The Washington Post ran it just above a (news?) article titled “Inside Biden’s Hot Streak, from the Poolside to the Capitol”. Seemingly unsure whether or not they could trust Donald Trump even on this, they went with the headline “FBI Searches Trump safe at Mar-a-Lago Club, Former President Says”. Those final three words are the editors’ hedge: maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t, but no one can deny that he said it.
The Post helpfully explained that Trump has a history of stealing government property from the White House, and has been at loggerheads with the National Archives over presidential records ever since he left office. A previous trawl of Trump plunder yielded “a cocktail napkin, a phone list, charts, slide decks, letters, memos, maps, talking points, a birthday dinner menu, schedules and more”—this, from a confidential source inside the investigation!
The desperation of the American political establishment has come to this: attempting to prosecute a former president for appropriating a White House cocktail napkin. Not even a full-sized linen serviette! They probably don’t have little ‘White House’ monograms in the corner.
Well, Trump always did like monograms.
The Wall Street Journal — a News Corp outlet but editorially independent — reported that “Former President Donald Trump said FBI agents ‘raided’ his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida on Monday” (their scare quotes, not mine). In its full explainer article, the paper exulted that:
Officials can face up to five years in prison for removing classified materials to an unauthorized location. The penalties for breaking other laws related to the removal of official records also include disqualification from holding federal office—including the presidency.
That final claim is patently false: in the somewhat dated nomenclature of the American political system, the Presidency is not technically a federal office, and in any case no federal law can override the Constitution in setting out the eligibility for the Presidency. Nonetheless, the paper was determined to raise the prospect of a Trump ban. The paper also slipped in the facts that Trump had previously called for the prosecution of Hillary Clinton (though apparently it couldn’t find a quote calling for the FBI to raid her home), and that the current FBI director was a Trump appointee. Nothing to see here.
Oh, and of course “the White House didn’t get any advance notice of the FBI search” — an unnamed source said so.
The American political establishment — leading Democrats and Republican never-Trumpers alike — is desperately afraid of a Trump political comeback in 2024. They fabricated a Russia collusion hoax, spent two years on a special counsel investigation, impeached Trump twice, jailed Trump supporters for trespassing at the Capitol, held partisan Congressional hearings to broadcast hearsay evidence against the former President without the opportunity for cross-examination, and weaponised the entire federal law enforcement bureaucracy (and some state ones, too) against this one man. And if they can do it to him, they can do it to anyone.
The United States Constitution outlaws bills of attainder. That’s not in the Bill of Rights, the ten amendments that were added to the Constitution during the ratification process. It’s right up front in Article 1: “No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.” A bill of attainder is a piece of legislation that proscribes an individual person, declaring that person guilty without the need for a trial. Were it not for that clause, the American political establishment would certainly have proposed an attainder for Trump. They are effectively attempting to pass one through a variety of back doors.
Since 2016 I have written for Quadrant as a moonlighting academic, as a friend of Australia, and as a Philistine. Today I am writing as an American. Too many Australians agree with the media class that Donald Trump is beyond the pale. Maybe he is. But this is no longer about Donald Trump. It is about individual liberty. It is about democracy under the rule of law.
Whatever you think of Donald Trump and his presidency — even if you’re a Trump supporter — lay that aside. Tell your friends that this is about freedom. It is about the ability of the political establishment to use the awesome power of the State to crush an individual. America isn’t a bastion of liberty because it has good social policy, or because of its outsized military. It is a bastion of liberty because it places the dignity of the individual above the majesty of the state. Even the dignity of Donald Trump.
Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, wrote in 1777 that “the happiness of America is intimately connected with the happiness of all mankind”; a repeated theme in his letters was that the independence of the United States ensured that liberty would always have an “asylum”. Australia, too, might fulfil that purpose, but for how long could it do so alone? Australians’ liberties, too, are “intimately connected” with those of Americans. We need your support, encouragement, and admonishment to maintain them.
For six years, Australian intellectuals have been admonishing America for tolerating Donald Trump. It’s time for Australians to turn around and admonish America for persecuting him. Your ABC won’t do it for you. It’s up to you to do it for yourself. On behalf of my country, I thank you.
Salvatore Babones is a citizen of the United States