I, for one, look forward to Donald Trump pivoting from his current status – a former president of the United States whose home was searched as part of an investigation into possible Espionage Act violations – to one he’ll be more comfortable with: A former president of the United States bragging about violating the Espionage Act.
If you’ve followed Trump over the years – and I pray you haven’t – you can hear his meandering mendacity already: “It was the best espionage. Nobody had ever seen espionage like it. One man walked up to me, a big, tough-looking guy, right out of central casting, and he had tears in his eyes. Tears! And he said, ‘Thank you, sir, for doing such amazing espionage. I wish I could espionage like you.’ It's such a beautiful thing.”
Espionage? Sounds bad when you put it that way
With the release of the warrant the FBI used in Monday’s search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Florida, we learned agents are investigating possible violations of three statutes, including the Espionage Act, which involves unlawfully retaining national security information that could either harm the United States or help an adversarial foreign government.
Several news outlets reported that federal agents removed documents that had the highest classification levels in the government, documents that are supposed to be viewed only in secure government facilities.
Republicans saw Trump's end looming. Then the FBI gave his message a jolt of life.
So how are Trump and the Republican loyalists and right-wing media pundits who make up his Praetorian Guard explaining all this? Well, it’s complicated, but here is a rough rundown of what we’ve heard over the course of this momentous week. I assure you it’s as accurate as anything Trump has said:
1. It's a 'witch hunt'. Again.
For starters, Trump didn’t have any classified information at Mar-a-Lago and this is all part of an elaborate “witch hunt.” Also, as Trump and many politicians and pundits suggested on Fox News and elsewhere, who’s to say those devious FBI agents didn’t plant stuff in Trump’s boxes of documents, the ones he didn’t have in the first place because – all together now – it’s a witch hunt.
Democrats so badly want Trump to go away. But FBI's Mar-a-Lago search is helping him stay
2. Nothing to see here, unless it was planted.
Trump and the Trumpologists went on to say that even if there was anything classified at Mar-a-Lago – AND THERE DEFINITELY WASN’T, AND IF THERE WAS IT WAS PLANTED! – Trump surely declassified it using some kind of unspecified declassification hand-wave that only he possesses and of which there is no record.
3. It wasn't a lawful search. Oh wait, there was a warrant? Where was I?
Also, this grotesque, politicized judicial overreach was not a “search” in the first place, it was a “siege.” Trump’s “beautiful home” was “raided” and “occupied.” That means, one assumes, there couldn’t have been a legal search warrant, except that there was, and it has been in Trump’s possession since the search happened Monday.
But the Justice Department, you see, refused to release the search warrant, right up until Thursday when it said, “Sure, let’s release the search warrant.” Of course Trump himself could have released the warrant at any time. But, the warrant got stuck to his hand after he ate a jelly doughnut, putting the onus on the government to release it. Is this making sense? Good.
FBI search of Mar-a-Lago: The slow release of details is maddening. It's also the process.
While asserting the whole thing was all a political hit job by radical Democrats, Trump and company slammed the FBI and the Department of Justice, comparing them to the Gestapo and other horrible things. Then a guy in Ohio who was a frequent poster on Trump’s tiny social media site, Truth Social, walked into a Cincinnati FBI office Thursday with an AR-15 and wound up getting chased to a cornfield where he was shot dead by law enforcement. I’m sure those things are totally unrelated, except the man’s final post on Truth Social reportedly read: “If you don’t hear from me, it is true I tried attacking the F.B.I.”
4. Classified nuclear documents? Why hasn't anyone brought up Obama?
After the Washington Post reported Thursday that some of the documents FBI agents were seeking involved nuclear weapons, Trump again called that a hoax, then followed up hours later with this statement: “President Barack Hussein Obama has kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified. How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!”
So the response from the former president of the United States to a report that he possessed highly sensitive nuclear documents was: “NO I DON’T, AND EVEN IF I DID, MAYBE THIS GUY BEFORE ME WHO I NEVER REALLY LIKED HAD SOME TOO, WHO KNOWS?” That is a classic legal approach known as the “I Know You Are, But What Am I?” defense.
The National Archives and Records Administration swiftly responded to Trump’s allegations about Obama with a statement saying it has “legal and physical custody” of Obama’s records “in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.” Whomp-whomp.
5. Now what? Time to disappear in a poof of smoke?
Anyhoo, by Friday afternoon, the warrant had been leaked to the Trump-friendly website Breitbart, which dutifully ran a story that said, “Hey, this warrant was issued Friday and they didn’t do the search until Monday. THAT SEEMS FISHY!”
Apparently unaware of the existence of weekends, Breitbart managed to miss the trifling tidbit of information on the warrant that shows Trump's home was searched as part of an investigation into possible Espionage Act violations.
I’m sure Trump has a perfectly good explanation that details how he definitely didn’t violate the Espionage Act, how there actually is no such thing as the Espionage Act, how others have violated the Espionage Act “many, many times” but were never investigated, and how this is all a despicable witch hunt involving classified documents he doesn’t have but also has declassified.
Now we just need to wait for him to throw a smoke bomb and disappear.
More satire and humor columns from Rex Huppke:
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: FBI warrant references Espionage Act as Trump downplays search