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The Trump Mar-a-Lago lethal force claim is just stupid. But it's par for the course

OpinionThe Trump Mar-a-Lago lethal force claim is just stupid. But it's par for the course

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Having been at the Trump trial in Manhattan for the last couple of days, I cannot say I’m surprised at former president Trump’s inane claim that President Biden authorized the use of lethal force in connection with the FBI’s execution of a court-authorized search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

The claim is political red meat for conspiracy theorists.

A search warrant is not a day at the circus (something I can’t say about days spent at the trial). Most are executed without incident; many are not. All of them involve a probable-cause finding that incriminating evidence will be recovered on the premises — which usually are associated with people suspected of crimes. Many of those crimes, though by no means all of them, are violent. Virtually all of them involve situations in which law-enforcement officials have concluded that if evidence is not seized, it might be destroyed or manipulated (in cases of nonviolent crimes involving generally law-abiding people who exhibit cooperation with police and prosecutors, the government usually secures evidence by means less intrusive than a compulsory search).

TRUMP HIGHLIGHTS BIDEN ADMIN AUTHORIZING ‘DEADLY USE OF FORCE’ IN MAR-A-LAGO RAID

All search warrants involve the possibility of forced entry. All of them involve police seizures of property, which can subject the personnel involved to legal risks as well as safety risks. The cops or federal agents usually do a good job of identifying themselves during the process of seeking or forcing entry; yet there are tragic instances in which people inside the premises mistakenly believe violent criminals, rather than cops, are trying to get in, resulting in physical confrontations including, sometimes, exchanges of gunfire.

It would have been surprising if the Mar-a-Lago search hadn’t been conducted in accordance with an operational plan of which use-of-force policies were a component. It was important to do this search by the book.

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As a result, and as a matter of common sense, the FBI always has an operational plan for carrying out a court-authorized search. That plan customarily involves reminding the search teams of the FBI’s use-of-force policies. Those policies, of course, include a refresher on the conditions under which lethal force may be used. This is to prepare law-enforcement officials for contingencies that are all too familiar, and to protect the agency and agents in the event of later legal claims.

Click here to continue reading Andrew McCarthy’s column in The National Review.


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