Serious blows are being struck to constitutional freedoms by President Joseph Biden’s White House, congressional Democrats and the FBI in the course of a mounting number of legal assaults against former President Donald Trump and his family members in the run-up to the 2022 midterm elections. These freedoms are crucial for workers and farmers as we use our unions to fight boss attacks on jobs, wages and working conditions.
Tied into these attacks, the FBI is widening its net to target “MAGA Republicans” — working people who voted for Trump by the tens of millions — that Biden claims “are destroying American democracy.” Hillary Clinton echoed Biden’s remarks, comparing Trump supporters to Nazis. She described the crowd at a Sept. 17 Trump rally in Youngstown, Ohio, last week as behaving like people “basically drawn in by Hitler.”
Constitutional freedoms are not under threat from a rising right-wing conspiracy, much less a fascist movement, but from the White House, using the FBI, the U.S. rulers’ political police. Trump faces probes under the Espionage Act; a never-ending series of prosecutions and hearings out of the Jan. 6, 2021, melee at the Capitol; and a growing number of lawsuits.
A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 21 that Trump’s constitutional rights weren’t violated during the nine-hour FBI raid at his Mar-a-Lago estate last month, despite the fact that his lawyers were barred from observing what the FBI did. Trump had won a temporary halt to the government’s access to material snatched by the FBI. But buying the government’s claim that “irreparable harm” will be done to “national security,” the judges also granted the government’s request to resume its digging through the documents.
One key task of the White House is to try and refurbish the image of the FBI, the better to turn it loose on workers as the class struggle deepens in years to come.
Protecting “national security” is a longtime ploy used by the government and FBI to spy on, disrupt and harass unionists, Socialist Workers Party members, Black rights fighters and opponents of Washington’s wars. It’s the capitalist class and its hold on state power that the FBI seeks to “secure,” against struggles by working people, our unions and anyone who gets in the rulers’ way.
New York Attorney General Letitia James vowed to go after Trump during her 2018 election campaign, turning on its head the presumption of innocence. Based on her hatred of Trump and her judgment that he had to be guilty of something, James went looking for a “crime.” On Sept. 21 she filed a lawsuit charging Trump and his children with fraud, alleging they inflated the value of their properties to get better terms for bank loans and insurance.
Such practices are rife among real estate speculators. But such practices rarely actually “defraud” big banks, which have huge resources to scrutinize loan applications to weed out those that don’t promise a profitable return.
No matter who the FBI targets — including Trump, a capitalist and past president — their attack sets precedents that will be turned against the working class, our unions and its political vanguard.
FBI goes after ‘domestic terrorism’
A glimpse of the expanding scope of today’s FBI operations against so-called domestic terrorists was presented in allegations by ex-spy Steven Friend. He was suspended from the FBI after refusing to join a raid by the SWAT team he was assigned to in Jacksonville, Florida. It was tasked with a heavily armed raid targeting individuals alleged to have some minor connections to the Jan. 6 activities.
Friend says the FBI is expanding its probe into the Capitol riot to create the false impression that “domestic terrorism” is widespread and growing. Surveillance is being carried out on people who went nowhere near the Capitol Building, he said, but who are “suspects” solely because of political comments they posted on Facebook.
The trial of five members of the Oath Keepers militia began Sept. 27 on charges of seditious conspiracy for planning to overthrow the government on Jan. 6, 2021. The use of these laws is a threat to workers and our unions. Since they were first adopted in 1798, sedition laws have been used to attack freedom of speech and assembly and to target the labor movement.
Using the Sedition Act, the government raided union halls and broke up the founding convention of the Communist Party, arresting some 3,000 people between 1919 and 1920. In 1941 leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and the Teamsters union in the Midwest were charged with sedition in an attempt to hamstring unions and silence forces campaigning against the rulers’ drive to enter the Second World War.
Some 919 people have already been charged with various offenses relating to Jan. 6 activities. That number will likely grow in the run-up to the elections, as Democrats drive to make Trump and his supporters the issue, not the paltry record of the Biden White House.