Former President Donald Trump will appear at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Courthouse in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday, as he surrenders and is arraigned to face charges he mishandled classified documents.
Many details remained unclear on the eve of Trump’s federal arrest. It was not clear, for example, which lawyer would represent him in court, or even whether he would be handcuffed and made to pose for a mugshot.
But one thing was clear: the arrest would be one of the most significant moments in American history. Either it would mark the moment the rule of law was affirmed; or the country’s collapse into a “banana republic.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland, in a departure from standard procedure, appointed a special counsel to handle the Trump documents case and claims relating to his alleged role in the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021.
Normally, a special counsel is appointed to investigate an incumbent president, because more independence is needed from a Department of Justice that still reports to the White House in the executive chain of command.
But Garland used the immense power of the special counsel, who is almost always expected to bring charges, to investigate and prosecute not only a former president, but the leading opposition candidate in the next election.
In the course of that investigation, federal agents raided Trump’s private residence at Mar-a-Lago, in Palm Beach County. It was another radical step, treating a former president like a common criminal over documents.
In the months since then, Americans learned that President Joe Biden himself was found to have taken many classified documents to his private home and office — and unlike Trump, he had not had authority to do so.
Likewise, former Vice President Mike Pence was found to have classified materials in his home. And, of course, the Department of Justice declined to prosecute Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information in 2016.
The Department of Justice was also revealed, through another special counsel investigation, to have launched an investigation into Trump in 2016 based on political motives, and disinformation from the Clinton camp.
Special Counsel Jack Smith, whose team of prosecutors will lead Monday’s criminal proceedings, said Friday that laws on classified information “must be enforced,” and that “We have one set of laws in this country.”
But that is difficult for at least half the country to believe. And while even some legal analysts sympathetic to Trump have concluded that the indictment against him is strong, many believe it should not have been brought.
Smith also has a spotty record of political prosecutions. His conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) was overturned on appeal, and a jury in North Carolina declined to convict former Sen. John Edwards (D).
Smith wants Trump’s trial to take 21 days. But there are so many new legal and constitutional issues in this case that it could take months — or, like Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s corruption trial, many years.
But the impact of this moment will certainly affect the 2024 presidential election. It is seen as an opportunity for Trump’s rivals in both parties — but also as a rallying point for his supporters, who have yet to abandon him.
For many, this is not about the details in the indictment, and it is no longer even about Trump. It is about whether the United States survives as a constitutional republic in which the people decide their own fate.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.