times to try men’s soulsBy Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift WASHINGTON — As the American colonies were breaking with Great Britain in 1775, Thomas Paine published “The American Crisis” proclaiming, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” They were unusual times. The times today are unusual. A former president’s home has been searched, in part, to determine if he is guilty of espionage, yet at least a third of Americans refuse to even consider the possibility, and far right militias are calling for civil war based on the false narrative perpetuated by that former president that he is the victim of a government run amuck. In fact, former President Donald Trump took and withheld classified documents he is not entitled to have, and the FBI, an arm of the Department of Justice, conducted a legal search of his property to recover them. After Trump failed to turn over all the documents requested by the DOJ under one subpoena and a second subpoena requesting aerial footage of Mar-a-Lago an informant alerted the FBI there were more records, and where to find them, according to the Wall Street Journal. The head of that department, Attorney General Merrick Garland, is a former federal judge who operates by the book. In his time as AG, he has been criticized for being too cautious, so this action he authorized would be out of character unless something seriously jeopardizing national security is at stake. To obtain the search warrant, the DOJ had to convince a federal judge in the Southern District of Florida with evidence that a crime had likely been committed and, as a result, there was probable cause to search Trump’s home. According to the warrant, that crime included espionage. Agents carried away 12 boxes of documents and left a receipt documenting what they took. Trump could have released that receipt and the search warrant to the media and the American people. He failed to do so, but he did not object when Garland broke his silence to say the DOJ had filed a motion to unseal the search warrant and the property receipt related to Trump. It was a motion compelled by real world realities rather than department policies – an unusual situation in unusual times. Apparently, Trump did not object because he believes by claiming he declassified the documents he is in the clear. That is not the case. The most sensitive documents such as nuclear codes cannot be declassified by anyone, and other documents can only be declassified through a set procedure, which he failed to follow. So, here is the dilemma, If the Justice Department has evidence of espionage, immediate action must be taken. In such a case a suspect would not be left free to relay the absconded information or free to flee the country, which means the former president’s movements and communications are probably being monitored. The government may have the rule of law on its side, but so far Trump is commanding the air waves with charges that he is a victim, and that the Biden administration is no better than a Third World country administration trampling on his rights. Trump says the government is acting to prevent him from running for president in 2024, and except for a pro-forma statement from FBI Director Christopher Wray pushing back against the violent rhetoric against law enforcement, the Biden administration remained silent for three long days until Garland made his motion. Garland’s action appears justified. But he cannot assume that a country as divided as we are politically will give him the benefit of the doubt. That only works in normal times, and while it is well that Garland finally spoke up to assure the American people he is acting appropriately, the country is left to hold its breath until actual evidence is revealed. Meanwhile, there are armed militias running around, and Trump-endorsed far right Republican candidates continue to win primaries in key states. The assumption is that these candidates are too extreme to win in November, and that their elevation in the primaries is a good thing. Let’s hope that’s the case, but hope is not a strategy. The public needs to know what is at stake here, and soon. See Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers). Twitter: @douglas_cohn © 2022 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc. Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
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