Conservatives love to point out that if you weave the name Hitler into a conversation or argument, you already lost the point you are trying to make. Times change and language evolves. Now it’s okay to refer to the FBI as Stormtroopers or Gestapo, even though they were part of the underlings and underpinnings of Hitler’s Third Reich.
Any number of armchair critics called the tactics of the FBI in the arrest of Donald Trump adviser Roger Stone something out of the Gestapo handbook, that the heavily armed agents with body armor were unnecessarily heavy-handed, that there were fewer Navy Seals who dispatched Osama Bin Laden. That last comparison is beyond absurd, and if anyone has a line of communication with the dead, they should ask OBL if the SEALS first knocked on his door, and if they told him they had a warrant for his arrest.
It is important to note that the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure permit the arrest or search of one’s home, with a warrant, after 6 a.m. and before 9 p.m.---unless a magistrate judge has approved an earlier or later execution, which was not the case with Stone. Also worthy of mention is the certainty that acting attorney general Matthew Whitaker approved Stone’s indictment, arrest, and searches before Mueller and the FBI proceeded---the same Whitaker who has been critical of the Mueller investigation.
Stone’s arrest was coupled with two searches, one at his home and the other at an apartment in New York. It was necessary to conduct simultaneous searches contemporaneously with taking Stone in to prevent the real possibility of destruction of evidence. The FBI had search warrants for Stone’s computers and other electronics, and considering that Stone was indicted for obstruction of justice and witness tampering, it was reasonable to expect that Stone might try to destroy evidence if he knew that an arrest and search were imminent. We also don’t know what information the FBI had relating to whether Stone could resist arrest, what weapons he had at his home, and if he had a plan to destroy evidence if an arrest was imminent.
It has been fairly argued that white collar criminals are usually summonsed instead of arrested, that they are ordered to appear in court on a certain date and time. But in those instances there is no reason to believe that the defendant is violent, and there is no evidence that the FBI is looking for that they haven’t already obtained, either through third party subpoenas (phone records, etc.) or other means.
Before Stone was arrested, you can be sure that Stone’s history was discussed by senior FBI agents concerning the best, most efficient, and safest way to make the arrest without incident and to ensure the evidence they would be looking for was preserved. Reasonable people can differ, but law enforcement officers are given wide latitude concerning arrests and searches.
Rudy Giuliani, now Trump’s lawyer of questionable competence, called the FBI agents who searched former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s apartment in 2018, Stormtroopers. Coming from him, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, makes it something for standup comedy. How many recall when Giuliani had agents arrest Wall Street criminals for inside trading, calling the media to observe the defendants being frog walked out of their offices in handcuffs---none who had any history of violence or who would be likely to destroy evidence. This, of course, was when Giuliani had planned to run for mayor of NYC. Being tough on crime is almost always a political winner. I wonder if he looks back with regret and thinks of himself in those days as a Stormtrooper or Gestapo?
White collar criminals can be very dangerous. They have the most to lose of any class of criminal. Their losses include family, reputation, livelihood, professional licenses, friends and community---everything they have ever worked for. Too many commit suicide, but a suicidal person can also become homicidal, and all law enforcement has every right and reason to conduct arrests and/or searches that ensure the safety of the officers involved.
Back to Stone. He reportedly had nice things to say about the agents who arrested him. He was out on bond within a matter of hours giving his best Nixon impersonation waving his hands with his V for victory, and talking to the media. Yeah, sounds like a real redux of the Third Reich.
Actually, if the Gestapo or Stormtroopers had arrested Stone, the likelihood is that he would never have been seen or heard from again. To those who would compare the brave men and women who serve this country as FBI agents, if ever you have a need for help perhaps you should call the Gestapo. The FBI might be busy doing the real work on behalf of the American people.