Thursday, August 11, 2022

Raid on Mar-a-Lago will not hurt Trump

Everyone seems transfixed by the political theatre around the FBI raid on Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in search of incriminating evidence and purloined official papers. And rightly so, because it could have a material effect on the next US election. 

Some seem to think that it could represent the straw that broke the camel's back, and a bridge too far for many borderline Trump supporters; others think that the sympathy vote and the bolster to Trump's eternal victim narrative and martyr complex will be more important. 

Personally, I think that the latter will be the stronger effect, and that Trump may well benefit politically from the raids, even if he is indicted with anything (which is by no means certain). Predictably, many Republican politicians have rallied to Trump's defence and are trying to lay the blame on the Democrat government for unconscionable political machinations, and are even looking at it as a major fundraising opportunity. The right-wing Trump-fixated social media is (just as predictably), much more extreme, threatening violence and civil war and fire and brimstone. 

But it seems that Biden knew nothing about the plans for the raid (and remember, FBI head Christopher Wray was a Trump appointee in 2017). If it was an overtly political decision on the part of and the Justice Department and Attorney-General Merrick Garland - and I doubt that - then it was a very poor one, as the Democrats stand to lose more politcal momentum from it than any potential gains that might accrue.

Even if important incrimating documents are found - and I can't believe that the FBI would risk such a politically sensitive raid without some pretty convincing evidence - and even if Trump is convicted of some civil or even criminal offence - as I say, by no means certain - it will probably not stop Trump from standing as the Republican presidential candidate. However much you might think there should be, there is apparently nothing in the Constitution that bars a criminal from standing for President. Most recently, George W. Bush was elected President despite a DUI conviction.

No, this seems to be a genuinely legal, as opposed to political, action, mis-timed and ill-advised as it may be. It's always possible that something politically damaging comes out of it, something bad enough to vitiate Trump's election chances. But the odds are that his electoral prospects will not be harmed by it, and may even receive a boost.

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