(I prepare most of my posts a week or so before publication, and I wrote the following article before the August 8 raid on Mar-a-Lago. That event served to heighten my concerns,)
The Gestapo was the political police of Nazi Germany. It ruthlessly eliminated opposition to the Nazis within Germany and its occupied territories. When the Gestapo knocked on your door, it was a time for mortal fear.
In the pre-dawn hours of April 22, 2000, at the direction of Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States, 130 border patrol agents, armed with tear gas and guns, stormed a house in a residential neighborhood of Miami, Florida, and took six year old Elian Gonzalez into custody. Pepper spray and mace were employed against persons outside the house who attempted to interfere. The Department of Naturalization Services stated that they had received information that as many as two dozen persons, some of whom were armed, were prepared to resist their efforts to take young Elian from his uncle’s home in Miami and return him to his father in Cuba. As it turned out, the Gonzalez family was unarmed at the time of the raid. Approximately 100 people protested against the raid as it took place, with some calling the Federal agents “assassins.” Nevertheless, there was no recorded interference. New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani referred to the agents as storm troopers. When challenged, Giuliani said that his criticism was really directed at Reno and her boss, President Clinton. Was such excessive force necessary?
In the early morning hours of January 25, 2019, heavily armed FBI agents surrounded the home of Roger Jason Stone and arrested him based on warrants issued by Robert Mueller’s special investigative committee. Since the 1970s, Stone had worked on the campaigns of Republican politicians, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, Bob Dole, the Bushes, and Donald Trump. In addition to frequently serving as a campaign adviser, Stone was a political lobbyist. Stone had a reputation as a dirty political infighter, but there was no history of criminal violence on his part. After the arrest, prominent Republican members of Congress described the manner of Stone’s arrest was “unsettling.” Stone himself said that the FBI used greater force than was used in operations conducted on drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and Osama bin Laden.
On June 2, 2022, Peter Novarro, was arrested and cuffed at National Airport in Washington, DC, by a squad of FBI agents as he attempted to board a domestic flight. He had been indicted on two misdemeanor counts of for failing to respond to the summons of the House of Representatives January 6 Committee. Novarro was not provided an opportunity to turn himself in, but was treated as a flight risk and arrested at the airport. He told reporters that he had offered the FBI a “modus vivendi” of cooperation last week, but that they had arrested him in the manner more appropriate to “Stalinist Russia or the Chinese Communist Party.” He described his treatment by the FBI as “terrorism” and “coercion” and as a form of punishment and intimidation. Judge Amit Mehta — an appointee of former President Barack Obama — agreed with Navarro that the arrest appeared excessive given the non-violent nature of the misdemeanor crime with which he is charged. At a hearing in Navarro’s case on the day following the arrest, U.S. District Court Judge Amit Mehta signaled that he agrees that the treatment of the longtime White House trade adviser was unreasonably harsh. “It is curious…at a minimum why the government treated Mr. Navarro’s arrest in the way it did,” Mehta said at the session, which Navarro attended along with his two defense attorneys. “It is a federal crime, but it is not a violent crime.” Mehta, a former federal defender, said it was puzzling that prosecutors didn’t just tell Navarro he was going to be charged and allow him to walk into an FBI office, as some white-collar defendants are permitted to do. Navarro is defending himself, appearing pro se after declining to cooperate with the January 6 Committee, citing concerns about executive privilege and arguing that the committee is unlawful and unconstitutional.
Navarro is one of two defendants being charged with contempt of Congress, the other being former Breitbart News executive chairman and former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon. The Department of Justice, which President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland promised would be non-partisan, is charging Navarro and Bannon. The same Department of Justice failed to charge Democrats in the recent past when they have defied subpoenas by a Republican Congress.
Aside from the very real concern about equal treatment under the law, it does appear that our Federal officers are inclined to use excessive force, especially when arresting members of the political opposition. It looks bad. Americans need to have faith in their judicial system.
We want no Gestapo!