On August 8, the FBI carried out an unprecedented raid on Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, reportedly seizing about 20 boxes of items, including a variety of classified material. According to The Washington Post, the seized documents included multiple types of classified documents, including “TS/SCI documents,” which refers to “top secret/sensitive compartmented information,” which is among the highest classification of government secrets and includes some information that is not allowed to be declassified, even by a president.
The highly classified documents have been reported to include material related to nuclear weapons, which could include detailed information about U.S. nuclear systems or those of other countries. Also seized was information about French President Emmanuel Macron, and “signals intelligence,” which come from U.S. government surveillance of electronic communications — like emails and phone calls — of foreign leaders.
The search warrant was issued to investigate potential violations of the Espionage Act, which can include any official in possession of classified material who allows it to be taken away from a secure location. A violation of this sort can result in a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
We can only guess at what information Trump may have brought with him when he left the White House on the day of Biden’s inauguration and why. And, after a year and a half, how much was even still left for the FBI to retrieve?
The raid on a former president’s home, as part of an investigation into violations of the Espionage Act, is certainly unprecedented. But so is a president that made up allegations of voter fraud, and tried to carry out a plot to overturn the 2020 election, with support from members of far-right militias, and even some government officials.
The FBI carried out its raid and investigation into Trump just months before the November mid-term elections. The Biden administration and the Democrats currently have record low approval ratings. In addition to the highly publicized January 6 investigation hearings, the FBI investigation seems to be another effort by the Democrats to try to weaken support for Trump inside the Republican Party, and gain some votes in the process.
Whether it is a coincidence or not that the warrant to search Trump’s home came at this time is not known. It’s possible that the Democrats have decided to pursue Trump for violations of the Espionage Act instead of further investigating and exposing his role in the events of January 6, 2021. So far the investigations into January 6 pointed toward involvement by high-ranking government officials, including members of the Secret Service, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, and some Army generals. Further exposing the role of those members of the government, who were willing to work with far-right militia groups in order to overturn an election, could create a political crisis. So, it is quite possible that the Democrats may have opted instead to focus their attack on Trump by pursuing charges of violating the Espionage Act.
It is unlikely that the Democrat’s efforts to isolate Trump from the Republican Party will succeed. In the days following the raid, contributions to Trump’s political action committee topped $1 million, increasing from the $200,000 to $300,000 daily total they had been at for months. Already many of the right-wing members of the Republican Party and Trump loyalists, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, have denounced the FBI’s raid, calling the charges bogus, and have made calls to defund the FBI, even selling t-shirts with that slogan. In addition, according to various news reports, since the FBI’s Mar-a-Lago raid, far-right groups have escalated their calls for attacks on the FBI and to launch a civil war. And a number of Trump-backed candidates, who continue to promote the lie that the election was stolen from Trump, have won recent Republican primary elections.
At the same time, former Vice President Mike Pence, who is positioning himself as a traditional Republican and possibly a candidate for President, defended the FBI raid and criticized Republicans who have demonized the FBI. He also announced that he would be willing to testify about January 6 events.
The open political turmoil surrounding Trump is a reflection of the political divide in the ruling class in the U.S. It is reflected in some Republicans, including Mike Pence and Liz Cheney, who seem to side with the Democrats in wanting to simply return to “business as usual.” And on the other side, an increasing number of elected officials continue to stand with Trump, even though they would be willing to take his place as the Republican presidential candidate if he were pushed aside.
The political situation that is playing out is a reflection of the crises and problems that this system faces. It is the crisis of capitalism world wide which is challenging U.S. economic and military dominance. The U.S. political and economic alliances, and the regions of influence and control that have existed for decades are being challenged by China’s economic growth and expansion, as well as by the realignment and integration of European economies.
In addition, this system faces great uncertainty and crises unleashed by climate destruction, the increase in global competition for resources and markets, the instability in the financial system, the growing inequalities and much more.
The ideas expressed by Trump that feed into the deep insecurities in the population are not restricted to the U.S. We see a similar phenomenon in countries throughout the world, where dictatorial leaders emerge through elections or other means, claiming that they will bring stability to the chaos. Recently, the extreme-right and openly racist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was the featured speaker at the Republican Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas, Texas. Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, currently running for re-election, is already claiming possibilities of election fraud and threatening a coup if he does not win the presidency in October. And the situation is mirrored around the world, with a growing right-wing in many countries, including the Philippines, India, Turkey and beyond.
Trump’s appeal to “Make America Great Again” is part of this phenomenon. It adds fuel to the chaos playing on every fear and prejudice possible. The job crisis is blamed on those fleeing to the hoped-for safety of the U.S. from the chaos of wars and climate and economic destruction in their native countries. The deep-seated racism, the anti-women and anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes, and conservative Christian views are being used to further instill fear in people. This has provided a fertile ground for far-right, fascist groups to expand their numbers and influence — openly encouraged by Trump and the growing ranks of recently-elected right-wing politicians.
The Democrats present themselves as the alternative to this far-right menace. They claim to be the defenders of those under attack — African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, low-wage workers and young people saddled with debt and no future. They claim to be the defenders of the Earth with their hollow climate legislation, and endless pandering to the fossil fuel industries. They claim to be the defenders of immigrants even as they, too, deport people at record numbers. They claim to be the defenders of reproductive rights while not guaranteeing the right to health care for all, of which abortion should be a part.
The truth is that all the Republicans — extreme-right or not — along with the Democrats all represent and defend the system that has brought the world to this point. The solutions they all offer only lead to a bleak future for us all.
The current political solution being presented to us is to vote this November. And even that pretense of democracy is being threatened by right-wing officials who have already indicated that if the vote doesn’t go their way, they will invalidate the election results. In addition, some states have passed highly restrictive voter suppression laws aimed at preventing mainly Black people and other working class people from voting because they oppose Trump candidates. And who knows what forces they will mobilize at the polls.
The right to vote is not insignificant. But it is a limited measure of our democratic rights. The solution to the problems that we face do not lie in voting and hoping that elected officials will change things for us. The challenges go far beyond what even the most dedicated and honest individual politicians can bring about.
The changes we need rest in our hands. And like all major changes, it starts with the determination of a few individuals, here and there, inspiring and organizing others, tapping into the hopes — not the fears — of the majority, and unleashing the power that we have as workers, whose work enables this system to run.