A heavily redacted version of the 38-page affidavit behind the search warrant used to raid former President Trump’s home was released last week. Big questions remain, suggesting the whole affidavit needs to be released. Stakes are too high, and the public has a right to know.
First, releasing the affidavit – redacted as it is – does not satisfy the question on all minds, one that demands an answer: Why did the FBI, with approval of the Attorney General and presumptive White House knowledge, go after a former president and potential candidate in 2024, 90 days before a midterm election?
In legal terms, what was the overwhelming exigency that compelled the raid, facts that demanded 230 years of democratic and legal precedent, accommodation of Article II, respect for former presidents, constitutional caselaw – be thrown away?
What was the heinous criminal act – rumored by unnamed FBI sources to be “nuclear” or “treason,” just the way Hillary pitched Trump’s involvement with Russia as horrible and the FBI trafficked in those rumors – that justified this raid?
The answer cannot be “Trump is different” or “just give us time” or “we have to study the documents.” There are not that many documents, the case cannot be that complicated, the big difference looks increasingly like: This was a political hit.
Second, having travelled the world as an Assistant Secretary under Colin Powell pushing rule of law, my plea to world leaders was always to abide rule of law, do not let politics infect your justice system, or you will lose it all.
My plea was root out political corruption, walk a wide circle around the perception of it. Understand that democracies, republics, countries with governments of all kinds fall to public corruption. Public trust plummets on the suspicion of it.
So, what have we here? We have an FBI and Justice Department that break all historic norms, do something never done in America, raid a former president’s home – home of a leading contender for the White House from the opposing party.
We have a White House that goes radio silent, says nothing, lets the charade play out as if ordinary law enforcement, as if nothing to see here, nothing worthy of comment – just insinuation, imagination, and condemnation. The president, who typically gives a predecessor comity and executive privilege, is silent.
Third, this whole scenario is damning. You have the rollout of an unannounced raid on a former president based on a warrant for search and seizure signed by a partisan who recused himself for anti-Trump bias weeks ago.
You have a raid that occurs mid-stream in a dialogue with the former president’s attorneys over document production, with no apparent or announced exigent circumstances, and a raid filled with theater – unnecessary show of force.
You have a search and seizure that are extraordinarily intrusive and broad, even by normal standards. That means the affidavit is either detailed and justified that unprecedented intrusion and breadth – in which case the American people need to see why, or it was an illegal “general warrant,” that is, a “fishing expedition,” justified in somebody’s mind, but utterly illegal, a politically corrupt act.
Fourth, the only defense to the evolution we have seen is filing substantive charges backed by hard evidence of something wildly out of character – an anti-American act of treason by a former president – or release of the whole affidavit.
Why is this so important right now? Because this act is so anti-American in nature, something we do not do, have never done, and which cannot stand. Either a charge gets brought with particularity and credible evidence, or the substance of the affidavit gets released. Absent these two, more over time will suspect politics.
If the substance of the affidavit is suppressed and no credible evidence for espionage is presented – if the whole thing simmers around “document mishandling,” administrative details of the Presidential Documents Act, or the Russia-collusion probe “obstruction,” this becomes very serious, very fast.
Some will say, “why is knowing what is in the affidavit important?” or “why can’t it wait?” or “why can’t we trust the political leadership?” or “why not let the FBI search some others?” or “isn’t it enough to just have mishandling?”
The answer is – this is different. Seeing the guts of the affidavit – given the high stakes, public perception, political history, deep suspicions, eroding trust, rising concern – is the only way this administration puts this fire out, short of charges.
For many, nondisclosure implies something is being hidden, like: There is no meat in the affidavit. Trust in political leadership at FBI and Justice is already in “freefall.” Taking time is ordinary, but not here – since public trust is at risk.
Fifth, mishandling of information occurs all over Washington, not least on the Hill. It is not a basis for invading a presidential home, throwing out 230 years of constitutional precedent, respect for the Fourth Amendment, and historic comity.
The public has a right to know. The guts of the affidavit should be released, or charges brought with evidence. Suspicion grows that there is “No there – there,” that this is all political. If true, that is a tragedy. If not, release the whole thing.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, ten-year naval intelligence officer, US Court of Appeals 9th Cir. clerk, author of “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003) and “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and National Spokesman for AMAC. Follow him on Twitter @RCharles4USA