White Christian Nationalism

The FBI Searched Mar-a-Lago, And Christian Nationalists Are Furious

  Rob Boston

Christian nationalist groups are responding to the FBI’s search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. Not surprisingly, they aren’t happy. This band of hypocrites will twist themselves into knots to excuse any behavior by Trump, whom they worship with a fervor that they rarely extend to the actual founder of their faith.

Groups like the American Family Association, the Family Research Council and others keep using words like “unprecedented” and “first-of-its-kind” to describe the action. Trump-loving evangelist Franklin Graham went so far as to assert that the search was unnecessary because if the FBI thought Trump possessed documents he wasn’t supposed to have, they could have just asked him for them. (Um, they did.) In Texas, Pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, a prominent Trump supporter who has echoed the former president’s false claims about the 2020 election being stolen, tweeted that the search was “an unprecedented attack by the deep state upon the spirit of the American people.”

These groups and individuals are desperately trying to imply that there’s something illegitimate about what the FBI did.

But the search was “unprecedented” only in the sense that it was carried out against a former president. The action itself was a routine matter. The FBI and other law enforcement agencies frequently obtain warrants and search houses and businesses for evidence after they’ve convinced a court they have probable cause of illegal activity; this is a standard part of the American criminal justice and legal systems.

The Associated Press recently ran a helpful explainer about how search warrants work. FBI agents didn’t just rush at Trump’s house, break down the door and start rummaging through the place. They first had to obtain a search warrant from a federal magistrate or judge, and to do that, officials at the U.S. Justice Department had to make the case that a crime likely occurred. (In Trump’s case, the warrant relates to accusations that he illegally took classified documents, including material relating to nuclear weapons, from the White House.)

Kimberly Wehle, a visiting professor of law at American University’s Washington College of Law in Washington, D.C., put it well: “For the FBI to conduct a search like this, it needed a warrant, which means everyone from line prosecutors and FBI lawyers to Attorney General Merrick Garland himself had to sign off on the warrant application, and then a federal judge had to examine the affidavit setting forth their evidence and concur. This is the system working as the Framers intended.”

Obviously, police actions like this can be subject to abuse. We’re all familiar with tragic stories of innocent people being killed during police searches that went wrong or were carried out against the wrong house. But nothing like that happened at Mar-a-Lago. Government officials believed there was evidence of a crime. A federal court agreed and issued a warrant, which was legally executed. The search occurred.

The only thing “unprecedented” about this situation is the scope of the crimes that may have been committed by Trump. If Christian nationalists want to continue to portray him as a victim, they have that right, misguided as that may be. But they can’t fault a process that unfolded in accordance with our laws. The more they attack that process, the more they demonstrate how truly un-American their views have become.

Photo: The Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Getty Images.

 

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