Updated August 8, 2022 at 10:02 a.m.
“Ready or not; here I come. You can’t hide. Gonna Find you.” Lauryn Hill’s melodic words would be the perfect music opening for Donald Trump’s life right now. Let me explain.
Years back, I ran into a distant cousin of mine on my way to speak to students at my high school. Catching up on neighborhood news, he told me a friend of ours had been hit with federal charges for drug trafficking. I was puzzled because I had just run into the same guy not that long ago and had a conversation. If the feds were after him, why was he walking around like nothing happened?
“They ain’t worried about him,” my cousin said. “When the Feds want you, they already got you. He’s just waiting to figure out what kinda time he’s gon’ do.”
That piece of hood wisdom reflects the fact that federal law enforcement doesn’t operate like local cops and prosecutors. The latter are at least perceived to be so preoccupied with playing cops and robbers that they’ll serve warrants, make arrests and bring charges even when their cases are half-baked. The Feds, on the other hand, have both patience and the resources of the federal government at their disposal; they usually don’t show up until they’ve already got the goods on you and at that point, running is futile because an arrest, if not conviction, is a foregone conclusion.
This is a story about that one time in history a former president got the cornerboy treatment.
On Monday, the FBI raided Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort in South Florida like a trap that got a little too hot for its own good. Trump confirmed to CNN that the country’s top federal law enforcement agency raided his residence at the luxury club, even breaking open a safe.
“My beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,” he said in a statement.
When the story broke on Monday evening, it wasn’t clear what the FBI was looking for at Mar-A-Lago. Maybe evidence of the ex-POTUS’ attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election?. Maybe following up on evidence presented by the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol? The latest reports say it was neither of those things, but rather that they were looking for evidence that Trump might still have classified documents in his possession after having absconded from Washington with them at the end of his term. The irony of that is staggering since Trump became president in part based on an ill-timed FBI investigation of then-Democratic presidential nominee Hilary Clinton’s use of personal email servers (but her emails!) and Trump’s campaign exploiting that into a scandal (Lock Her Up!), although Clinton was cleared of having broken any laws.
Trump may yet be cleared in the same manner, but at this point it’s clear that an investigation is still ongoing, which means the possibility of charges for Trump—for doing the exact same thing he exaggerated and ridiculed Clinton for, except that he did so as a former President while she was a comparatively lowly Secretary of State.
In that regard, what they went looking for is almost an aside to the fact that they were at Mar-A-Lago at all, that the Federal Bureau of Investigation actually obtained a search warrant for the residence of a man who was the elected leader of the executive branch of government until 20 months ago. That’s world changing. It’s unprecedented, literally a thing that’s never before happened in the history of the republic.
It means the Feds think the last person to have been president of this country might have evidence of a crime in his possession, or possessing certain materials might be a crime in and of itself. It means they didn’t even bother with a subpoena and waiting to see if Trump and his team would comply, and that they likely went to the trouble of reaching out to the Secret Service, if not other agencies, to make sure they were on solid footing before they descended on Trump’s residence. It means they treated a billionaire former president, who’s currently considered a front-runner for the Republican nominee for that same office in 2024, like they treated my homeboy who did a few years in the early aughts over some petty weight.
Trump wasn’t home when the alphabet boys hit, but again, that doesn’t matter. If my cousin’s hood wisdom has any truth to it, the agents went to Mar-A-Lago knowing exactly what they were looking for, and having a pretty good idea that it was exactly where they were looking for it.
Trump, of course, has resources far beyond any low-to-mid-level D-boy I’ve ever known, between his personal fortune, team of lawyers and whatever claims of executive privilege he’s certain to hide behind—provided the FBI’s search and any of the investigations into his conduct lead to criminal charges. Things won’t work the same for him as they do for most people who are targets of the feds.
Still, they showed up with a warrant. That’s not nothing, and at some point, Trump might want to start figuring out what kinda time he’s gon’ do.