In this week’s edition of the Election Crimes Bulletin, host Dennis Bernstein and investigative reporter Greg Palast discuss the recent FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home. Separate from the investigation being undertaken by the January 6th Committee, the raid on Trump’s Florida home was done at the request of the National Archives, who were seeking official documents Trump had illegally removed from the White House. And there’s a certain amount of schadenfreude to be had, knowing Trump’s home was raided, in part, because of a law he signed to ensnare Hillary Clinton — and to prevent her from running for office. But though this National Archives-instigated raid puts the former president in significant legal jeopardy, it’s a case out of Georgia that might be more likely to deprive Trump of his liberty — and his infamous comb-over!
Dennis Bernstein: I just wanna start off with a couple of quick headlines here. Here’s one about the Attorney General. He had a press conference with no conference part. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that the Justice Department had filed the motion to unseal a search warrant and property receipt from the FBI’s recent search of former president Donald Trump’s MAGA-Largo estate.
It looks like the folks who helped to take care of him are trying to take care of him in a different way. But let me just add this into the mix, and then I want you to comment. This is coming out of Ohio, the armed man [Ricky Walter Shiffer] who tried to storm the FBI’s Cincinnati office on Thursday, before getting into a shootout with cops that left him dead in an Ohio cornfield, appeared to be a conspiracy-addled Trump-superfan, who told his followers on Truth Social that he was ready for combat after the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago. He, by the way, was also guess where on in January? Yeah, at the insurrection.
Greg, we’ve talked about the situation growing more and more violent, and we’re seeing that happen — attacking the FBI, that’s pretty amazing.
Greg Palast: Well, in fact, yes, actually the amount of violence, having just come back from Georgia, it ain’t pretend. There were guys in a film that I’m working on right now…there was a so-called reenactment by the Civil War aficionados of the one single battle that the rebel won outside of Atlanta, they redid that battle. But it was interesting talking to the spectators and re-enactors. I said, why are you here? They said, to support the Confederate history. I said, well, isn’t that war over? And he said, nope, the Confederacy’s not over and the South will rise again. And then they started talking about how they’d already picked out the high points at the peach tree hotels in downtown Atlanta, waiting for that moment. Remember Trump’s statement to the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by”. Well, they’re still standing back and they’re still standing by — and they are armed to the teeth. And this ain’t no joke.
So, yes, obviously the armed reaction to the FBI raid [is worrying], but, let’s get into that FBI raid, ‘cause most of the media has just simply covered it as, well, you know, the FBI, how dare they break into… Even Pence was saying, how dare they break it to a former president’s residence? This is unprecedented. Well, you know, a lot of things about Trump are unprecedented.
If you take government property that isn’t yours, and he took many boxes…they aren’t his, they belong to you and me. They are the public’s documents. In fact, it was a guy named Donald Trump who signed a law when he was president saying that it is a crime for a president, or anyone who would control presidential papers, to illegally remove those papers. And that was because, if you remember, they were all berserko about Hillary Clinton’s emails. And so, Trump himself, he’s being raided based on the law that he himself signed and pushed that said, if you grab presidential documents, if you grab official documents and bury them or eliminate them, you go to prison. And by the way, that law has one other piece of punishment that Trump came up with, which is that if you get caught removing presidential papers illegally, you can’t run for federal public office. So, this is real, real serious for Mr. Trump. And this, again, is the law he crafted to try to hopefully ensnare and imprison Hillary Clinton, or get her barred from running for office again. But now it may be that he’s the man who’s gonna get literally hoisted on his own petard — legally.
By the way, this presidential records issue goes back to Richard Nixon, who was very good at creating false papers, as we know. So, before we get too excited about the wonderful FBI, they are at the center of the fake creation of documents, the COINTELPRO program, misused by Nixon, and that led to the 1978 Presidential Records Act. So, what we’re talking about is a series of laws based on abuses.
And, by the way, I do think that Hillary Clinton did abuse the law. Come on, she didn’t know that public papers are public and not private? Also, when they said that this has never happened before, in fact, Hillary Clinton’s servers were seized, ultimately by the FBI. They did check in her home in Chappaqua, which is also the home of former president Bill Clinton. So, no, this is not unprecedented. But, again, in that case, they were technically looking, not for the presidential papers, but for a potential future president and the Secretary of State. But this is not that unusual, except that Trump is unusual.
By the way, this is nothing to do with the January 6th hearings. This is a very separate federal grand jury that was impaneled at the request of the National Archives, which said papers are missing. You could tell that, ’cause I know when I work with these federal agencies, these things are numbered and stamped. And also, when I do investigations, you have a letter responding to a letter, but you didn’t see the original letter? It’s very hard to run off with the documents and bury them.
There’s real questions. because these were documents which included national security material, which would not have anything to do with the January 6th hearings. My curiosity has to do with…you know, why would Trump grab the stuff? The answer might be, and again, I’m always afraid to speculate, but I have done these investigations…Remember, Trump was impeached over threatening Ukraine with disarming Ukraine. Imagine if he’d gotten away with that today. Can you imagine? Trump tried to disarm Ukraine… and it’s quite consequential. So, that might be in that information, because, why would he be taking national security documents and hiding them away?
And, and let me add a few other things… We know from an informer who got to Newsweek that it was someone very close to Trump. One of the people close to Trump, running Mar-a-Lago, who happened to know where all these papers were hidden. And what caused the raid was that the FBI had actually a very positive relationship with Trump. They had asked his lawyers, they said, listen, we understand from the National Archives that you have boxes of presidential documents. You can’t have those. But, before we determine whether they are public or private documents, just lock them up.
They actually went to Mar-a-Lago in June, so this is not new. They went to Mar-a-Lago in June, but it was very friendly and they just said, listen, just lock those things away and have heavier locks than you have right now. We need to keep those secure. But it was only when they got an informer to say they jacked the FBI, they told you about the 15 boxes in that room, but there are other boxes in two other rooms — in his bedroom and in another room.
When you lie to the FBI, that creates a bit of a problem. And that’s when they decided that they couldn’t tip him off, ’cause obviously the sentiment was that he was telling them there’s only 15 boxes, when, in fact, he had a lot more that he was hiding — and why. So, that’s why they had to do the raid. Though, I will say, unusually for the FBI, they did not wear any FBI identification and they carried no weapons. Wouldn’t you like to have that kind of nice kid glove treatment, Dennis?
Bernstein: Yes, well…I’m gonna guess that people of color that make up the FBI is probably about less than 1%. The FBI has a reputation for being a racist organization. I’m sorry, I’m not gonna feel bad about them either. And everybody knows that if it was Black and brown people who were carrying forth with an insurrection, there would’ve been blood everywhere and it would’ve been the blood of Black and brown people. So we know that there’s another story here, and it has to do with the inability of the white FBI to deal with terrorism at the roots, which they’ve known for decades…that it’s white.
Palast: Well, what’s interesting here is that the FBI seemed to have been dragged into this. It’s not like the FBI were aggressively trying to go after Trump. In fact, it was the National Archives, which you just think of as kind of like a fancy library. It was the National Archives which is very upset. It’s their job to keep control of those papers. You can’t just take off with papers. They are not yours. It’s a government of, by and for the people. It’s not of, by, and for Donald Trump or the Trump Organization. And that’s very, very important. These are our documents. He stole them from us. It is a form of theft. And it is very dangerous stuff, because we also need to know what our government is doing. That’s why the law was passed originally in 1978, because Richard Nixon, Tricky Dick, was very good at either creating documents or burying them.
So, again, this was not the FBI. You can almost see when you watched our Attorney General, Merick Garland, at his press conference today. He almost seemed like…I wish I weren’t here. But, again, it’s not the FBI, it was the National Archives. They required justice to impanel a grand jury, and the grand jury made the decision, and a Florida judge granted the warrant for the raid. So, it’s not really even about the FBI getting tough, or taking on Trump, or any of that. It’s, literally, that they were forced to make this move by the courts and the National Archives. So, bless the National Archives. You never usually think of them as the tough guys on the street.
Bernstein: Everybody knows, still at this point in terms of Trump, it’s what’s happening in Georgia, it’s what’s happening through the DA which is most precise in terms of the ability to go after Trump. Is that case proceeding a pace?
Palast: Well, interestingly, I think this National Archives problem is a big one for Trump.
Bernstein: Oh, that’s a big one for Trump too. Absolutely.
Palast: Because he signed the law saying that if you are found guilty, you can’t run for federal office. And so this could actually be the killer one for him. But, in terms of actually serving on a chain gang, that’s gonna be the Georgia District Attorney.
Bernstein: The Georgia chain gang.
Palast: It’d be like Paul Newman in Hudor whatever film that was, right?
Bernstein: Give that guy a sledgehammer. Make him break rocks.
Palast: What I want to know is will he be allowed to wear his red tie? And he won’t be allowed the comb-over either.
Bernstein: Will he be allowed McDonald’s in federal prison? McDonald’s big burger? I know you can get those at Rikers Island.
Palast: I do know that guys like Trump, if they ever do serve, they serve in places with tennis courts. I’ve seen them.
Palast: Like there’s a so-called prison in La Jolla that I would love. I’d be willing to pay a fair amount of money to spend a weekend there. It has tennis courts, views the ocean. This is for the white collar criminals, basically, to take a break. I know one who actually, literally, signed in for the weekend.
Bernstein: [laughs] Can we have a 60 second version of what’s happening in Atlanta?
Palast: Okay. The key thing is that you have a tough District Attorney who is slowly building a case and it looks like it could take down, if not Trump, a lot of people around him. Like Cleta Mitchell, who is one of the key people behind groups like True the Vote. You can’t remove this from the vote suppression activity. So, she’s involved in convincing Trump, and others were involved in convincing Trump, to have an alternative slate of electors for the presidential vote — and that ain’t in the Constitution. We have had Constitutional crises, there are fights over elector slates, but he literally just pulled a bunch of names of his cronies and said that they were voted in by the people of Georgia. Well, I’m sorry, their names weren’t even on the ballot. And that involves, when you do transmit that, interestingly, again, it’s once again to the National Archives. When you transmit your list of electors to the National Archives, and it’s a false list, it’s made up of people who’ve never even been on a ballot, that’s wire fraud. That’s a federal crime. You do two, three federal crimes like that… And they’re also state crimes, because under Georgia’s racketeering law, which is tougher than the federal law. That is, when I say tougher, it’s easier to prove your case. And I’ve done racketeering cases for the Justice Department as chief investigator, and… I don’t know how Trump’s gonna wiggle out of indictment in Georgia at this moment. You know, I’m not saying I’m for or against it, I’m just gonna say that if there’s one danger here of his indictment, that’s it. But the National Archives thing is now serious and it’s in the hands of a grand jury. So, Trump has now, really, a very serious…he’s got a problem by the law he signed.
Bernstein: And I think he was outmaneuvered by the Attorney General here. This was a beautiful way to go at Trump. You know, he didn’t make it public, it was up to Trump. But, since Trump made a big deal of it, they went public.
Palast: They made a big deal that they wanted to do the raid when Trump was not there. They knew he was at his golf course in Bedminster in Jersey. That’s why they did the raid at the time that they did it. Because in June, when they did show up and it was friendly, they were let in…Trump even came in and shook hands with the FBI agents and said whatever we can do for you, whatever we can get for you, just ask. And I hate to say it, that bit of friendliness is defrauding the FBI. You’re misleading the FBI by saying, look, we’re being open, we’re giving you everything, here I am in the room, what questions do you have? The question will be whether Donald Trump knew that he had some extra goodies in his bedroom…. besides eating cookies in bed?
Palast: I do have to add…it was Hillary Clinton’s logs for the Rose Law Firm which could have put her in prison, which were in fact kept, those time logs were kept under her bed at the White House. So, we’ve been here before.
Bernstein: Stranger things have happened — maybe?!?