The criminal indictment and imprisonment of former heads of state by ruling regimes in other countries is more common than most Americans probably realize. Today, former presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, El Salvador, Colombia, Guatemala, Panama, Peru, Paraguay, and Costa Rica are all imprisoned — and that’s just in Central and South America.
The world is replete with corrupt leaders who criminalize the opposition and politicize domestic law enforcement. That’s why, for example, Daniel Ortega has been president of Nicaragua since 2007. When you jail your political opponents and potential rivals, as Ortega did with gusto ahead of Nicaragua’s 2021 presidential election, it’s easy to stay in office. One of the salient features of these so-called “developing countries” is that they have not developed a way to transfer power peacefully. Brute force, not free and fair elections, is how rulers of the Third World seize and retain power.
Soon, the United States might join their ranks. On Monday evening, dozens of FBI agents raided the Florida home of former President Donald Trump. The absurd pretext for the raid was a dispute over documents with the National Archives — a circumstance by no means unique to the Trump administration and one that no serious person believes could ever justify such a raid.
(As my colleague David Harsanyi pointed out on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton and her staff committed numerous felonies by using a private email server to send classified and even top-secret information and then destroyed all evidence related to the illegal server. Yet there was never an FBI raid or even a single charge filed against anyone. Just the opposite, in fact: Clinton’s staff was given immunity.)
Everyone in America knows the real reason for the FBI raid: to tarnish Trump as unfit for office and to intimidate and dissuade him from running again in 2024. Nothing like this has ever happened in American history. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was exactly right to compare the FBI raid to the kind of thing you see in Ortega’s Nicaragua. It’s what ruling regimes do to rob the people of their voice and avoid the consequences of elections.
As bad as the raid was, though, it’s only the most recent incident in a larger pattern of corruption, not only in the Justice Department but across the federal government, designed to keep Trump out of office and away from the levers of power.
On Monday, before news broke of the FBI raid, The New Yorker published a remarkable piece about Gen. Mark Milley and other top Pentagon officials during Trump’s presidency. The article, an excerpt of a forthcoming book by Peter Baker and Susan Glasser titled “The Divider,” is meant to show what a hero Milley was to stand up to Trump, especially after the 2020 election (no doubt thanks to Milley obviously being the unnamed source for the conversations the article recounts).
But what it unintentionally reveals is a U.S. military establishment that simply refused to follow the orders of a duly elected commander-in-chief and worked behind the scenes to thwart Trump’s entire foreign policy agenda, and, in Milley, a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who came within a stone’s throw of staging a military coup in Washington. Milley and other top-ranking generals undermined Trump not because he asked them to do anything illegal but because he asked them to do things they opposed, like withdraw U.S. troops from Syria and Afghanistan and take a hard line on Iran.
Withdrawing U.S. troops from these places and pushing back against Iran is, of course, one of the things Trump campaigned on in 2016. Many of Trump’s voters, disillusioned with unending and seemingly pointless foreign conflicts, were ready for a radical shift in U.S. foreign policy. But Milley, whom zero Americans voted for, disagreed. He thought he knew better. Thus we are told about how in December 2020, Milley met privately with then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to personally urge him to back off with Trump” and not strike Iran’s ballistic missile sites, which Trump wanted to do in response to Tehran’s breakout nuclear capabilities.
This was around the same time Milley was making phone calls to a Chinese general to reassure Beijing that Trump wasn’t about to start a war — and that if Trump did plan to attack, Milley would personally warn his Chinese counterparts ahead of time.
The left and the Never Trump crowd think that doesn’t count as treason because they think Trump was never a legitimate president. They think we needed people like Milley to undermine him until he was out of office and the “adults” were in charge again. Under the circumstances, almost anything was justified, goes the thinking.
The same twisted logic is at work in this FBI raid against Trump. In addition to corrupt Democrat lawyers like Marc Elias admitting on Twitter that the real purpose of the raid is to rig the 2024 election by disqualifying Trump from running, you have Never Trumpers like David French peddling the laughably naive line that “no president is above the law” and that no one should assume the FBI is abusing its power. Even South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said Americans should not jump to conclusions but let the DOJ investigation “play out.”
But of course the FBI is abusing its power, as is Attorney General Merrick Garland. The idea that the FBI and Garland’s DOJ deserve the presumption of integrity and impartiality is only possible if you have been blissfully unaware of the events of the past six years in American politics.
The FBI fabricated evidence and then repeatedly submitted it to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to obtain an illegal warrant to spy on the Trump campaign. The FBI’s top officials then illegally leaked to the press and later lied about it. They used this illegal surveillance as a pretext for the years-long Mueller investigation. All of it was designed to remove Trump from office or, failing that, fatally weaken his administration. None of it had anything to do with the rule of law.
Nor did the FBI’s decision to quash an investigation into Hunter Biden’s criminal activities and overseas business dealings ahead of the 2020 election, even though much of the information driving the investigation was verified or easily verifiable.
And neither does this FBI raid. This is about one thing and one thing only: holding onto power by any means necessary. There is nothing particularly subtle or nuanced about it. If you want to know where it leads, check out Nicaragua.