Weekly Opinion Editorial
by Steve Fair
In 1978, the Presidential Records Act (PRA) was enacted. The PRA requires any memos, letters, emails, and other documents related to the president or vice president’s duties be preserved and given to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at the end of an administration. It was enacted after President Nixon tried to destroy records relating to his presidential tenure.
Since its’ implementation, every POTUS has tried to circumvent the PRA. President Reagan tried to shield email records about the Iran-Contra arms deals. President George H.W. Bush was accused of destroying telephone logs and emails records about the State Department’s investigation into Bill Clinton’s passport records. President Clinton had many people in his administration that used private email accounts to conduct government business to avoid the PRA. President George W. Bush challenged the National Archives to review and determine how documents were to be classified. President Obama was accused of moving presidential documents from the White House to Chicago for his presidential library.
After President Trump left office in January 2021, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) said they had received some of Trump’s presidential records, but accused him of tearing up some records. On February 8th of this year, the NARA confirmed they had gotten 15 boxes of presidential records from Trump that had been at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. They said some of the returned documents were classified.
In June, investigators with the U.S. Justice Department met with Trump’s lawyers and served a grand jury subpoena for more documents at Mar-a-Lago. On August 5th, U.S. Magistrate Judge in Florida, Bruce Reinhart, an Obama donor, issued a sealed search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. On Monday, August 8th, at 9am, thirty plainclothes FBI agents descended on the former president’s home. They spent 9 hours, concentrating on a bedroom and at a safe. Reportedly, at one point, the feds scoured former first lady Melania Trump’s closet.
President Trump issued a statement: “These are dark times for our nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before.”
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said that he ‘personally approved’ the decision to seek a warrant for the FBI to search Trump’s residence and that he didn’t take the action lightly. Three observations:
First, the goal is not to get documents preserved/returned- it is to remove Donald Trump from the 2024 election. A conviction of violating the PRA could prevent him from running. Democrats know that. Every president since the passage of PRA has dealt with the bureaucrats at NARA after they have left office on document/record preservation, but none have faced the scrutiny Trump has.
Second, no one is above the law and that includes Donald Trump. If he violated the law- including the PRA- he must pay the price. The United States is a nation of laws, which is the foundation of the country. But equal enforcement/administration of the law is critical if citizens are to believe they have a country.
The raid of a former POTUS’s home is unprecedented. The incursion into Trump’s home better produce clear evidence of a law being broken. The FBI, AG Garland, and the Department of Justice should publicly reveal what they found and do it expeditiously.
Third, Americans should be concerned about the direction of the country. Selective enforcement of the law and ignoring the law by leaders with no consequences is commonplace. Disrespect of law enforcement run rapport. Tolerance is preached, but not practiced. Traditional values are deemed irrelevant in modern culture. The fabric of the United States appears to be unraveling.
Politically, the raid and attack on Trump could backfire on Democrats. They likely have ‘overplayed their hand.’ When someone ‘overplays their hand,’ they make the mistake of believing their position is stronger or better than it really is. Voters may see through the motivation of the attack on Trump and show up in record numbers in November and give Republicans control of both chambers of Congress.