Two days after the 2020 election that Donald Trump refused to admit he lost, his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., made an urgent recommendation: “Fire Wray.”
Trump Jr. did not explain in the text message he sent why it was necessary to fire Christopher Wray, the FBI director his father had appointed more than three years ago. He did not need. Everyone knew why he said that. For the Trump family and their supporters, Wray’s personal loyalty to the outgoing president was not enough.
Throughout his four years in the White House, Trump tried to turn the country’s law enforcement apparatus into an instrument of political power to carry out his wishes.
Now that Wray’s FBI has executed a rare search warrant at the former president’s Florida home, Trump is accusing the nation’s justice system of being just what it tried to make it: a president’s political weapon, only it’s not his.
In fact, there is no evidence that President Joe Biden had any involvement in the investigation.
Biden has not publicly demanded that the Justice Department lock up Trump as Trump demanded it do with Biden and other Democrats. Nor has anyone ever knowingly contradicted the White House statement that they were not told in advance about the search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property, much less participated in ordering it. But Trump has a long history of accusing his opponents of doing what he himself does or would do in the same situation.
His efforts to politicize the justice system have now become his shield to try to deflect accusations of misconduct. Just as on Monday he claimed the FBI raid was political persecution, on Wednesday he made the same claim about the New York attorney general’s unrelated investigation into his business practices, while invoking his Fifth Amendment right to avoid testify, as your answers could incriminate you.
“Turning things around and falsely claiming that you are the victim of the exact same tactics you once deployed is nothing but hypocrisy at its worst,” said Norman L. Eisen, former special counsel to the House Judiciary Committee. during Trump’s first impeachment process. “But coherence, logic, evidence, truth… these are always the first to go unnoticed when a democracy is attacked from within.”
Trump’s Republican allies argue that he was not the one who undermined the apolitical tradition of the FBI and the authorities, or at least he was not the first to do so. To the contrary, they contend that the system was corrupted by the agency’s own leadership and even by members of the Obama administration when Trump and his campaign were investigated for possible collusion with Russia during the 2016 campaign, which ended unsettled. prove that there was a criminal association with Moscow.
The former president’s camp has long pointed to text messages between a pair of FBI officials who harshly criticized Trump during that campaign and surveillance warrants obtained against a Trump adviser that were later deemed unwarranted. The Justice Department acknowledged that the warrants were flawed, and an inspector general blamed FBI officials for their text messages. But the inspector general found nothing to conclude that someone had tried to harm Trump for political bias.
In a letter to Wray on Wednesday, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, cited the history of the previous FBI investigation of Trump to cast doubt on the current probe that led to the raid. Monday in search of classified documents that the former president may have improperly taken when he left office.
“The actions of the FBI, less than three months before the next election, do more to erode public confidence in our government institutions, the electoral process, and the rule of law in the United States than the Russian Federation or any other foreign adversary,” Rubio stated in the letter.
The search was approved by a magistrate judge and senior law enforcement officials, who were required to provide a high level of evidence of possible crimes. Attorney General Merrick Garland, a former Biden-appointed Court of Appeals judge with bipartisan support and whose caution in prosecuting the former president had so far drawn criticism from liberals, has offered no public explanation.
Not even Republicans who have criticized the former president in the past felt compelled to question the validity of the record. Kentucky Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader who sharply criticized Trump’s actions during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on Congress, waited 24 hours, but ultimately spoke Tuesday to question whether anything inappropriate had happened. .
“The country deserves a full and immediate explanation of what led to Monday’s events,” he said in a statement. “Attorney General Garland and the Justice Department should have provided answers to the American people by now and they must do so immediately.”
Trump’s view of the justice system has been shaped by his own encounters with it, since he was a young promoter in New York, when the Justice Department sued his family’s business in 1973, accusing it of racial discrimination. In the end, the Trump company settled and agreed to change its policies, which left a sour taste in Trump’s mouth.
When he ran in the election, Trump viewed the judicial system through a political lens. He led crowds at rallies with “lock her up” slogans when he suggested he would jail his opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was investigated but not prosecuted for mishandling classified information, something now suspected. that he did.
After winning, Trump saw in the law enforcement agencies another institution to submit to his will; he fired FBI director James Comey when he refused to pledge personal allegiance to the president or publicly state that Trump was not a target of the Russia investigation. The then-president then fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions for challenging that investigation and thus failing to protect Trump from it.
During his tenure, Trump repeatedly asked the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate his enemies and set his friends free. He publicly criticized the prosecutions against campaign advisers like Paul Manafort and Roger Stone and later overturned their convictions with pardons after they refused to testify against him. He complained when two Republican congressmen were impeached shortly before the 2018 midterm elections that it could cost the party seats.
Trump, frustrated with Wray, tried to put a more supportive director at the FBI in 2020, but backed down after protests from Attorney General William Barr. By that fall, when the president was trailing in the re-election polls, he pushed for the prosecution of Biden’s son, Hunter, and lambasted Barr and Wray for not prosecuting Democrats like Biden Sr. and Barack Obama over the research on Russia.
“These people should be charged,” Trump said. “This was the greatest political crime in the history of our country and that includes Obama and Biden.”
After losing the election for a second term, Trump did not heed the advice of his son and did not fire Wray, but in his last weeks in office he pressured the Justice Department to help him annul the election. Barr fired back at Trump and publicly rejected false claims about the election before handing in his resignation.
Trump repeatedly pressured Barr’s successor, Jeffrey Rosen, to go along with his plan to discredit the election results and nearly fired him when he refused to do what he wanted and nearly installed an ally who would. Jeffrey Clark. The only thing that stopped him was that all the top Justice Department officials said they would resign in protest.
That was his last chance to influence law enforcement from the inside, at least for now. So, from the outside, he rails against what he calls the injustice of a law enforcement agency run by the person he named to the job.