A search warrant was executed at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida home of former President Donald Trump. The news was first released by Mr. Trump himself.
Well, let’s talk about that.
A search warrant was issued by a judge. We have a lot to unpack. And I find it ironic that this all happened on August 8, which we history buffs, fans of the presidency, will remember is the anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation speech. I can hear it now, that inimitable voice saying, “Effective noon tomorrow I shall resign the presidency of the United States.” Those were the days.
Let’s talk about what happened with this search warrant. Let’s start with the plain language of the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment, many would say, the key part of the Bill of Rights. The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution says exactly this:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons houses, papers and effects against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated. And no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
The reports are that the FBI acted with a search warrant. A search warrant that was issued by a judge, based on the judge making a finding of probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation. That means that one or more police officers, FBI agents in this situation, prepared a detailed written application for a search warrant, signed under oath under penalties of perjury, and presented it to a judge.
The judge would then have to have reviewed the application for a warrant and made a decision under what’s called the Four Corners doctrine. In other words, the judge would have had to decide “Does this application rise to the level of probable cause based solely on what it does and does not contain In order for this warrant to be issued?”
The judge must have determined after reading this application, submitted under oath, that the facts and circumstances alleged in the application create probable cause to believe that the place to be searched, somewhere within Mar-a-Lago, contained either contraband or evidence of crime. Contraband, which many of us would think of would be black market items, such as illegal drugs, illegal weapons, but not necessarily. That contraband could be, in this situation, classified documents that were never supposed to leave the White House.
Think about that for a minute.
Documents which are classified, which are too secret to be revealed to the public, certainly too secret to be shared with other countries, may have left the White House with Donald Trump. That may have been what this search warrant was looking for.
We know that there’s more than one criminal investigation going on concerning things that Donald Trump may have done during and after his time in the White House that may have been crimes. We may see whether there are telephone records, I suppose, that connect him with the people who stormed the Capitol on January 6. Maybe links that support a claim that he personally helped to organize the invasion of the halls of Congress.
We don’t know what the FBI seized. If it was classified documents, we may never know. If it was telephone records linking Donald Trump with the attack on Congress, then we may know very soon.
No warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
That’s the plain language of the Fourth Amendment.
Now, some might say, “But he was President of the United States! How can they do this?” Well, the Supreme Court of the United States, in US versus Nixon, decided unanimously that the President of the United States is not above the law.
It’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the coming days, weeks, maybe months. But we can all remember now, August the eighth, for the resignation of Richard Nixon, and the search of Donald Trump’s house.