The nation was stunned by the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home on Monday—for Trump sycophants, in a bad way; for the rest of us, a good one. It was impressive that Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher Wray were willing to make such a bold move, one that would obviously be politicized and twisted.
But even those of us who were impressed were also instantly aware of the potential consequences in terms of how the other America would react. This raid—approved by a federal judge on the basis of a (presumably) detailed, persuasive, warrant—raises the stakes dramatically. What do FBI agents know? What do they suspect?
Maya Wiley, a TNR columnist who once served in the civil division of the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan, knows these issues well. When editor Michael Tomasky asked her what she most wanted to know about the raid, she didn’t pause for a second: “Oh, I want to know what the probable cause was.” That is, how specific was it, what exact sections of statute were invoked, and so on. The FBI, she added, “must have brought pretty significant evidence” to the judge to get this approved.
A debate has taken shape since the raid among progressives about whether the raid will be enough to charge Trump for stealing government documents, or whether there needs to be a bigger and more scandalous underlying crime in order to indict him. But Wiley was insistent that the documents charge was serious enough on its own terms.
She added that she’s looking forward to seeing what else the House January 6 committee might reveal: “So far, it’s been a doozy.” And she noted that while we “can’t discount” the possibility of violence, the justice system is obliged to act according to the principle that no person is above the law.