On August 08, 2022 the FBI executed a search warrant at former President Donald Trump’s residence, Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach, Florida. That is about the extent of what we in the general public know about the situation. There is a great deal of speculation about the process but very little of that speculation is likely to be unbiased. The search of any former president’s home would of necessity be embroiled in competing political interests. Many important issues are in play and countless questions arise.
We in the general public may be greatly affected by the search and the motivations for it or there may be no great significance to our democracy. We do not yet know the basis for the search or the reasoning of those who sought, granted or executed it. And that is unacceptable as almost always, our interests as a nation are better served by more factually correct information than less. A lack of transparency engenders suspicion and confusion. In a country so at odds over Donald Trump, more light is best. Careful release of information may be called for but it is more likely that the greatest harm to our country will result from suspicions raised by in camera legal proceedings.
There are good reasons our Founders saw Great Britain’s use of General Warrants and Writs of Assistance as cause for Revolution. The Fourth Amendment to our Constitution was adopted to protect our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. It requires “an Affidavit of Probable Cause supported by Oath or Affirmation and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”
I do not ascribe to the fear our country is near another revolution. However, I do think we should seek to benefit from the wisdom of those who fomented the first one. Was the search of Donald Trump’s home called for by the facts? Were those who made the call properly motivated? Was the Fourth Amendment followed?
Perhaps it was in America’s best interests to search Mar-a-Lago. Maybe evidence of “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” was secreted in the premises. If so, then a search was not only justified, it was required. However, until the secrecy is removed and the light of justice is brought to bear, the citizenry is in the dark. And that dark might lead to more harm than the revelation of some uncomfortable documents.