Madness in Mar-a-Lago

Picture+of+Trump+landing+at+the+Mar-a-Lago+estate+in+2019.+The+same+estate+was+the+subject+of+the+FBI+raid.++%0A%0ACourtesy+of+Trump+White+House+Archived

Picture of Trump landing at the Mar-a-Lago estate in 2019. The same estate was the subject of the FBI raid. Courtesy of Trump White House Archived

Yusuf Perwez , Wilcox & the World Co-Editor

On August 8, 2022, all 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms, 12 fireplaces, and perhaps five tennis courts of former President Donald Trump’s shoreside residence in Mar-a-Lago were subject to a thorough search by the FBI. Victorian in architecture, the winding halls of the castle-like structure were—according to CNBC—found to contain 48 folders labeled “classified” and 42 marked “Return to Staff Secretary/Miliary [sic] Aide”, all of which were empty. 

Soon after the raid, many Trump supporters arrived on a bridge near the Mar-a-Lago house in protest of the raid. Business Insider reported many supporters stated they believed that Trump would be driving back to Mar-a-Lago by himself in order to assess his belongings, and claimed that the raid was politically motivated. Several also made claims of the 2020 elections’ illegitimacy, and one stated that the raid was done in an attempt to prevent Trump from running in 2024.

Another of the raid’s numerous outcomes has been the increased legal fire targeting Trump, with the Department of Justice investigating the incident and the documents it brought forth. One of the main points of contention Trump has raised with the investigation is the idea that he declassified all the documents that were found in the Mar-a-Lago raid. The Guardian wrote that in an interview with Sean Hannity of Fox News, Trump said in his defense “Different people say different things but as I understand it, if you’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking about it.”

Despite his claim that he had the right as president to declassify documents mentally, the legal battle has continued to press down on Trump. Even the special master—a person appointed on behalf of the court to vet the documents, halting the investigation in the meanwhile—that Trump’s legal team themselves recommended has raised numerous concerns with their case. Regarding Trump’s attempts to push that he somehow declassified the documents, special master Judge Dearie was reported by the New York Times as having said, “I guess my view of it is, you can’t have your cake and eat it.”

Amongst the different political parties of the US, the reactions have been largely partisan. For the most part, Democrats unequivocally condemned the president for taking home classified information after his presidency’s end. However, Republicans are slightly more split on the issue. 

Most GOP officials have remained in staunch defense of Trump, including senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Rick Scott, and representatives like Marjorie Taylor Greene. In response to the raid, AP News reported that Cruz tweeted, “The FBI’s raid was a horrific ‘abuse of power’”. Yet there are also a few Republican officials who have expressed less assured sentiments. 

For example, according to MSNBC, Senator Mitch Mcconnell refused to speak on the raid at all until he quietly released a statement calling for “thorough and immediate explanation of what led to the events of Monday.” Representative Liz Cheney actively criticized Trump, responding to the released pictures of documents found in the former president’s house in a tweet saying, “Yet more indefensible conduct by Donald Trump revealed this morning.” The New England Council reported even Trump’s prior Vice President Mike Pence continued his gradual move into actively opposing Trump and admonished him indirectly, scolding Marjorie Taylor Greene for calling to “defund the FBI” in response to the raid.

Whether or not this will hurt Trump’s chances of running in 2024 has been put into question. Although a 2022 poll by MaristPoll found that 44% of Americans believe Trump did something illegal by taking classified documents home and that 61% believe he should not run for President in 2024, PBSNewsHour notes that 61% is “virtually unchanged” from support for his reelection campaign in December 2020. This means that neither the capitol riots nor the Mar-a-Lago raid has caused any major shift in Trump supporters’ approval of his reappointment into office in 2024. 

As the legal, political, and public battle continues to rage on as a result of the raid, it remains unsure if the discoveries will actually have any major effect in the larger scheme of the nation. As for Trump, NBC reports former administration official Michael Caputo said of the former president, “He’s already moved on. It’s business as usual for him.”