There’s nothing “unprecedented” about this

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After a year-and-a-half of negotiations failed to prompt the former president to return classified materials he improperly took when he left office, the FBI took the perfectly ordinary step of obtaining a search warrant and recovering the stolen property of the American people. In the aftermath of the seizure, the public and the media have demanded that the courts unseal details of the pending investigation that would, under any other circumstances, remain under wraps. Remember that if the criminal suspect himself had not revealed the search, nobody would even know it had happened.

Pundits on all sides are describing the search as “unprecedented” but they couldn’t be more wrong. The FBI routinely executes dozens of similar searches every day in this country. The only difference in this instance is the identity of the criminal suspect.

We are told that everyone is equal in the eyes of the law. So why should Donald J. Trump get special consideration? Why does his legal team deserve a sneak peek at the evidence that any other defendant would not? Why does the rubber-necking public have any right to get an advance look at the case the FBI is building?

The answer is that we do not. But by adding our voices to the chorus of those who demand some special “transparency” in this “unprecedented” case, we undermine the ability of our own law enforcement system to investigate this very serious crime without political interference.

If history is any guide, every scrap of paper related to this important case will eventually be revealed to the public, studied in law classes, and analyzed by future historians. Transparency is not at issue, and never was. Only patience. So let’s stop using the word unprecedented to describe this very ordinary everyday occurrence of a common criminal being brought to justice on a schedule not of his own making.

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