The truth? A lot can still go wrong, but FBI search on Trump's Mar-a-Lago was cathartic.

·3 min read

The new development in the story of "Donald Trump as President" gives me hope that something may finally come from an investigation because an FBI search of a former president's residence is no small thing.

I, along with many other progressives, independents and some conservatives have long had enough with the former reality-TV-star-turned-president (turned probable insurrectionist). Seeing posts about Trump's rambling statement on the FBI search at his home and resort in Palm Beach, Florida, was cathartic for my aggrieved, cynical soul. For multiple reasons, I had decided that nothing would come of his repeated, flagrant disregard for the Constitution and federal law.

I know there's reason to celebrate, but someone has to say it: There's still a lot that can go wrong.

Blockbuster news: Why the FBI searching Trump's Mar-a-Lago home may be a sign of things to come

Hoping for accountability

For a federal judge to sign off on a search warrant there has to be probable cause. Under the Fourth Amendment, probable cause requires more than bare suspicion but less evidence that would justify conviction that a crime has been committed, or that there were specific items connected with a crime at a place.

Certainly, there must be a enough evidence for the Department of Justice, the Trump-appointed head of the FBI, Christopher Wray, and a federal judge to sign off on a search warrant for a former president's house.

To be clear: We still don't know what documents or other items might have been taken by the FBI, or which ones might be part of a Department of Justice investigation. But it does give one a sense of hope for accountability.

Watching Trump act with impunity over and over again has tested my sense of justice and patience, and my belief in this democracy. From violations of the Emoluments Clause, the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, nepotism in the White House to the removal and potential destruction of 15 boxes of papers from the White House to Mar-a-Lago – it seemed Trump would never face any form of accountability for his actions.

It almost feels too good to be true.

'Defund the FBI': Trump supporters calmly react to Mar-a-Lago search

A woman talks to Palm Beach police officer in front of former President Donald Trump's house at Mar-A-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla.
A woman talks to Palm Beach police officer in front of former President Donald Trump's house at Mar-A-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022, in Palm Beach, Fla.

Preparing myself for a letdown

Before I get caught up in the good news, I am reminded of what my law professors used to say when we would ask about the outcome of a hypothetical set of facts. "It depends." What happens now depends on the law and the facts.

The truth is that this sideshow is not over, as much as we all feel like it should be. There is a long way to go before we see any official charges, criminal conviction for him or anyone else close to him. And even then, the president of the United States could, and in all likelihood would, pardon Trump for any crimes he is accused of or convicted of.

Rallying Republicans: Democrats so badly want Trump to go away, but FBI search is helping him stay

I don't want to sound extremely pessimistic, but there are good reasons Trump may walk away:

►There might not be enough evidence to sustain charges, or a conviction, which only prosecutors can determine once all the evidence is collected.

►Even if there is solid evidence of crimes, and even if he is convicted, President Joe Biden still might pardon him.

►Biden could have good reason to want to pardon Trump. The far right could make a martyr of him, and he would dominate the limelight for the rest of his foul life.

Federal investigators have so much at stake

Perhaps what worries me most is the chance that after all this fuss, all this media hype, nothing big comes of it: No perp walk, no conviction, no accountability. That would be the worst possible outcome. Trump and his allies would use it as examples of their "fake news" and "witch hunt" nonsense that they've been spewing since his first impeachment. He would likely also run on that platform in 2024.

The DOJ and the FBI have taken big political risks, I hope they do things right, and get their man. America and the world are watching, closely.

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Carli Pierson, a New York licensed attorney, is an opinion writer with USA TODAY and a member of the USA TODAY Editorial Board. Follow her on Twitter: @CarliPiersonEsq

You can read diverse opinions from our Board of Contributors and other writers on the Opinion front page, on Twitter @usatodayopinion and in our daily Opinion newsletter. To respond to a column, submit a comment to letters@usatoday.com.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: FBI search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate gives me hope