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Trump Keeps Digging the Hole Deeper

Every time Trump tries to throw a wrench into the vast justice machine coming toward him, he makes things worse for himself. Last night’s court filing by the Department of Justice in response to his request for a special master is an example.

First, here is everybody’s favorite photograph today.

Photograph attached to Department of Justice court filing.

Eric Lutz writes at Vanity Fair,

Donald Trump’s legal problems appear to have gone from bad to worse overnight. In a court filing late Tuesday, the Department of Justice alleged that the former president and his associates not only failed to turn over highly classified materials he’d taken after leaving office —they concealed the documents and lied to officials who were seeking their return. Investigators “developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the storage room,” the DOJ wrote in the filing, “and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”

The filing includes some of the most damning evidence of obstruction the government has made public so far, including a photo of classified documents — some gathered by human intelligence sources — recovered from a box in Trump’s Mar-a-Lago office, “commingling” with personal items like framed magazine covers.

See also Philip Bump at WaPo, The photo of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, annotated. Bump says that according to the filing, this particular box of stuff was taken from Trump’s office in Mar-a-Lago. The office, mind you, which is probably not all that off limits to employees and guests. It’s not certain where the photograph was taken, but some people have said they recognize the carpet from Mar-a-Lago. 

As for the documents in the photo, we can see the from the cover page that some of this stuff is as classified as classifed gets. But Bump points out something a bit hinky:

Document 3 is more interesting. First, its classification marking was obscured by the government before publishing the photograph. Then there’s the date, which appears to be Wednesday, May 9, 2018. That day, Bloomberg News notes, was one day after Trump announced that the United States would be pulling out of the Iran nuclear agreement.

You have to look at Bump’s article to see the numbering system, but I believe “document 3” is the one behind the “2A” card with a little gold eagle-seal at the top.

We also learned that the FBI searchers found three classified documents in Trump’s office desk at Mar-a-Lago. We know this now because, the filing says, that’s where Trump also kept the passports that were seized.

See also. This is a real tweet. This must be the best excuse the House GOP could muster today.

From the Independent (UK):

Mr Trump has accused the department of staging the photo.

“Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see,” he wrote on Truth Social this morning. “Thought they wanted them kept Secret? Lucky I Declassified!”

As I understand it, had the documents been legitimately declassified they would have been returned to whatever agency had classified them to begin with and reissued without the designation. And there would have been a record of this. Also, the POTUS’s powers to request declassification do have some limits. And I don’t think the DOJ was claiming that’s how the documents were found. They were demonstrating how the documents were just shoved into random boxes with non-classified stuff.

Greg Sargent:

At key moments in the Mar-a-Lago saga, you could squint at emerging revelations and conclude that Donald Trump himself might not be directly implicated. Perhaps his aides botched the transfer of documents to the National Archives. Or perhaps they failed to fully account for documents when archives officials came knocking, and fumbled things again when the FBI followed suit.

The key takeaway from the Justice Department’s latest filing in the case is that this notion is getting impossible to sustain. The new filing implicates Trump himself in the hoarding of national security secrets more directly than anything yet.

He was keeping classified stuff in his home office mixed with personal keepsakes like the framed Time magazine cover in the box. That’s proof he knew good and well he was keeping classified stuff, unless somebody can document he never actually used his office. It’s hard to imagine, as Greg Sargent says, that Trump wasn’t intentionally involved in putting that stuff in his office, including his own desk. Obstruction, anyone?

Back to Greg Sargent:

Here’s a really critical point in the filing: Investigators executed the search because that evidence of those still-stored documents pointed to obstruction, i.e., obstruction of the ongoing FBI investigation into the hoarding of documents.

That strongly suggests Trump held classified documents even after his lawyers swore on his behalf that a full search had been executedand that some were held in his office as part of that effort to obstruct, says former FBI counsel Andrew Weissmann.

“Is it really the case that for 18 months, nobody, including counsel, ever discussed this with the president or took direction from him?” Weissmann asked rhetorically, noting that the filing says some of these documents were “interspersed with personal items.”

Weissmann told me prosecutors can now ask the court for permission to subpoena Trump’s lawyers, in order to directly ask whether Trump authorized the original statement misleading investigators about classified documents still held at Mar-a-Lago.

See also Aaron Blake’s analysis of the difference between the Clinon email flap and Trump’s current mess. Yeah, they’re way different.

That leaves us with the mystery of why Trump was hanging on to this stuff. I offered my best guess a few days ago. Today David Von Drehle offered an explanation similar to mine. Drehle says he had observed that Trump took jumbled piles of documents with him just about everywhere and used them as props.

He described interviewing Trump on his private plane during the 2016 campaign. On the seat next to Trump was a large stack of papers. Trump complained that “they” made him read things, but during the flight all he did was occasionally pluck a paper from the pile, look at it quizzically, and put it back. The only things in the pile that engaged his interest were photographs, such as one of Michael Jackson. One suspects a photo of Michael Jackson was not a pressing business or campaign concern in 2016. Trump just liked showing it off. He knew Michael Jackson, you know.


The most plausible explanation comes from former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who stopped apologizing for her old boss on the afternoon of Jan. 6, 2021.

Grisham noted that Trump simply has a thing for paper — heaps of it, the more jumbled, the better. He even hauled boxes of assorted materials with him when he traveled on Air Force One. “There was no rhyme or reason — it was classified documents on top of newspapers on top of papers people printed out of things they wanted him to read. The boxes were never organized,” Grisham told The Post. “He’d want to get work done on long trips so he’d just rummage through the boxes. That was our filing system.”

He didn’t have any sort of work process or discipline; this was just a long-standing habit of how he made a show of working. And as I wrote in my earlier post, he may have wanted to keep the classified stuff because that made him feel he was still POTUS. There have also been some suggestions that some of the documents contained dirt on various people (Emmanuel Macron’s sex life? Does anyone care?).

So we’ll see if the judge goes through with appointing a special master. If this judge has any brains and self-preservation instincts at all, she’ll say no.

13 thoughts on “Trump Keeps Digging the Hole Deeper

  1. If Trump has the power to evade jail on all of the criminal things he has done, them I feel extremely sorry for America as they have truly lost their way.

  2. I've been gorging myself on a big plate of Schadenfreude, but I'm going to save room for dessert. For dessert I'm going to have a big ol slice of false electors pie! Yum yum.

    • Yes, but the appetizers (the noose tightening and all of his enablers go to jail)!

      Take a look at cute little Alina Habba. She will do fine in a federal prison. A bunch of cutesey lawyers and geriatric noobs to terrorize in the oh so humane federal prison system.

      Think of the terror all of those people who faced a dime in prison because they got caught smoking a joint and then look at the picture of Christina Bobb and wonder if she makes it through intake. It is a rough world out there, she will be eaten first.


  3. IN HIS DESK?!?!?!?!?

    That means, after he orders another Diet Coke, if tRUMP goes to relive himself of the last DC, the kid who brings in the soda can take a peek at the secret stuff "hidden" in the psycho's desk!

    And the night cleaning crew could also look through his desk, because tRUMP doesn't seem like the kind of guy who locks his desk's drawers.

    And the psycho TRAVELED with these documents?!?!?

    What an idiot!!!!!

    • "And the psycho TRAVELED with these documents?!?!?"

      You never know when someone might be willing to pay a lot for one or two pages.  Just face it with the Times cover and bingo, the recipient can claim it is real.


    No surprise here! I wonder if Guiness' book of world records has a category for people who have left the biggest trail of disbarred lawyers in their wake? Because if they do I think I know who could rightfully claim that title. Guesses anyone?

     I do have a tinge of sympathy for Christina Bobb. It seems like she was just coming out of the gate to start a legal career when she made the mistake of trying to have representing a President of the United States added to her resume. She now is possibly facing several felonies and disbarment as a result of putting her hopes of a lucrative career by associating with Donald J. Trump. It's so unfair.

  5. As I read the law, this judge should have bounced the filing to Superior Court in DC as specified in federal law. She didn't. So what's her angle? Is she worried about "justice" for tRump? That's my guess – she has the opinion that Democrats are picking on the poor FPOTUS and she wants to protect him from the big, bad DoJ. 

    Problem – like a defense lawyer can find out over time… he did it and flagrantly. It's interesting that DoJ asked for and got permission to submit a lengthy response (40 pages), which the picture was the last page of. The judge allowed. IMO, she's finding out just how severe the breach was.

    Tonight, the new lawyer for tRump suggested in writing- "…appropriate for the special master to possess a Top Secret/SCI security clearance." Yet tRump keeps claiming that all the documents were declassified. I expect trouble between TFG and the lawyer he hired this week. TFG thinks he can call the legal shots and develop strategy. The former shysters handling the case weren't qualified to chase ambulances. But I expect TFG to grab the steering wheel and I wonder if the new lawyer will bail.

    The new lawyer wants to know everything in the sealed indictment. Which says TFG wants to know who talked – that might establish what the Feds know about a conspiracy to hide documents, who was in on it, when stuff was moved and whether other stuff was moved entirely out of the residence or destroyed. I'd say there is no chance of the judge giving the prosecution's case to the defense at this point. 

    The defense also wants copies of everything the FBI took. This strikes me as damage control – they literally don't know what incriminating stuff (J6, maybe) got picked up in the sweep. Arguments are tomorrow in front of the judge. My prediction – a special master for attorney-client stuff, and that's all. Other stuff ( the indictment and underlying evidence, identities of witnesses, copies of everything taken) – I hope will be refused.

    One article today suggested tRump has been counseled by GOP confidants NOT to declare before November. One reason is that everyone fell in line behind tRump when news of the search broke. (Even DeSantis, who's the only real contender against tRump) joined in bad-mouthing the DoJ. So TFG is being told he has the nomination sewed up. The GOP expects to get their clock cleaned in midterms – tRump is being advised to stand clear of the mess. (Will the House fall? Maybe, but that only gives the GOP the power to harass Democrats.) 

    Yeah, but… if the defense tries to delay the legal process and tRump gets charged, TFG has to run for office at the same time he's fighting jail. Some think this will drive up support for TFG, but the evidence says he's in deep do-do with voters not in the cult. IMO, if he's charged, he's not electable and the GOP brass will read it the same way. (They've talked him into a delay for now.) But if he's charged, the groomers lined up behind DeSantis will want tRump to bow out, leave his fate to a trial. And TFG thinks winning an un-winnable election is the best/only way to stay out of jail.

    I remember a scene in Titanic as the ship sunk by the bow and lifted the stern, the stress broke the ship in two. The political dynamics of that same stress may show up close to mid-terms, or just after. It will rupture the GOP irrevocably. 

    • Thanks, nice post. For anyone who is not in the cult it looks like digging the hole deeper … and, seems to me, the target of TFG's fancy, fancy legal papers are not aimed at the "normies" and convincing the court but instead still aimed at his target audience. The show must go on, the big tent is filled, lots of amens and hallelujahs promised to come. They have a snake charmer in PA and some freak that slithered out from under a rock in AZ so stay tuned for more fun! Donate now to keep the grift going!

      They will always think he is their Sun King that can do no wrong, not just a plain f***ing traitor.

    • Doug – I REALLY hope your last sentence ("rupture the GOP irrevocably") is true, but I fear that the GOP will wiggle out of this.  What can stop the RNC GOP from regaining control of Trump's Mob by just blaming all this on Democrats?

      I just hope that DOJ doesn't go easy on all the people who should have blown whistles on Trump through the years.  Many of them are dim-witted Trump flunkies, likely unaware that their actions (and inaction) were criminal, but some were standard-issue GOP bureaucrats who managed to pass Trump's butt-kissing test.  Those people understand – and understood – that they committed crimes by "just following orders".

      Lock 'em up.

  6. trump was going to take those documents and sell them to the highest bidder.  He worships money; and, always on the hunt to find more money for himself.

  7. Talking about 'in his desk'. He probably took piles of paper every time he left the white house to go play golf which means they better check out the desk in bedminister n j, trump tower etc

  8. We also learned that the FBI searchers found three classified documents in Trump’s office desk at Mar-a-Lago. We know this now because, the filing says, that’s where Trump also kept the passports that were seized.

    Very few people have picked up on this significant piece of data. Trump curated these documents, for several purposes, but among them the ability to trade them for safe passage to another country. This is why he had dirt on the French President – the far right in that country would love to have this information. Getting ready to flee – with the country’s jewels so to speak – is a common escape for authoritarian despots about to face the law.


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