Donald Trump should be prosecuted 'because the United States is not a banana republic': journalist

Donald Trump should be prosecuted 'because the United States is not a banana republic': journalist

After FBI agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago on August 8, MAGA Republicans were quick to claim that former President Donald Trump was the victim of persecution — and some of them have claimed that the search and the federal investigation that led to it are characteristic of a “banana Republic.” But The Bulwark’s Shay Khatiri, in an article published on August 29, lays out some reasons why the search and investigation are the polar opposite of what typically occurs in a banana republic.

The FBI agents who searched Mar-a-Lago were looking for classified government documents; according to the New York Times, at least 300 such documents were being kept at Mar-a-Lago. Under the Presidential Records Act of 1978, former presidents are required to hand over government documents to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) after they leave office. Moving classified documents to private property such as Mar-a-Lago is a serious matter, and more than a few of Trump’s critics have been stressing that if a Democratic ex-president had done that, Republicans wouldn’t be taking it so lightly.

“The FBI’s operation to retrieve classified documents from Mar-a-Lago has prompted many conservatives to express concern that America is becoming a ‘banana republic,’” explains Khatiri, a native of Iran who now lives in the United States. “We’ve seen this call from ‘respectable’ Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel, to banana Sen. Marco Rubio, to banana blog the Federalist.

READ MORE: Donald Trump's lawyer falsely claims FBI searched Mar-a-Lago because Liz Cheney lost her primary

Khatiri continues, “But the United States is not a banana republic for three simple reasons: (1) A banana republic does not have an independent judiciary. (2) In a banana republic, political opponents are prosecuted without cause — the machinery of law enforcement does not deliberate over seeking a warrant from an independent judge, whom the head of the government cannot coerce. (3) In a banana republic, demagogic leaders of popular fronts get away with criminality because political leaders are worried that the regime’s institutions are so weak that the demagogue could spark a revolution.”

Khatiri points out that during Trump’s four years in the White House, one of the talking points of “Conservatism, Inc.” was, “Don’t worry. America isn’t a banana republic.” And he argues that the “closest we got to becoming an actual banana republic was January 6, 2021,” but even then, the United States’ “institutions held.”

Khatiri stresses, however, that exempting a former president from the rule of law is exactly the type of thing that occurs in a banana republic.

“If the United States’ institutions are strong enough to resist Donald Trump and his movement, as conservatives have insisted for many years, then America is, by definition, not a banana republic,” Khatiri writes. “And as such, then prosecuting a former politician with cause for crimes he might have committed is a sign of political health, not institutional weakness. More than that: Letting powerful people go without consequences for their misdeeds purely because you fear the power of their populist movement is anti-democratic. It’s exactly the kind of weakness that both exposes banana republic status and exacerbates it.”

READ MORE: Watch: GOP senator concedes that Donald Trump 'should have turned the documents over'

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