Trump’s raid plunged the FBI to historic lows last seen when the agency set out to destroy Martin Luther King

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Last week, dozens of armed FBI agents raided President Trump’s personal residence, Mar-a-Lago, seizing more than 20 boxes, some of which are believed to contain classified documents, including top secret files.

The FBI raid on the former president’s home was another nail in the coffin of public trust in the government, which is already at rock bottom.

Only two in ten Americans say they trust the government in Washington to do the right thing “almost always” (2%) or “most of the time” (19%).

It has been that way for much of the 21st century.

Back to their old tricks

In my view, the raid on Trump’s house is the FBI’s worst abuse of power since Director J. Edgar Hoover set out to destroy civil rights leader Martin Luther King with wiretapping and blackmail in the 1960s. (closely followed by the siege of Ruby Ridge in 1992 and the siege of Waco in 1993 – if we keep the score).

From the March on Washington in 1963 until his assassination in 1968, the office, with the complicity of Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson, engaged in an intense campaign to discredit Dr. King and his legacy, primarily for his position anti-Vietnam war.

The FBI’s campaign against the civil rights leader started with wiretaps and grew from there.

When wiretaps revealed King was having an extramarital affair, the FBI focused on uncovering evidence of his infidelity by bugging and taping his hotel rooms and paying informants – the FBI prefers informants to whistleblowers – to spy on him.

Eventually, the Bureau anonymously sent King some of the tapes, suggesting that he should kill himself.

Only an assassin’s bullet in Memphis on the evening of April 4, 1968, ended the FBI’s harassment of the Nobel laureate.

The battle begins

Trump still had a game to play.

When the former president said he would not object to the Justice Department’s decision to release the search warrant used to carry out the raid, Attorney General Merrick Garland took the bait and led the way. to publicize the FBI’s legal authorization to search Trump’s home. in Florida.

The attorney general, a member of the Biden cabinet and seventh in line for the presidential succession, then took the unprecedented step of announcing that he had personally approved the decision to seek a search warrant in the case, presumably after the failure of “less intrusive”. attempts to retrieve documents taken from the White House.

So what’s in a hurry?

GOP leaders, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (FR), say the raid was a ruse, a thinly veiled pretext to seek evidence, perhaps the proverbial “irrefutable gun” of the January 6 hearing on the insurrection.

Time is running out, according to Rubio and others, as Democratic-led hearings have less than 12 weeks to recommend an impeachment of the 45th president or someone close to him, aimed at swaying midterms in November.

The Democrats’ plans to do away with Trump have backfired horribly.

A few months ago, half of Republicans were complaining about Trump, talking about moving on; since the raid, the entire party has rallied around Trump, with 80% saying they are more motivated than ever to vote midterm in November.

The raid ended his presidency in 2024.

what goes around comes around

America, like many troubled places on planet Earth, has become a place where politicians seek to imprison the opposition, while their supporters are labeled and hunted.

It doesn’t matter who started it, it only matters how it ends.

Republicans need just 218 House seats to open their own impeachment proceedings – America’s latest bloodsport – and begin the process of criminalizing the opposition.

The Democratic frontrunners who chased Trump through two impeachments, the Mueller report and the Jan. 6 hearing can expect to be hoisted on their own firecracker.

Half of America thinks the attempt to discredit Trump is political hacking and that the raid is a desperate last-ditch effort to keep Trump from getting re-elected.

Instead, the raid gave Trump not just a one-time campaign promotion, but campaign fundraising gold.

Alongside the Second Amendment (the right to bear arms), Americans love their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search or seizure of their property.

The image of the FBI kicking down the door to a man’s house and castle — and with a safe cracker in tow — isn’t a good optic.

What is it about

The FBI is said to have recovered documents labeled “top secret” and “compartmentalized sensitive information” from Trump’s estate – 11 sets of classified documents in all.

Justice’s alleged biggest concern was that allowing highly classified materials, whether extremely sensitive operations or closely held technology or capabilities, to remain in Trump’s possession could make them vulnerable to the efforts of foreign adversaries to acquire them.

This is the cover story.

The search warrant reveals something far more sinister.

The agents were also authorized to seize – and this is the catch – “any government and/or presidential document created between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021”.

This is what the January 6 hearing was all about.

Since only 1-3% of presidential papers and records are deemed historic enough to be preserved forever by the National Archives, it is important to intervene early.

And even then, scholars and the public may have to wait 20 to 25 years for access before it is “declassified”.

Joe Biden’s attorney general knew exactly what he was doing when he ordered the FBI to raid Trump’s home.

Professor Joseph Siracusa is Professor of Political History and International Diplomacy at Curtin University.

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