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Exclusive: Conservatives Believe Trump Is Above the Law –



Conservatives Believe Trump Is Above the Law

#Conservatives #Trump #Law

Adam Serwer: “The merits of a potential government case against Donald Trump, and of the basis for the FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago, cannot yet be evaluated, despite the assertions of many of Trump’s supporters and critics. A federal search warrant can be obtained only with probable cause and with the approval of a federal magistrate, but that does not mean that Trump is guilty of whatever alleged crime the FBI is investigating. Nor does the fact that Trump may be guilty of criminal conduct in other contexts mean that he is guilty here.”

“But at the same time, the reflexive Republican insistence that the investigation is politically motivated is itself unmoored from the available evidence.”

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Exclusive: Zoning Officials Tell New Hampshire Church It Can't Use Living Room To Host Prayer Meetings –




Zoning Officials Tell New Hampshire Church It Can't Use Living Room To Host Prayer Meetings

#Zoning #Officials #Hampshire #Church #Can039t #Living #Room #Host #Prayer #Meetings

In a zoning Catch-22, a small Christian congregation in Bedford, New Hampshire, is being told by local officials that because it got permission to add a meeting hall to a house it uses for church services, it has to stop using that house to host church services.

The church is now suing Bedford, arguing that municipal authorities are restricting its gatherings solely because of their religious nature.

“A determination that religious use is different and [that] you can’t have people gather in a living room if its purpose is religious is clear overreach,” says Michael Tierney, an attorney representing Bedford’s New Hope Christian Fellowship. “It’s unconscionable.”

In March 2020, the New Hope Christian Fellowship purchased a 2,500-square-foot, three-bedroom home on a rural property along a state highway in Bedford. The plan had always been to use the building to host Sunday services, prayer meetings, and other church activities the congregation couldn’t do at their prior meeting place—a martial arts studio.

After a pandemic-induced pause on in-person services, New Hope started hosting Sunday services in the home’s living room. Their complaint states that there were never more than 20 people in attendance.

Hoping to grow their small congregation, the church also received approval from Bedford’s Planning Board in October 2020 for a project that would convert and expand an existing garage on the property to be a new meeting hall and add a parking lot.

Soon enough, New Hope volunteers got to work adding the parking lot and renovating the garage.

Church services proceeded without incident until October 2021. That was when New Hope received a cease-and-desist order from the town of Bedford stating that the church was operating without a required certificate of occupancy and would need to acquire one before it could host meetings again.

Tierney says that this took the congregation by surprise, given that the house it had been meeting out of had a valid certificate of occupancy issued back in 1994 when it was first built.


In response, the church stopped hosting Sunday services. It also filed an appeal of the cease-and-desist letter with Bedford’s Zoning Board of Adjustment.

At a December 2021 meeting, zoning board officials said that when the town approved the church’s expansion plans, it changed the use of the property from residential to a church. That meant a new certificate of occupancy for a church couldn’t be granted until New Hope finished its planned meeting hall and came into compliance with the conditions attached with the approval of that hall.

The upshot of all this red tape was that New Hope wasn’t allowed to keep meeting in the home it owned, despite nothing changing about their meetings or the physical structure of the house itself.

Tierney argued at that December meeting that New Hope’s prayer services were still just 10–20 people meeting in a living room—similar to a baby shower or Cub Scout meeting. A new certificate of occupancy would be required for use of the new meeting hall, but the use of the preexisting, unchanged single-family home shouldn’t be affected, he said.

In a public comment period, New Hope members said that while they were willing “render onto Bedford what is Bedford’s” they had also been good neighbors up to this point and wished to use the property as they always had.

“Have there been any complaints of a backup of traffic on [Route] 101? Have there been any complaints from any of our neighbors that we made too much noise when we were doing our construction?” said one congregant in a public comment. “I don’t think that you’re treating us equally. That’s what the crux of this thing is about. We’re not being treated equal.”

These arguments proved unpersuasive. The zoning board rejected New Hope’s appeal at the December meeting.

In March, the church sued the town in the local superior court. Its petition claims that Bedford’s cease-and-desist letter violates both the New Hampshire and U.S. Constitution’s protections of religious freedom as well as the federal Religious Land Use Institutionalized Persons’ Act.

Town officials contend that they are treating New Hope no differently from any other institution that might want to set up shop in Bedford.

“All projects, whether it’s a bank or retail site or religious institution, need site plan approval by the planning board. And then they would get a building permit, they would complete the improvements as shown on the building permits, and they would get inspections and be issued a certificate of occupancy,” said Bedford Town Manager Rick Sawyer to the New Hampshire Bulletin, which first reported on the story in July.

Tierney tells Reason that New Hope and Bedford have a planned mediation meeting in September and that hopefully the zoning issue is resolved.


He stresses that town officials aren’t attempting to correct for any supposed externality or nuisance the church or its members are causing, noting that they have no problem with potentially more disruptive construction activity.

“The town is OK with the church member volunteers going out there and doing construction but not okay with them going out there and reading the Bible together,” Tierney says. “No town should be regulating based on the purpose of the gathering.”

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Exclusive: CNN Legal Analyst Says FBI Raid of Mar-a-Lago Not Warranted, ‘Daring and Dangerous Move by Department of Justice’ (VIDEO) –




CNN Legal Analyst Says FBI Raid of Mar-a-Lago Not Warranted, ‘Daring and Dangerous Move by Department of Justice’ (VIDEO)

#CNN #Legal #Analyst #FBI #Raid #MaraLago #Warranted #Daring #Dangerous #Move #Department #Justice #VIDEO

CNN Legal Analyst Says FBI Raid of Mar-a-Lago Not Warranted, ‘Daring and Dangerous Move by Department of Justice’ (VIDEO)


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Exclusive: The Republican response to the Mar-a-Lago raid should scare you –




The Republican response to the Mar-a-Lago raid should scare you

#Republican #response #MaraLago #raid #scare

After news of the FBI raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home broke on Monday night, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy responded by openly threatening Attorney General Merrick Garland.

“The Department of Justice has reached an intolerable state of weaponized politicization,” he said in a statement. “Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear your calendar.”

Think about this for a second. Here you have the likely next speaker of the House claiming without the tiniest shred of evidence that the Justice Department is persecuting a former president — and vowing to use his authority to punish them as a result. His response to his baseless claim of the politicization of investigative powers is to promise a politicized investigation of his own.

McCarthy was far from alone. Trump, who confirmed the raid in a lengthy statement, called it “an attack by the Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024” — an allegation that set the tone for much of the party in the wake of the dramatic FBI operation.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, the leading non-Trump candidate in the 2024 GOP primary race, called the raid “another escalation in the weaponization of federal agencies against the Regime’s political opponents.” Florida Sen. Rick Scott, head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, called it “3rd World country stuff.” New York Rep. Elise Stefanik, the third-ranking House Republican, called for “an immediate investigation and accountability into Joe Biden and his Administration’s weaponizing this [Justice] department against their political opponents.”

Some leading Republicans, like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, did not engage in such fevered speculation and kept their counsel. But the backlash from the party has been loud and broad, revealing the GOP as basically in lockstep with the Trumpian line that the Justice Department has been fully politicized and needs to be brought to heel.


House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and then-President Donald Trump attend a legislation signing rally in Bakersfield, California, in 2020.
David McNew/Getty Images

There is no evidence to support the idea that the raid on Mar-a-Lago was politically motivated. FBI Director Christopher Wray is a Trump appointee and would almost certainly have personally signed off on the warrant; so too would the attorney general and a federal judge. The Biden White House, by contrast, says it was not informed of the search in advance. We also know the target was real — possibly classified documents Trump improperly brought back to his private residence — and that there are a number of serious crimes that Trump might well have committed in office. It’s possible that the raid turns out to be an overreach or a mistake — FBI history is certainly full of those — but, as of right now, there is no evidence of any kind of political misconduct on the part of the agency.

The Republican attacks on the Mar-a-Lago raid result not from reasonable skepticism of law enforcement, but something darker: a belief on the right that the government’s functions must necessarily be partisan, either wielded for Republicans’ benefit or against them.

It is an idea that has become increasingly dominant during the Trump years — and one that threatens the foundations of American democracy.

Republicans against the rule of law

Democratic governance depends on the idea that the rules are applied neutrally: that when a legislature passes a law, agents of the state enforce that law based on their best reading of its text, without regard to the identity of the people who are breaking it. This is the essence of “the rule of law,” one of liberal democracy’s foundational principles.

Reality, of course, does not match this lofty vision. But when government agents depart from it — systemic racial biases in policing, for example — it’s rightly considered a scandal, an injustice that ought to be corrected. Trying to address the gulf between principle and reality is one of the perennial struggles of democratic political life around the globe.

During the Trump era, however, Republicans began to embrace an increasingly radical critique, one that rejected the very notion of a neutral “rule of law” as illusory under current conditions.

In their view, Democrats and liberals have so thoroughly seized control of major American institutions — including the federal bureaucracy and law enforcement apparatus — that nonpartisan governance is functionally impossible. This belief, ironically reminiscent of some arguments made by critical race theorists, argues that the very idea of small-l liberal neutrality is a fiction — that politics is a no-holds-barred struggle for power, and the question is whether it is wielded for us or against us.


A Secret Service agent is seen in front of Mar-a-Lago on August 9, a day after the FBI executed a search warrant there to retrieve classified White House documents.
Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images

Michael Anton, the chief theorist of Trumpism as a political doctrine, laid out this argument plainly in a late July essay.

“The people who really run the United States of America have made it clear that they can’t, and won’t, if they can help it, allow Donald Trump to be president again,” Anton writes. “Plan A is to use the Jan. 6 show trials to make it impossible for Trump to run again. … Plan B is for the Jan. 6 committee to lay the groundwork for an indictment of Trump.”

In his essay, Anton describes a hypothetical Trump prosecution as part of a “regime” plot against the former president and his supporters. Anton lays out “their” motivation — the conspiratorially unspecified “they” is a frequent feature in his prose — as a corrupt power play, a pretext for keeping Trump out of office and potentially even “unleashing the security state” against his supporters.

Think about what it would mean if Anton’s theory were true. The entire Justice Department and FBI would have to be staffed by “regime apparatchiks” who operate at the beck and call of “the people who really run the United States.” The government is occupied hostile territory, led by an anti-Trump and anti-Republican conspiracy, that will stop at nothing to entrench its own hold on power just to keep Trump and the people he represents out of power.

Anton is not a fringe figure: He was a high-ranking official in Trump’s National Security Council and an influential writer on the pro-Trump right. His rhetoric is directly echoed in the GOP responses to the Mar-a-Lago raid: Look at how DeSantis, for example, called it an attack on “the Regime’s political opponents.” The claim that the US government has been captured by a capital-R regime is a feature of radical right-wing rhetoric, popular among Anton-style Trumpists and the so-called “New Right” — but here it’s being echoed by one of the country’s most influential Republican politicians.


And such theories are informing actual policy. Last month, Axios’s Jonathan Swan reported on a large-scale GOP plan to reshape the federal bureaucracy in a second Trump presidency: reissuing a 2020 executive order called “Schedule F” with the intent of “purging potentially thousands of civil servants and filling career posts with loyalists to him and his ‘America First’ ideology.”

The premise of the plan, according to Swan, is that “Schedule F will finally end the ‘farce’ of a nonpartisan civil service that they say has been filled with activist liberals who have been undermining GOP presidents for decades.”

It is this specter, more than anything else, that explains the furious Republican reaction to the Mar-a-Lago raid. It confirms the hardcore Trumpist belief that the “deep state” is aligned against them, a conspiracy theory that the GOP’s leaders have adopted either out of sincere conviction or political expediency.

And the consequences of this belief’s spread could soon prove dire. On Monday night, popular conservative YouTube personality Steven Crowder tweeted out an ominous take:

Whether Crowder meant “war” literally is somewhat immaterial; after January 6, we know messages urging individuals to rise to the defense of Republicans against a vast liberal conspiracy can mobilize violent actors who are all too real. If you really believed that the US government were controlled by shadowy forces who hate you, wouldn’t you act to try and save your beloved president from their clutches?

The posters on, a radical pro-Trump web forum, are thinking along these lines. “They’re treating it as a hot civil war,” one poster writes in the thread on the Mar-a-Lago raid. “When this is all said and done, the people responsible for these tyrannical actions need to be hanged, and memorialized with statues of loafers and high heels cast in bronze in their home towns.”

The most popular response in the thread is much shorter, just three words long: “lock and load.”

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