Clarity About the Trump Illegal Papers Caper

The Facts are Not Complicated. The Right’s Reaction is Shameful

A Short Recap of What Led to the Raid
  • Trump and team were specifically briefed before the end of that Administration about what the law required for documents security.
  • The National Archives knew from about the time Trump left office that sensitive papers had been illegally taken. They reached out early on and repeatedly to Trump to get this corrected.
  • Several months ago, officials went to the Trump compound in Florida and took back 15 boxes (!) of illegally and improperly taken papers. While there, they found poor security for documents on site.
  • Evidence was that still more papers were missing. Several requests were sent. No response. A subpoena was sent. No response. Trump essentially dared them to move against a former US president. Finally, it was determined that the only way to secure the papers was by a search warrant.
The Right Wing Claims and Protests (Spoiler alert – they are all BS)

This is a political witch hunt: Ah, trump’s favorite term when he is caught doing something wrong. In fact, this decision and the execution process was built by career professionals and signed off by the FBI chief that Trump appointed and by the Attorney General himself.

It was authorized by an independent judge, based on sworn affidavits from legal officials as to why this was necessary, what they expected to find, and why they expected to find such material.

No one has ever done such a thing to a former president: No other former president has committed such acts, such crimes. Trump has claimed Obama took a lot more papers. That refers to the papers that went to the Obama Library, all under the supervision and approval of the National Archives.

A warrant was Gestapo-like. A simple request or subpoena would have been sufficient: See the initial discussion of this, above. Both avenues were attempted, over a period in excess of one year.

Trump’s lawyers were not present at the seizure: Yes, in fact, they were. They have acknowledged this.

More of the Same

There is no transparency in this action: Trump and company know that the DOJ cannot release the warrant or the itemized list of what was seized, although they asked the judge who issued the warrant to authorize doing so.

Trump has copies of both and can release them any time he wishes to do so. He did at least a partial release; unfortunately his release did not react the names of agents involved, so now they and their families are receiving threats. Those documents go a very long way toward explaining why this was done and what was found. If this is such a fake action taken by the government, why wouldn’t Trump release those documents at once to prove his case? Because they likely prove the opposite.

This is like the action of a Banana Republic: This is a laughable comment from the crowd that specialized in flaunting the law, appointing unqualified loyalists to key posts, and trying to use the government to punish those it considered enemies.

This process has rigorously followed the law and correct procedure. It is much the same process used in the past to pursue and prosecute high level people, including Democrats and senior military officers. This is the opposite of banana republic behavior. That so much of this wailing and gnashing of teeth is coming from people who demanded others (Democrats) accused of much smaller potential violations should be jailed is not lost to us.

The FBI might have planted evidence; there might be a Deep State plot to assassinate Trump: As bogus a set of declarations as one could imagine and shame on anyone spreading them. Trump’s lawyers were present for the whole operation. A detailed receipt was given for everything taken. It would be easy for them to prove any such evidence planting. It never happened.

As for the assassination story – get real, people. Trump is not important enough for anyone to even bother. His lifestyle is more likely to kill him. Who knows, maybe prison food will improve his health (sorry, that was snarky – I could not resist).

Some Closing Observations
  • It is a bit ironic that all this broke as Trump was in New York, pleading the 5th amendment over 400 times in a single day of testimony. This is the guy who always said before that only criminals do that. Now he says he gets it. Yeah, so do we. Another “presidential first” for Trump- no president has ever pleaded the 5th for anything.
  • All the media replays of right wing howling is not helpful to the country. Let it stew while the process continues to work. Stop giving these people a larger platform.
  • I am not surprised but somewhat disappointed at how quickly and vociferously so many Republican politicians rallied to Trump and trashed law enforcement with no clue as to the facts. So much for the last of the law and order tradition of a once great party. They are actually calling to defund the FBI – because the hurt Trump’s feelings. What a cult this has become. One expects this from the Marjorie Taylor Greene types. One could have expected better from the likes of George Will.
  • One armed attack has already happened on an FBI field office, and it may not be the last. This is a most worrisome legacy of the Trump era – the dramatically increased likelihood of political and physical violence.Trump fanned this atmosphere and the resulting risks to the nation in exactly the same way Hitler did with the Brown Shirts in his early days. This cancer will be with us for some time and could lead to much worse. We have seen this same pattern in other countries.
  • Just to ensure everyone gets the sensitivity of some of this material. Documents that are SCI (Secret Compartmented Information) are among the most sensitive information imaginable. I carried an SCI clearance for some time and remember well the process around them. One gets that clearance only for mission/time specific limits – strictly need to know. I had to read it or get the verbal briefing in a high security room or facility. There was always another cleared person present. Not notes or photos allowed  don’t even bring your phone in the room. The information available at the SCI level is breathtaking. That someone one take it home and put in in their basement boggles the mind.
What Next for Trump?

No one knows, of course, but his Teflon may finally be wearing out. Looking at cases in New York and Georgia, federal investigations, the JAN 6 hearings, and more – he might not want to make any long range plans. Should he still have the freedom to do so and decide to run again, I suspect he will be surprised to find how thin his support actually is now.

             Bill Clontz

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4 replies to Clarity About the Trump Illegal Papers Caper

  1. Thanks for sharing the SCI info Bill – I’d heard of that clearance but never understood it. Great overview and summary of this subject! Also your bar pic was cool. ~Tom Ruby

  2. It is — or, rather, it continues to be — astounding that we hear such drivel from Donald Trump. Most of the italicized responses, especially the “witch hunt” line, above are ones he has already flogged repeatedly, to the point that they sound like he can’t think of anything else (or better) to say. Sadly, the diatribe is nothing more than fodder for his media fans to echo and that is very damaging to the Republic. The repeated attempts to change the story (from one lie to another) are shockingly similar to the propaganda techniques of Vladimir Putin in explaining his “special military operation” to the Russian people. We should expect Trump to use such a strategy . . . since he admires Putin so much.

    I can only hope that Democratic Party candidates gather up all of Trump’s quotes and broadcast them in matched sets between now and November. The juxtaposition of his “only criminals plead the Fifth” should sit nicely next to the narrative of his 400 pleadings in New York.

    • I can remember when the WSJ was a serious newspaper. It still does some fine reporting, but this is what one would expect from the editorial side of a Rupert Murdoch publication. Darn few legal experts or scholars have even touched positions like this; they don’t stand up to examination.

      The laws and regulations on classified documents and presidential papers are rather clear and Trump chose to violate them. This is especially so for SCI material. They asked nice for over a year; Trump denied he had anything retained. Funny, no other President or VP has had any such issues. But the base loves this kind of argument; look at the majority of the comments to this. Poor Donald is being persecuted by the deep state, etc.

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