Machiavelli carefully wrote about how to avoid falling victim to the stilettos of conspiratorial plots. On the other hand, he also taught how to carry them out against one’s targets. Some of his advice is straightforward: Rulers must avoid becoming the objects of hatred, for hate is the mother of conspiracy. And, confiding in more than one person with information about a plot greatly increases the risk of discovery.
But the most important piece of wisdom on the subject in his Discourses on Livy (1531) is bestowed upon the reader at the outset. Citing a “golden verdict” by Tacitus, Machiavelli warns that
men have to honor past things and obey present ones; and they should desire good princes and tolerate them, however they may be made. And truly, whoever does otherwise most often ruins himself and his fatherland.
In other words, sometimes leaving an imperfect prince alone is better than the chaos that would follow his demise.
It seems that no one behind the raid on Donald Trump’s residence in Mar-a-Lago is a careful reader of Machiavelli. They ignored Tacitus’ rule by executing a conspiracy to try to rid themselves of Trump—an imperfect prince if there ever was one—and in the process delegitimized the institutions that form the pillars of America’s established political order. They may have wounded the former president, but at great cost to themselves, and have set the stage for a political crisis.
What is shocking about the raid is not that it was the product of a conspiracy. Political intrigue is all too common in these, the late days of the empire of the United States. Rather, the real surprise is that the plot was so poorly planned and executed. It reeks of desperation, and the media’s potpourri of explanations can only partially suppress that stench from all but the most thoroughly brainwashed.
The raid occurred under orders from Attorney General Merrick Garland on Aug. 8. FBI agents stormed Trump’s Florida estate, supposedly in response to the potential mishandling of classified documents that had been shipped to Mar-a-Lago. The formal impetus came from a request by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to the Justice Department in February of this year. Lee Smith wrote a useful summary in Tablet:
Starting in the spring of 2021, Trump’s lawyers and NARA officials went back and forth over certain items, like his correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and a letter from Obama. Eventually, the Trump team agreed to hand over 15 boxes’ worth of records. On Jan. 18, 2022, NARA retrieved the documents from Mar-a-Lago, including the Kim letters. … The archives and DOJ tracks crossed on Feb. 9, when NARA told federal law enforcement that the 15 boxes contained classified information.
Indeed, The Washington Post, CNN, Politico, and others breathlessly reported the decontextualized Kim letters as having to do with “nuclear secrets,” thereby making Americans vulnerable to their worst enemies. The truth, however, was never the point. The specter of atomic espionage served, at least initially, to justify in the public’s eyes an unprecedented action by the establishment against a former president and, most importantly, a political enemy. But virtually every aspect of this operation has been stained with the smudge of partisan fingerprints, right from the start.
Comparisons were immediately drawn with Hunter Biden, who has conspicuously avoided the attention of federal law enforcement, despite his litany of crimes with shady business associates, several of whom he met with while his father was vice president.
According to Hunter’s former business associate Tony Bobulinski, the FBI suppressed information he provided them in October 2020 “about his inside knowledge of then-presidential candidate Joe Biden’s involvement in his son’s business deals with China,” the New York Post reported. Timothy Thibault, the FBI agent assigned to manage Bobulinski, allegedly played a key role in keeping a lid on those claims ahead of the 2020 election. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg provided further evidence of FBI suppression during an interview on Joe Rogan’s podcast, disclosing that, at the behest of the FBI, Facebook took “meaningful” steps during that same time period to suppress reports on its platform about Hunter Biden’s laptop.
The FBI, it appears, has become little more than the muscle behind the Democratic Party’s campaign machine.
Hillary Clinton, too, was spared raids and prosecution for using a private email server as secretary of state in 2016. But there is a Clinton connection to the Mar-a-Lago raid. It was David Ferriero, serving as head of NARA until April of this year, who testified before Congress that NARA had discovered items in Trump’s camp “marked as classified national security information.” That set off further inquiries.
The Clinton connection is that Ferriero was sued in 2015 by Cause of Action (COA), a nonprofit and nonpartisan government accountability organization, for failing to preserve Clinton’s emails. Then-COA Executive Director Dan Epstein noted that Ferriero was party to a “catastrophic failure” of proper record-keeping protocols and that the “refusal to recover the documents now constitutes brazen neglect at best and cover-up of illegal activity at worst.”
It seems every player in the Mar-a-Lago raid is politically compromised. Even the Florida federal magistrate judge who stamped the warrant authorizing the raid shows Democratic Party leanings by way of the candidates he has supported, including two donations to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. And those contributions came just months after he switched from his job as a federal prosecutor to represent employees of convicted pedophile Jeffrey Epstein, a frequent visitor of the White House during the Clinton administration.
Meanwhile, amid all the swirling intrigue, the narrative for justifying the raid to the public rapidly shifted from nuclear secrets to sheer volume: Trump didn’t just have a bit of classified material lying around Mar-a-Lago’s coffee tables; he had a ton of it. And when skeptics began pointing out that the president has broad powers to declassify documents, the narrative shifted yet again upon the release of the affidavit used to obtain the search warrant: this time to the claim of obstruction.
The obstruction argument figured prominently in reporting on the raid by The New York Times, which likened the shifting narrative of Mar-a-Lago to the Russia investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller, wherein the story became more about Trump’s alleged impedance of the inquiry than about Russia’s alleged interference with the 2016 election. That is an interesting connection, considering that what little we do know about the establishment’s true motives suggests the raid was an effort to confiscate declassified Russiagate documents that might be in Trump’s possession.
As Lee Smith and investigative journalist Raheem Kassam have both noted, the language of the affidavit suggests that the real targets of the FBI are documents related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and espionage operations, an intersection where you’ll find Russiagate. In short, the raid may have been intended to ensure that the crimes of establishment actors behind Russiagate never see daylight.
We will likely never know the real motive. Perhaps it was, as Democrat election lawyer Marc Elias tweeted, to make Trump “litigate this during a campaign.” Maybe it was to establish a precedent for preventing candidates deemed undesirable by the establishment from ever entering the White House again.
Whatever the reason, it is beside the point now. In the eyes of millions of Middle Americans, U.S. fundamental institutions are irreparably corrupt, acting merely as instruments of coercion and control for an order that does not represent the people.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy. The regime has managed to radicalize the very people who are most patriotic about this country and most reverent of its myths, symbols, and founding documents. Middle Americans had been led to believe that if they disliked a particular order, they could simply vote for another one. That was the essence of the Trump moment—a repudiation of the status quo through a legitimate democratic process. But when the establishment attempted effectively to negate millions of votes by conspiring to unseat an elected president, it destroyed the illusion of institutional neutrality. When the establishment began demonizing Middle Americans as terrorists, it gave them the impression that they were living in an occupied country, one run by people who are not just indifferent but actually hostile to its citizenry. Former CIA Director Michael Hayden said he agreed with the claim that today’s Republicans are more “nihilistic,” “dangerous,” and “contemptible” than any other extremists in the world. In a Sept. 1 speech before Independence Hall, Biden himself declared that “MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic.” Of course, in order for it to be threatened, there must first be a functioning republic.
America today resembles the Roman Republic just before Caesar ended the farce. Trump, in retrospect, was never half the monster his enemies made him out to be. In many ways, he was too kind to political enemies and incapable of making correct distinctions between friend and foe. But by disabusing so many people of the illusions necessary for maintaining the pleasant charade of the status quo, the establishment has all but guaranteed the rise of a force in the future that will be as bad—or worse—than what they pretended Trump was.
The only thing more frightening than that future is the possibility that it may never come.