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Former Rolling Stone Editor Has the Perfect Analogy for the FBI's Raid of Mar-a-Lago

AP Photo/Morry Gash

Not all liberal writers sip the Kool-Aid, and Matt Taibbi is one of them. The former contributing editor for Rolling Stone ditched the publication to write exclusively on Substack for obvious reasons; many of his pieces wouldn’t pass the quasi-politburo system established at most liberal publications. The only rule is don’t make the Democrats look bad. Glenn Greenwald, the co-founder of The Intercept, a hub from which government whistleblowers can feel safe coming forward with information, was booted from his site after a lengthy piece questioned the disreputable business dealings hashed out by the Biden family. With no left-wing corporate overlords, these guys can write articles that shred their side's logical fallacies while ripping their usual conservative targets. It’s always good to read from a good core of liberal writers. Taibbi is one of the few original skeptics of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax, which probably earned him quite a bit of hate mail. Still, he’s laser-focused on the FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago, an unprecedented event where federal agents ransacked the home of a former president. 


What piqued Taibbi’s curiosity is not the latest developments which don’t provide much of a punch regarding potential felonious activity regarding the alleged mishandling of classified documents which provided the basis of the federal raid. It was the lack of coverage afterward. The CNN crowd relished the raid as the final nail in the coffin—this was when the walls caved in on Trump. Like most Americans who aren’t mentally ill, the Department of Justice leak alleging that Trump had nuclear secrets on-site exposed the legal fallout that was to come because nothing has corroborated that explosive yet facially untrue claim. There’s been a deafening silence regarding anything that resembles a smoking gun. The affidavit that provided probable cause for the ransacking will be redacted to death, so we’re just going to be left hanging here again.

Is this another Trump story that will fizzle out? Taibbi listed the endless stream of purported scandals that would destroy the Trump presidency. They did nothing except chip away at the media’s already abysmal credibility with the public. What is notable about the FBI raid is that it was a massive show of force from the federal government, historical, and the stealthy but noticeable backtracking specifically on anything incriminating. 

Even Trump’s harshest skeptics in the media were warning the Justice Department that the clock is ticking on finding anything that is bombshell-worthy lest they want this Mar-a-Lago treasure hunt to look like political persecution of the Democrats’ chief opponent. I think the deadline has passed on that one, and tens of millions of Americans knew what message was being sent with federal agents busting down the door: don’t run, Don. 


We’ve been through all of this, but Taibbi noted that the past Trump scandal narratives were lengthy and flawed but contained a rudimentary formula that flowed when it comes to telling a story, even a fake one. The FBI raid was a political atomic bomb, but there is no conclusion. It’s the equivalent of ‘pay no attention to the man behind the curtain’ type of fallout—just ignore what happened on August 8 because there was a misfire. The author does lay out the perfect analogy; the raid was an accidental missile launch (via Substack):

Excuse me for giving a damn, but what happened to the Trump raid story?

Two weeks ago, the FBI raid on Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home was the biggest story on earth and seemingly one of the most consequential American news events since 9/11. The search inspired a few hours of social media jubilation, followed by roughly a week of frenzied leaking as a parade of national security soothsayers unspooled sinister scenarios on TV, and then — nothing. The line went dead. By last week’s end, the cancellation of Brian Stelter on CNN was a top national headline in comparison.

With a caveat that the relative quiet could be upended by a court decision Thursday, could we pause to reflect on the oddness of this episode? Has a story this big ever receded to the back pages this quickly?

Once the FBI finished searching, everyone from Andrew Cuomo to the New Yorker to Mother Jones to George Will at the Washington Post pointed out the obvious, that the Justice Department needed to quickly produce an explanation, if not an indictment, to avoid the disaster of allowing the perception of a politicized raid to fester.


In sum: Joe Biden didn’t know the raid was coming, Merrick Garland blamed Trump for the raid becoming public at all and took three days to take responsibility for ordering it, and Trump’s crime has moved from mishandling “nuclear documents” to keeping “Sensitive Compartmented Information,” whose possession by Trump poses “exceptionally grave” risk to the United States.

Something about all this stinks. On one hand, we’re in the same place we’ve been a hundred times in the Trump era, waiting for the big reveal. We were here before Michael Cohen’s testimony, before the Mueller report, before the Ukraine whistleblower letter, the Barr memo, and countless other expected bombshells.

On the other hand, the evidentiary hype train has been turned off early this time. The deadline for more news out of Reinhart’s court about what’s inside the affidavit is this Thursday, when Garland is supposed to submit his proposed redactions, yet the story is getting more coverage on Fox (Gutfield! incredibly surged to the top of late-night comedy ratings after the raid) than in mainstream press, which appears to be tiptoeing back from the case much as administration officials did in the first week.


Unless Garland and the Biden administration give a clear idea of what exactly precipitated the Trump raid — whether it involved Trump funneling the names of spies to Putin, leaving launch codes out on a pizza box, whatever — Trump is going to continue to hammer this issue. Unless the man is literally in manacles before November 2024, this mess will remain an open wound for Democrats. Even if the raid wasn’t politically motivated, it will for sure continue to look politically motivated, if the Justice Department doesn’t come up with a better explanation than the six or seven leaked so far. Yet everyone is acting like that question has been answered.



“Are we really being softened up for the DOJ ending this story without ever explaining what it had at the time of the raid? That would be bananas,” he wrote. Indeed, there don’t appear to be any actual law violations with the classified materials angle that the media and the Justice Department inflated. The president can declassify whatever he wants, and the classification regulations do not apply to the office of the presidency. Mike Davis, a former law clerk to Neil Gorsuch, noted that the Presidential Records Act isn’t a criminal statute. And even if Trump had classified materials, they were secure, as all former presidents have staff to handle these items, and taking them was the declassifying act. Suppose we’re really going to be unbending on rules. What about the Bill Clinton tapes that were reportedly stashed in his sock drawer, tapes that discussed some very high-level matters regarding his presidency like the nomination of Madeline Albright to become secretary of state and the potential firing of a CIA director? That was a legal matter ten years ago, rejected by a judge since Bill said these items were of personal record. 

This raid exposed and revisited the president’s near-supreme authority regarding the declassifying of materials, which is why mishandling of such documents will never be an actual charge; the president cannot be indicted for such an offense. And we learned that classified material is a loose term concerning presidential records since the federal government overclassifies everything, like cocktail napkins. 


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