Does it? It certainly seems that way, perhaps especially given the Department of Justice’s pattern of recent conduct. Still, this statement from Ron DeSantis about the raid on Donald Trump’s residence last night puts him ahead of potential developments that might leave him out over his skis, legally speaking.
Politically speaking, however, DeSantis’ instincts are spot-on:
The raid of MAL is another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents, while people like Hunter Biden get treated with kid gloves. Now the Regime is getting another 87k IRS agents to wield against its adversaries? Banana Republic.
— Ron DeSantis (@RonDeSantisFL) August 9, 2022
Legally speaking, this assumes facts not yet in evidence. We don’t know yet what purpose the raid has, or even what investigation it might be serving. Is it about the illegal retention of classified material? January 6? Trump’s business conduct or some form of tax issue? We don’t know yet, and we probably won’t for a while.
If this turns out to be nothing more than a trawl-back of documents, it’s going to stink to high heaven. But that’s still an if at this point until the DoJ and/or Trump himself publish the search warrant and the inventory seized at Mar-a-Lago.
Politically speaking, this is smart strategy for DeSantis, whose momentum may have gotten halted momentarily by the Department of Justice’s raid. Trump’s supporters are now fired up all over again over this unprecedented step, which may yet be justified but still represents a significant rupture in the norms around presidential relations. It certainly smells like a political move, either to kneecap Trump ahead of the 2024 cycle or to make him the center of the upcoming midterms as a way to alleviate political criticism of Joe Biden. In that sense, the timing on this is alone a point to question, especially if it turns out to be predicated on nothing more than the dispute with the National Archives.
By getting out in front of this with his accusations against “the Regime,” DeSantis puts himself on the front line of political attack. Trump is seen as the GOP’s biggest fighter, and now that the fight has turned personal, the MAGA caucus will surge back to Trump. DeSantis has to demonstrate that he’s as much a fighter as Trump against the “deep state,” and perhaps an even more effective one. That was DeSantis’ point in suspending State Attorney Andrew Warren last week, after all — to show that he could dismantle a “deep state” more effectively than anyone else, Trump included.
Even if it turns out that the DoJ can make a good case for raiding Trump’s home, the political risk to DeSantis is minimal. Having the DoJ raid the home of a former president who also happens to have a significant chance of running against the current president to which the Attorney General reports looks very banana-republic-esque, no matter how one cuts it. The political blowback here also serves a good purpose in making sure that future such actions carry heavy disincentives and are only deployed in the most unavoidable circumstances.