Well, let’s take stock.
Recovered: one set of “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information” documents. Four sets of “Top Secret” documents. Three sets of “Secret” documents. Three sets of “Confidential” documents.
Alleged: violations of the Espionage Act. Obstruction of justice. Criminal handling of government records.
Add in unverified but widely-reported leaks that some of the material was related to somebody’s nuclear arsenal, as well as talk of pilfered “SIGINT” material, that is, signals intelligence, highly sensitive stuff the mere existence of which, if discovered, tends to betray sources and methods, and tips off adversaries that supposedly secure communications channels have been compromised, prompting them to “go dark” (a very serious side effect, most recently, of the disclosures made by Edward Snowden, whatever one thinks of him). Consider further the implication that copied material that isn’t just supposed to be “eyes only”, but viewable only within ultra-secure facilities known as SCIFs (for “sensitive compartmented information facilities”), was lying around Mar-a-Lago, a porous, anybody-with-the-dough-can-join country club known to have been penetrated in the past by foreign adversarial intelligence agencies, most of which, surely, have bought memberships – honestly, the place must have been crawling with spooks while Donald was still POTUS – and it does start to sound like Fat Donny could be in real trouble this time. I mean, real trouble. The sort that lands you in the slam. Here I was just yesterday urging caution, and now it begins to look like finally, at frigging last, Donald is going to get his for something, by no means the biggest thing, but remember how we got Capone on tax evasion, and if this time it’s for mishandling of classified documents, fine, whatever, so long as the moron winds up in the five bar motel. We’ll take it. And oh, wouldn’t it be glorious!
Uh-huh. Nope. Still not falling for it.
Go break somebody else’s heart, all you cable news pundits. I learned my lesson way back when the Mueller report landed like an octopus hurled from the cheap seats at a Red Wings game. Donald always skates. That’s a law of the Universe, like entropy, and the speed of light.
I admit, the way Trump and his GOP lickspittles are flailing, it sure does look like they’re all excrementally frightened, always a good sign. From claiming that the FBI planted evidence to trying to distract everybody with ridiculous allegations about what Obama stole when he left the White House – big, ugly lies that the National Archives refuted with admirable speed and vigour – they’re pulling out all the stops. It can’t be long before they start hollering about Obama’s birth certificate, Hillary’s e-mails, and Hunter Biden’s laptop, if they aren’t already. Would we be witnessing such a frenzy of shiny objects, conspiracy theories, lies, and whataboutisms if Donald wasn’t in real peril this time? They’re soiling their drawers! It’s Code Brown! We must really have him on the ropes!
It’s true, too, that an unusual level of legal peril is suggested simply by the occurrence of the search and seizure operation itself. Surely, they wouldn’t have taken such an unprecedented, incendiary step unless something awfully serious was at stake. Surely, no judge would have signed off on a warrant to ransack the home of an ex-President unless they had him dead to rights for something important. Something, perhaps, with grave national security implications?
Plus, look at the crimes they’re investigating! Violations of the Espionage Act? Whoa. That’s Big Magic. Nuclear secrets compromised? Yikes!! You get strapped into Old Sparky for that sort of thing, don’t you?
Yes, it’s all very promising.
No, I’m not getting my hopes up.
We’re a long, long way from an indictment, and just to get there, considering Donald’s next likely move, we’ve got to get past the general policy, recently reaffirmed by A.G. Garland, against DOJ interference in political campaigns. It’s not an outright prohibition, and indeed when it comes to Trump it may be full speed ahead regardless, given recent statements of the Attorney General, so hooray, but careful what you wish for. Putting Trump on trial at the same time he’s running for President would land us in an utterly uncharted cloud cuckoo land, therein to confront an unholy clusterfuck of practical, legal, and constitutional problems that hardly bear thinking about, even supposing we don’t also get another armed insurrection from the brainstems and mouth-breathers in the many MAGA militias. Can you imagine? What a circus it’d be. What a shit storm. Where do you even hold a trial like that? Doing so would involve some quite fundamental questions, like, how do you secure the building? How do you control the crowds? Can you imagine the hordes of gawkers, the screaming protestors for both sides, the media throngs? Antifa would probably be duking it out with the Proud Boys on the courthouse steps. Every nutbar in Christendom would show up. It’d make the O.J. trial look like a bridge tournament at the old folk’s home. You’d have to change the venue to Fort Frigging Knox.
Meanwhile, there’d probably be about 900 procedural and constitutional challenges, all of them appealed all the way to SCOTUS, sucking up months and months while Donald, almost certainly, takes the Republican nomination. And if he’s running, how does any of this even happen? Let’s assume he’s out on bail, and attends the trial during the day, while holding his campaign rallies at night, no doubt attacking the process and demonizing both the judge and the prosecuting lawyers, whose lives thus become threatened. Can Donald be ordered to shut up about the conduct of his prosecution? What if he won’t? Does his bail get revoked?
Then we’re into God knows how many months of Donald and whatever lawyers he can afford arguing he declassified everything on his way out the door, he didn’t pack the boxes and didn’t know what was in them, it wasn’t actually sensitive material anyway, and besides, the FBI planted it all, blah blah blah, none of which should work, but it runs out the clock to 2024, and then what? What if, before anything gets resolved, he gets himself elected? Donald would surely order a halt to his own prosecution, or attempt to pardon himself, but suppose for some reason – maybe the intervention of SCOTUS? – that doesn’t fly. Now what? You keep going with the trial? Even if it’s held that a President can’t pardon himself, is it lawful to proceed against him? How does that square with longstanding DOJ policy, based upon an analysis of the Constitutional framework conducted during Watergate, against even indicting a sitting President? That’s out the window too? On what basis? Can you then send a sitting President to prison? C’mon – how? He takes the nuclear football and the Secret Service detail with him to San Q? That can’t work. It’s not possible. Does he therefore get a suspended sentence instead? Or what? House arrest and he wears a lojack? Or maybe they stop the trial, and hope to pick it up again on the other side, supposing he doesn’t pull another coup and stay on as President for Life? One thing’s for sure, he won’t be convicted if the Dems manage to impeach him. We can’t get rid of him that way, so – what? None of this is even remotely within the contemplation of any laws now on the books, much less dealt with in their craptacular 18th century constitution.
Not that I wouldn’t be delighted to see it all go down. I’m just sayin’.
Meanwhile, I remain mystified by what Donald was hoarding, and why. I can’t come up with anything plausible. This talk of nuclear secrets in particular has me scratching my head, as of course that could be anything from war plans to submarine communication protocols, or indeed nothing so serious at all, if those rumours are even accurate, in which case what on earth was he planning to do with whatever it was? And this business about SIGINT – what sort of information could he possibly find useful? Useful for what? If it’s incriminating to him, why didn’t he just destroy it? If it’s for leverage over somebody else, what, he was planning to blackmail somebody? He hoped to sell the stuff at some point, and manage to keep that secret? It’s craziness – some Beefeater at the Tower of London might just as well try to fence the Crown Jewels. Is there a Saudi angle here? We know they were keen on nuclear technology transfers back when Donald was in office, but what could he possibly give them now? Documents? Why would they want documents? Is Donald still playing footsie with Putin? Or his good buddy in North Korea?
I’m at a loss, and I suppose it’s possible we might never really know, if Garland decides he doesn’t have enough to take anything to trial, or the sheer horrors of what comes next persuade him to let Donald off the hook. Maybe they reach a deal, something along the lines of “we don’t prosecute, and you don’t run again”. Or maybe, indeed, this time it’s different. Maybe he does go to trial. Maybe he gets convicted. Maybe, meanwhile, they also nail him for trying to rig the vote in Georgia, and get him on insurrection too, because God knows he’s guilty of all that and a whole lot more, from tax evasion to sexual assault, none of which has thus far come back to haunt him. Can such a bad actor really skate forever?
Maybe not. But yeah, maybe. Fat Donny in an orange jumpsuit? I’ll believe it when I see it.