Special to USAfrica magazine (Houston) and USAfricaonline.com, first Africa-owned, US-based newspaper publisher on the Internet
Attorney Ken Okorie is an Editorial Board member of USAfrica
History was made early August 8, 2022, the anniversary of another historic August 8, when Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency in 1974. FBI agents raided the Mar-A-Lago home of former president, Donald J. Trump in Palm Beach, Florida. Police search of a home, any home, is news. But FBI descending on the home of a number one chief law enforcement officer of the land, current or former, is not just unusual it does not happen. The search at Mar-a-Lago is a big deal, much bigger news.
One would have to go back 50 years to the Watergate days to find anything of slight semblance. Watergate was the infamous scandal in which President Richard Nixon and his advisors conspired and broke into the Democratic Party Campaign headquarters. Nixon subsequently tried coverup but the scandal spiraled to his resignation on August 8, 1974.
No president since Nixon has been the target of humiliating criminal investigation of the Trump magnitude, at least not openly. But then which other president has conducted as unlawfully and audaciously as has Donald J. Trump?
The Fourth Amendment to the US Constitution prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures”. This is has been interpreted to mean that police cannot search a person or their property without a warrant or probable cause.
Probable cause is shown through a warrant, the tool for law enforcement to gather evidence on an alleged crime. Application for a search warrant must be supported by affidavit sworn to show any one of four things: (a) evidence of a crime (b) contraband, fruit of crime or other items illegally possessed, (c) property designed for use, intended for use, or used in committing a crime; or (d) a person to be arrested or a person who is unlawfully restrained.
Before signing a warrant, a judge (in this case federal judge or magistrate) must have been satisfied as to these requirements. Neither the police, FBI, Attorney General, nor other agency can execute a search warrant except it is duly approved by a judge. Certainly not a warrant on a former president of the USA!
An application for a warrant must evidence one of the four listed elements. The search on Mar-a-Lago must have met this requirement to be proper.
Other than his typical deflection that the search is political, Trump and his supporters are yet to suggest a defect in the warrant. One can, therefore, conclude it was lawful hence Trump has reason to worry.
To be clear, the search does not of itself establish that Trump is guilty of a crime. No, rather not yet. Warrant is not proof of an offense, but often paves the way to establishing guilt.
This search is strong statement that (a) Trump is the subject of an active investigation for a crime for which (b) law enforcement (FBI and prosecutors) believe, and did convince a judge, that evidence (documentary or otherwise) thereof can be found at the Trump residence. What that crime is, will become known in time.
Because Mar-a-Lago is residence of a former President, federal government has serious interest in the property, and is protected by The Secret Service. A tight web of collaboration and cooperation among a spectrum of agencies must have been secured before execution of the warrant.
As a candidate for president, Trump reportedly said at a campaign stop at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa on January 23, 2016: “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters.” He also promised to “drain the swamp in Washington”.
As it turned out, Trump used his presidency to pollute almost every institution that is legal and decent about America’s system of governance. He altered and violated nearly every rule of behavior known.
Hardly a day has gone by without new revelation of Trump’s indiscretions, defiance, and unlawfulness.
His extraordinarily defiant disposition earned Trump a Teflon texture never known in American politics. He routinely and ceaselessly lives it up, despite being twice impeached in one term! He serially gets away with just about anything, unrepentant, exuding confidence, arrogance, yet retains die-hard followership. This is because supporters, leveraging a rare mix of fear and admiration for his boldness, see nothing wrong in anything Trump does. When they do, they can’t speak! Whether a peculiar cult-like spell or Mafioso air is beyond my comprehension.
Ted Cruz, Lindsay Graham, and even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are examples of political rivals and non-fans that cowered, singing his praises and daring not to utter one word of disapproval condemnation. No sooner than any attempts than he eats back his words. Trump is the enigma tiny few in the Republican establishment has dared or had the courage to engage. He exudes authority over their future. It is indeed an incredible phenomenon that elevates the rare courage of Congresswoman Liz Cheney, Vice Chair of the January 6 Select Committee, to equally historic heights. Ms. Cheney is determined and dogged in quest to set history straight on Trump.
As has become known to be Trump’s nature and also infected spineless, morally bankrupt weaklings of his Republic Party in Capitol Hill, cries of partisan politicization of the DOJ are already coming about the search at Mar-a-Lago. That is what the Republican Party has become: a traumatized entity that lost its bearing and is no longer able to decipher right from wrong.
Howbeit, America has two imperatives that never excuse or let anything trifle fall through the crack, however wide or narrow. One is that everyone is beneath the law and none is above, not even Trump. The other is that truth is sacrosanct. America will understand, even forgive or excuse an offense, however, heinous. But presenting above the law or lying is intolerable. One can get away with anything but cannot be above the law or lie one’s way out of it. These two imperatives underpin American democracy. If there is such a thing as American Exceptionalism, they are its essence.
Trump’s biggest challenge is that he is seriously vulnerable on both counts. He believes and acts like he is above the law and can with impunity get away with anything. His comfort with lying and distortion of truth is so innate one can’t but wonder how he survived this long! Recent January Congressional Committee revelations reaffirmed these attributes. My prognosis is a very steep mountain of legal troubles ahead for Trump. Untangling from its web will thoroughly challenge his evil genius.
Disaster loading with “a sitting President asking for civil war.” By Chido Nwangwu