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Too Much Liberal Silence on Mar-a-Lago

Updated: Aug 22, 2022

By Jessie Seigel / Washington, D.C.

A week ago, on Aug. 8, pursuant to a warrant legally issued by a federal judge in Florida, FBI agents entered former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago premises and retrieved 12 boxes of U.S. government documents that Trump had absconded with when he left office.

Then, all hell broke loose.

Trump characterized the perfectly legal search as his residence being “under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.” He called it a “weaponization of the Justice system,” and added, “such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World countries.”

That’s all it took for the Republican Trumpist machine—which includes the party’s entire hierarchy, these days—to get to work aping Trump’s words and projecting his fascist intentions onto his opponents.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy accused Attorney General Merrick Garland of “weaponization” of the DOJ, tweeting the retaliatory threat: “Preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”—a portent of what McCarthy will do if he becomes majority leader after the midterm election.

Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted: “Using government power to persecute political opponents is something we have seen many times from 3rd world Marxist dictatorships. But never before in America.”

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, a likely rival to Trump for the GOP presidential candidacy in 2024, nevertheless adopted the party line, tweeting: “The raid of MAL is another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents. Now the Regime is getting another 87K IRS agents to wield against its adversaries? Banana Republic.”

Republican Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado advocated for defunding the FBI. Even the New York Young Republican Club got in on that act, calling for the “total disintegration” of the FBI.

And Ari Fleischer, former President George W. Bush’s press secretary, chimed in, tweeting, “This better be a slam dunk criminal case, otherwise the Biden Administration and DOJ have crossed a line of no return...If they got the goods, announce it. Otherwise, this search on a former President’s home is a disgrace.”

The condemnations by these public figures along with Fox News and others’ promotion of incendiary propaganda has roused the right-wing rabble to a frenzy.

The Washington Post cited name-calling like Democratic “Gestapo” and “tyrannical FBI”; fear-mongering warnings like “no one is safe,” “You’re next,” and “They’re coming for YOU;” and such admonitions as “make sure these tyrants pay the price,” “destroy the FBI, “Summertime was made for killing fields,” “lock and load,” “Tomorrow is war,” and “Pick up arms, people.”

For once, one cannot blame the media for not doing its job. The New Yorker explained that it is a federal crime for someone who has custody of government documents to “willfully and unlawfully” conceal, remove, mutilate, obliterate, falsify, or destroy them.

MSNBC’s Ari Melber pointed out numerous officials before the Trump Administration who were prosecuted or pled guilty for illegally taking government documents that could compromise national security.

Others in the media have pointed out repeatedly that DOJ had to have probable cause and obtain a judge’s approval of the warrant. And Joe Scarborough, the co-host of Morning Joe, a former Republican, has plainly decried Trump and his so-called movement as “fascism.” The Daily Beast’s David Rothkopf wrote “Republican howls of protest in the wake of the FBI’s search of Trump’s Florida residence were as loud as they were cynical, hypocritical, and irresponsible.”

Some pundits argued that Attorney General Garland needed to speak out. Others pointed out that, in fairness to suspects, it is DOJ policy not to publicize its investigations. It can be argued that there is some merit to this policy. There may be solid strategic reasons for DOJ to take the path of a legal process moving inexorably forward in its quiet way no matter how Trump shouts, twists, or turns, trying to break free.

But what about those public officials who are not part of DOJ? Someone is needed to mount the defense of DOJ and the FBI—a role suited to Democratic loudmouths, if any could ever be found. Instead, the Democrats’ response has been muted or utterly mum, leaving the field for forming public opinion to Trump and his fascists. For three days, the Democrats allowed Republican lies to reign the news cycle. When anyone heard Trump’s and his cronies’ cries of so-called persecution and Gestapo tactics, there was a void where a booming, bellowing response should have been.

Is it any wonder, then, that in less than a week after the warrant was served, a gunman in body armor tried to breach the Cincinnati FBI office? He was killed in a cornfield after a chase ending in a standoff during which law enforcement tried and failed to get him to surrender and they exchanged gunfire.

Finally, on August 11, Garland publicly stated that he personally approved the search warrant, and that DOJ had filed a motion in the Southern District of Florida to unseal that warrant so that the public could learn its basis. He also staunchly denounced the attacks on FBI agents and DOJ prosecutors, calling them “dedicated, patriotic public servants” who “protect the American people from violent crime, terrorism, and other threats to their safety, while safeguarding our civil rights.”

On Friday, August 12, the warrant was unsealed. It was executed to investigate potential crimes associated with violations of the Espionage Act. Items removed from Mar-a-Lago included files marked top secret, some of which may be related to nuclear weapons.

Garland’s statement was needed, well-stated, and judicious, considering DOJ’s legal and policy obligations. And the unsealed warrant supports DOJ’s actions. But having the facts on your side is not enough when faced with rabble-rousing tweet wars. The country still needs other, vehemently passionate voices to speak up loudly and prevent reason from being drowned out by Trump and his cohorts. Otherwise, Trump’s lies will grip the nation by the throat and squeeze the last breath out of our nation’s democracy.


Political columnist Jessie Seigel had a long career as a government attorney in which she honed her analytic skills. She has also twice received an Artist’s Fellowship from the Washington, D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities for her fiction, and has been a finalist for a number of literary awards. In addition, Seigel is an associate editor at the Potomac Review, a reviewer for The Washington Independent Review of Books, and a dabbler in political cartoons at Daily Kos. Of this balance in her work between the analytic and the imaginative, Seigel jokes, “I guess my right and left brains are well-balanced.” More on and from Seigel can be found at The Adventurous Writer,

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