The Justice Department’s and FBI’s Aug. 8 raid on Donald Trump’s home happened as the two Biden agencies had a vested interest in the former president’s legal offensive in a Florida courtroom.
To expose what he believes are “Russiagate” crimes against him, Mr. Trump in March filed a broad lawsuit that lists as defendants just about everyone who ever trafficked the notorious Christopher Steele dossier, sold the bogus Alfa Bank tale or gained access to his private email address book. Mr. Trump cites the RICO federal statute normally used to target organized crime. He calls the collection of anti-Trump players the “Enterprise.”
“The RICO Defendants, through and using the Enterprise, engaged in, and continues to engage in, a coordinated effort to destroy [Trump’s] political career and impede his ability to effectively govern as President of the United States,” the lawsuit states.
Among the defendants: Hillary Clinton, his 2016 opponent; campaign lawyer Marc Elias; campaign chair John Podesta; investigative firm Fusion GPS, which handled Mr. Steele and distributed his dossier all over Washington power centers; Mr. Steele, the ex-British spy who curated the 35-pages; his main source, Russian Igor Danchenko; Mr. Danchenko’s main source, Clinton-ally Charles Dolan; and the FBI officialdom who became a bit dossier-crazy in 2016 and ’17. All are, or were, being sued as individuals, not government officials.
“Acting in concert,” Mr. Trump’s complaint states, “the Defendants maliciously conspired to weave a false narrative that their Republican opponent, Donald J. Trump, was colluding with a hostile foreign sovereignty. The actions taken in furtherance of their scheme — falsifying evidence, deceiving law enforcement, spreading disinformation through the media, and exploiting access to highly-sensitive datasources — are so outrageous, subversive and incendiary that even the events of Watergate pale in comparison.”
Since the filing, the playing field has changed dramatically. Enter the Biden team.
On July 21, District Court Judge Donald M. Middlebrooks honored a U.S. Justice Department request to dismiss as defendants former FBI Director James Comey, his former deputy, Andrew McCabe, and lead Russia investigator Peter Strzok.
In their place — the government asked in a July 14 motion and the judge complied — add Attorney General Merrick Garland’s Justice Department. Mr. Garland’s team immediately asked the judge to dismiss it as a defendant.
This means Mr. Trump no longer faces a roster of only individual Democrats. If the judge lets the case proceed, he faces the Biden administration in his own civil suit at a time Justice is collecting evidence against him in a criminal case. (Not the first time: Mr. McCabe in 2017 opened a counter-intelligence probe into Mr. Trump that found no collusion.)
It was Mr. Garland who ordered the Aug. 8 FBI raid around the time he entered the Trump lawsuit as a defendant. The warrant says Mr. Trump is under investigation for harboring secret and top secret documents at Mar-a-Lago.
With the fruits of that search, the Justice Department presumably knows a lot more about Mr. Trump’s inside knowledge on “Russiagate” — the term conservatives use for the FBI’s ethically challenged three-year investigation.
I asked a Trump lawyer by email if the team had planned to introduce any Mar-a-Largo records as RICO lawsuit evidence. I received no reply.
Mr. Trump argues he did nothing wrong in shipping papers to his home. As commander-in-chief and chief executive officer of the U.S. government, he argues, he had the unilateral power to declassify.
His former White House aide, Kash Patel, has been making that case in a series of podcasts and TV appearances.
Late in the administration, Mr. Patel became Mr. Trump’s go-to guy after working for former Rep. Devin Nunes when he headed the House intelligence committee. The two repeatedly pressed the FBI for documents. They showed how the FBI misused the rumor-filled dossier and targeted Mr. Trump.
Under Mr. Trump, Mr. Patel served as the director of National Intelligence, the Pentagon and the White House National Security Council. Mr. Trump designated him as his official liaison to the National Archives. Its post-Jan. 20, 2021 dispute with the ex-president over custody of records ultimately spurred Mr. Garland to launch the FBI raid. The wide-open warrant allowed agents to rifle through any and all presidential documents.
Appearing on Mark Levin’s Fox News show, “Life, Liberty & Levin,” on Sunday, Mr. Patel said the search warrant was approved by “Political gangsters sitting at the top of the FBI and DoJ who have hijacked the law enforcement and intelligence community just like they did in ‘Russiagate’ for political gain.”
He said FBI orchestrators are some of the same players who targeted Mr. Trump in 2016 and the same who falsely labeled the verified Hunter Biden laptop as Russia disinformation.
“The president is the sole and universal arbiter and classification authority in the United States of America,” Mr. Patel said. “If he says a document is declassified, or a set of them, that is it. There is no written material required. That is a fiction being created by the fake news and the radical left.”
He said that in October, Mr. Trump put out on social media a “sweeping declassification order” for “Russiagate” papers.
At the White House in the final weeks, “I witnessed him declassify whole sets of documents,” Mr. Patel said.
I asked Mr. Patel why Mr. Trump boxed and shipped documents to his Florida home. “All presidents have their documents moved. Obama moved 30 million,” he said.
He said he didn’t know if Mr. Trump planned to use any of the records as “Russiagate” lawsuit evidence.
Some of Mr. Trump’s two dozen defendants have filed motions asking the judge to dismiss the case.
For example, Marc Elias, formerly an attorney at Perkins Coie, the Clinton campaign law firm that paid Fusion GPS, said Mr. Trump presented no evidence that Mr. Elias was part of a conspiracy to prompt the FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation.
With its history now well known, I consider the dossier the biggest hoax in American political history, given its reach and influence inside Washington, its destructive legacy and its nonsense.
No president, Republican or Democrat, should ever have to deal with a bundle of falsehoods pushed by Washington’s most powerful players — the FBI, Democrats and news media.
Mrs. Clinton repeatedly called Mr. Trump an “illegitimate” president for supposedly helping Russia hack Democratic computers — which he did not.
If anyone played with the Kremlin, it was the Clinton side, gladly taking real Russian disinformation and delivering it to the FBI and planting it in news stories.
• Rowan Scarborough is a columnist with The Washington Times.