Oh, Trump Took Top Secret Documents To Mar-A-Lago? Is There A Phrase For That Do You Suppose?
Golly, who could have predicted this one, except everybody? The Washington Post reports that among the 15 boxes of White House documents the National Archives retrieved from Donald Trump's trash palace, it seems, some of them were clearly marked as "Top Secret." The Post says that, according to "two people familiar with the matter,"
While it was unclear how many classified documents were among those received by the National Archives and Records Administration, some bore markings that the information was extremely sensitive and would be limited to a small group of officials with authority to view such highly classified information[.]
Also too, the people who know what's what said that, as of Thursday afternoon, the FBI had not yet reviewed the classified materials, whatever they are.
It's not clear whether the Justice Department will do a full investigation (honestly, at this point, how could it not?), but at least now the recovered classified documents are "being stored in a sensitive compartmented information facility, also known as an SCIF, while Justice Department officials debated how to proceed," according to the two people in the know. Thank goodness someone's finally protecting those secrets!
We'll just assume that while they were kept at Mar-a-Lago for over a year, the sensitive documents may have just sat in storage. Or Trump might have been looking through them for dirt on his political enemies. Most likely, he just used them to build a little fort to hide in.
Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich insisted everything was on the up and up, because of how normal it is for huge troves of documents, some classified, to be dragged out of the White House and kept for more than a year by former presidents.
It is clear that a normal and routine process is being weaponized by anonymous, politically motivated government sources to peddle Fake News. The only entity with the ability to credibly dispute this false reporting, the National Archives, is providing no comment.
Yes, yes, and Trump would just love to release his tax returns, but he can't because they're being "audited."
While the number and exact nature of the classified stuff isn't clear yet, we do learn a bit more about how that might have happened, perhaps because he never intended to leave the White House at all for the rest of his life:
Officials had to scramble to pack up before Joe Biden took office, and one person familiar with the events surmised that some of the documents from the residence likely made their way into boxes destined for Mar-a-Lago rather than being turned over as they should have been.
Gosh, he was just such a chaotic guy! Guess he really can't be held accountable because paranoia, chaos, and utter indifference to norms and protocols are just how the guy rolls, you can't change him, he's just that way. That extends to Trump's apparently grudging decision to return the documents:
It is not precisely clear who packed up the classified materials at Mar-a-Lago, or how they got there in the first place. Trump was very secretive about the packing of boxes that were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago last month, and did not let other aides — including some of his most senior advisers — look at them, according to people close to him.
Oh, well maybe he wouldn't let aides see the boxes because of his very great concern for the security of that classified information. Golly, you people try to make everything look so bad!
We also find out a bit more about the mechanics of the National Archives' discovery that documents were missing. Mostly, it came down to archivists realizing that things they knew existed simply hadn't been turned over, like that map of Hurricane Dorian's path that Trump drew dicks on to prove he knew which way the wind blows, or the "love letters" sent to him by Kim Jong Un. That led the Archives to contact Trump's people at Mar-a-Lago, to ask them to look under the couch maybe.
As we noted yesterday, the expert opinion seems to be that it could be very difficult to actually charge Trump with a crime for any of this sloppy handling of classified information, for a bunch of reasons, a point the Post explains again.
Even with documents marked classified found where they don’t belong, prosecutors have a high legal bar to get to criminal charges. Prosecutors would have to prove someone intentionally mishandled the material or was grossly negligent in doing so — which can be a steep hurdle in its own right. And Trump, as president, would have had unfettered latitude to declassify material, potentially raising even bigger challenges to bringing a case against him.
Former federal prosecutor Brandon Van Grack said that some of the laws about classified information require someone to act “without authorization, and potentially the president would be able to argue he gave himself that authorization.”
Thing is, even presidents can't just grab a pile of classified documents, wave their hands, and say "I declare thee no longer secret!" There's supposed to be a formal process, and if stuff found at Mar-a-Lago really had been declassified, it should have had "Declassified" printed at the top. No, not scrawled in Sharpie. Haha, as if "rules" applied to the Great Man!
Also too, even if there's somehow no formal criminal investigation, former prosecutor Van Grack told the Post that the FBI will "want and need to review the information and conduct an investigation to determine what occurred and whether any sources and methods were compromised."
Oh, and then there's this complication thrown on the pile, too: While he was pretending to be president, Trump regularly handled official documents while he was working hard at Mar-a-Lago and definitely not just fucking around on the golf course. That might mean "it could be difficult in some instances to establish the chain of custody of specific classified documents."
The Post says that yeah, normal presidents handle lots of classified information, but then, normal presidents followed protocols for keeping classified documents secure, like locking it in a safe. Trump, not so much. He'd take documents to the residence and he'd just let them pile up, presumably accumulating Big Mac and Diet Coke stains.
One White House staffer said it became a problem that eventually led records staff to search for materials in classified burn bags, which are used to dispose of documents.
Hilariously, another former White House official took the opportunity to say Trump's haphazard treatment of official documents proves that the Great Man was much more on the ball than people might think:
“For all the things written about him that he didn’t read, he often would take things with him to the residence or bring things down with him,” said a second Trump White House official. “But I don’t know that that is out of the ordinary.”
No word in this story, however, about Maggie Haberman's scoop that White House staff periodically had to clear clogs of paper from toilets in the residence. We're fairly sure Barack Obama never flushed foreign matter apart from the occasional illicit cigarette butt, and maybe occasional secret messages he received from the Muslim Conspiracy.
Yr Wonkette is funded entirely by reader donations. If you can, please set up a monthly donation of $5 or $10 so we can keep this mommyblog going. You can even send us a check, and we promise your information will never go down the toilet. Donna Rose is much too grown up for any more of that.
Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.