Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here. It's the middle of August. I’ll spend a couple minutes telling you what I think. In particular, we are talking about the dysfunction in the US political system and the ramifications of the FBI carrying out a search warrant on President Trump's residence, Mar-a-Lago. Plenty of things to unpack here. On the one hand, it's very clear, lots of classified documents, some at the very highest levels. The unsealed search warrant made that apparent. I feel quite confident that describes what they actually were looking for and found there. It's inconceivable to me that they would've carried out and a judge would've approved that search if there hadn't been a very strong case to get those documents. Trump clearly shouldn't have had possession of those documents. There were efforts in the past to gain access to them by subpoena and it appears for all intents and purposes that former President Trump did not fully comply with those subpoenas.
None of the excuses or explanations that have been offered by Trump's lawyers or by various Trump supporters so far have been particularly credible. And again, not surprising that you just kind of throw enormous amount of chaff at the accusations, and then you see what arguments seem to get the most traction and those are the ones you basically run with. And that has been true in a target-rich environment for Trump investigations. Some of which have been very serious, some of which have been not so serious and it is not yet clear exactly where on the scale this falls. It is certainly a real issue and for those that discount it as politicized and meaningless and illegitimate, we can dispense with that.
Chris Wray runs the FBI. He was appointed by Trump and Trump considered him exceptionally credible at the time. Not that Trump would have a very strong view of who's going to be a great FBI director or not, but certainly not someone that you'd have any reason to believe would have wanted ill for President Trump or his administration. So, I mean, doesn't mean he's a full confederate, but at the very least you got to say this guy is apolitical. And if to the extent that he has political orientations, they'd be more aligned with Trump than not to get that position. And the fact that he has said nothing about in casting aspersions and offering his resignation in any leaks saying that this was somehow this decision for the FBI to go into Mar-a-Lago was wrong, tells you a lot. It means if you're opposing it, you're clearly a very strong partisan on one side.
Also, Merrick Garland as Attorney General. Interesting to say, first of all, this is someone who clearly to the extent that he has political sympathies, unlike Wray, for Garland those sympathies run center left as opposed to center right, and a professional. Now, Biden has said in the past that he wasn't going to interfere, but we've also seen stories, that are credible stories from White House sources, that Biden has himself been frustrated that there haven't been open investigations under Trump. I find it completely credible that Garland would've read that would've been affected by it and would've felt some level of political pressure to ensure that he was adequately looking into and pushing for anything that was seen to be breaking the law.
So do I think that Garland would not do his job, would undermine rule of law? No. But I think that he would make sure that he would focus on those issues, that he would prioritize those issues. So the fact that we have Garland and Wray engaging in support for an investigation that clearly involves what are believed to be misdoings by former President Trump and now have led to a search warrant being affected against his personal residence in Mar-a-Lago is a big deal and is unprecedented for a former president that is indeed intending to run again.
Now at the same time, I want to say that at base level, on the basis of what we know now, this does not come close, this investigation does not come close in my view to the level of misdoing around the two separate impeachments. In other words, a phone call by President Trump to the Ukrainian president, telling him, “I want you to open an investigation into my erstwhile rival for the presidency, Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, or else I will not provide the military support that has been voted through Congress.” Everything I would see so far, that is a significantly greater breach of the duty of a president of the United States than what we've seen around his mishandling of classified documents. As well as everything we've seen around the second impeachment and his efforts to overturn a legitimate election, his efforts to get legitimate elected officials in states like Georgia and Arizona to find votes that didn't exist to ensure that Trump would be able to win as opposed to Biden. And then his role around January 6th. I would say that those are significantly greater dereliction of duty and indeed actions that from my perspective involve illegality. And no one is guilty until proven such in a court of law and that has not happened for Trump. So at this point, all we have to say is suspected of committing these crimes as opposed to proven guilty.
But I still would consider both of those that led to two impeachments, but no convictions, because, again, the impeachment process in the US has become completely partisan, to be greater than what we've seen so far from the FBI and the DOJ. And that doesn't mean that we aren't going to see more come out. If we were to find that not only was he mishandling that classified top secret SCI information, but that he was attempting to use it for his personal advantage, either commercial or political or strategic, that would be a different story. Not only do we not have proof or evidence of that, we don't even have suspicion of that at this point. No one is making that case.
So what we've seen so far, doesn't rise to either of these impeachments. And if that continues to be the case, then I would say not only does Trump get through this, but in fact it probably makes him stronger in terms of his hold on the Republican Party. Not in his ability to win the presidency, but his ability to secure the nomination. Most meaningful is the GOP leadership through this process in the last week has stayed with him almost 100%, indeed, many ways more firmly with him. There have been a few people in Congress for example, we've seen saying that defunding calling for defunding the FBI is fundamentally unserious and the Republican shouldn't do that. There's been McConnell on the Senate side, the Minority Leader, demanding answers from the DOJ and the FBI, but holding fire in terms of not opposing the process until he actually learns more. That strikes me is a much more sensible position. But generally the Republican position has been this is a witch hunt, the FBI is politically motivated. What about Hunter? What about Hillary? And of course, all of that plays to Trump's control of the Republican Party.
So on balance so far, I would argue this helps Trump with the nomination. And of course it will, if that's true, hurt the United States in terms of the legitimacy of the DOJ, the FBI, and the ability to have a peaceful transfer of power with the upcoming national elections in 2024. Fundamental to the ability of the United States to exist as a damaged, but still representative democracy. Becoming less representative, unfortunately. By the day, that's what I'm most concerned about from a country risk perspective of the United States. And I'm sure we're going to be following that very closely.
So that's it for me. Hope everyone's doing well. I'll talk to you all real soon.
For more of Ian Bremmer's weekly analyses, subscribe to his GZERO World newsletter at ianbremmer.bulletin.com
- Trump's 2024 outlook: more vulnerable after Jan 6 hearings ... ›
- Trump FBI raid: Defund the FBI is the new stop the steal - GZERO ... ›
- Trump Mar-a-Lago affidavit: who accessed top secret documents? - GZERO Media ›
- Will the DOJ charge Trump after Mar-a-Lago raid? - GZERO Media ›
- Biden vs. MAGA Republicans - GZERO Media ›