Known unknowns at Mar-a-Lago

I’ve felt rather left out in the thirty-six hours or so since Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago house was raided by the FBI. The rest of Washington is partaking in an orgy of certainty, reveling in their confidence of the legal meaning and political ramifications of the extraordinary development when very little is known beyond the basic facts.

This is either concrete proof that we are, or are not, living in a banana republic. The raid is either a desperate establishment attempt to stop the Trump juggernaut from rolling to victory in 2024, or it has just saved him from political extinction. These many contradictory claims about the event are made with staggering certainty.

To state the problem one way: political figures are investigated in both banana republics and healthy democracies. The questions that differentiate one from the other are why and whether or not a just outcome is reached. To put it another way, we don’t know if we’re living in a universe in which Donald Trump committed a crime, or one in which he didn’t. And — to state the obvious — that unknown matters. Or it should.

There are, of course, good reasons to be treat a Democratic administration DOJ investigation into the president’s former and perhaps future political foe with extreme apprehension. The FBI aren’t exactly famous for prudential restraint when it comes to intervening in politics. They don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt granted to them in the idea out there that they must have something really big to take this extraordinary step. The idea that the unprecedented nature of this act only demonstrates just how dangerous Trump is contains an awful lot of assumptions about what the FBI is up to that gets us nowhere.

But warranted skepticism about what lies behind the search and wariness about the path Merrick Garland is leading us down are not the same as the idea that there is, by definition, something wrong with a law enforcement visit to the home of a former president. Either you think no one should be above the law or you don’t. And you don’t get to chant “lock her up” about your political opponent and then cry “banana republic” when the feds knock on your guy’s front door.

One of the few things we can be sure of: this stake-raising act is major test of America’s political and justice systems. (Oh, great, another one of those.) Take note of those arguing today that Garland wouldn’t have done this unless he had something big. If they’re wrong, that says something clear and uncomfortable about America and the politicization of its law enforcement and justice systems.

On the political consequences of the move, Trump certainly seems keen to seize the opportunity. Shortly after the raid, he released a short video which had more than a passing resemblance to a campaign launch ad. Its theme: the woeful state of America under Joe Biden and a promise that “the best is yet to come.”

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Inflation eases… a little

This morning’s inflation report contained some moderately good news, with price rises slowing from 9.1 percent in June to 8.5 percent in July. The slower annual increase came on the back of falling gas prices and markets rallied on the news. Good news, to be sure, although price rises still remain close to historic highs and core inflation sits at 9.5 percent. Meaningful reprieve from inflation is still a long way off.

Omar’s close shave

One of Congress’s most notorious members survived a very close shave in yesterday’s primaries. In the Democratic Primary for Minnesota’s Fifth District, squad member Ilhan Omar led by just 2,000 votes with 99 percent of ballots counted, enough to secure victory but not the easy win many expected. Omar’s main opponent, Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels, has been a leading campaigner in the fight against defunding the city’s police, and law and order dominated the race.

What you should be reading today

Teresa Mull: Democrats pick a bad time to punish the energy industry
Amber Athey: Is this the right’s answer to woke corporatism?
Matt Purple: When the Clintons ransacked the White House
Olivia Nuzzi, New York: What’s in Trump’s safe?
Daniel Lewis, New York Times: David McCullough, best-selling explorer of America’s past, dies at 89
James Taranto, Wall Street Journal: How woke capital politicized your retirement account

Poll watch

President Biden job approval
Approve: 39.8 percent
Disapprove: 56.0 percent
Net approval: -16.2 (RCP Average)

What do Americans think of supporters of the other party?

Percentage of Republicans who think Democrats are more ___ than other Americans
Closed-minded: 69 percent
Dishonest: 72 percent
Immoral: 72 percent
Unintelligent: 51 percent
Lazy: 62 percent
Four or more of the above: 53 percent

Percentage of Democrats who think Republicans are more ___ than other Americans
Closed-minded: 83 percent
Dishonest: 64 percent
Immoral: 63 percent
Unintelligent: 52 percent
Lazy: 26 percent
Four or more of the above: 43 percent (Pew)

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