There’s an excellent must-read piece by Philip Bump at WaPo that summarizes everything we know so far about Trump’s hoarding of government documents. No paywall. Here is just a bit.
On Thursday, The Washington Post teased out another aspect of this complicated situation. According to people familiar with the investigation, the government has evidence that Trump’s team practiced moving documents he took from the White House — the implication being that they rehearsed hiding them. Then, shortly before inviting the Justice Department to come pick up a cache of documents, the Trump employees apparently put that practice to use.
This has been the subtext to the investigation from the outset: Trump had things he wanted to keep despite not being authorized to do so. The timeline of events, delineated below, reinforces that idea.
The question, then, is why. What use did they serve? …
… “Prosecutors separately have been told by more than one witness that Trump at times kept classified documents out in the open in his Florida office, where others could see them, people familiar with the matter said,” The Post reported this week, “and sometimes showed them to people, including aides and visitors.”
Here’s a bit of the subsequent timeline, from 2022.
May. At some point in April or early May, Trump and aides reportedly practice moving material that he didn’t want to turn over.
May 11. Trump’s team is served with a subpoena for “any and all documents or writings in the custody or control of Donald J. Trump and/or the Office of Donald J. Trump bearing classification markings” — notably, not just documents that were actually classified.
June 2. Trump aide Walt Nauta and another Mar-a-Lago employee reportedly move a number of boxes of papers into a storage area at Mar-a-Lago.
That evening, a lawyer contacts the Justice Department and invites officials to come pick up documents responsive to the subpoena.
June 3. Jay Bratt and several FBI agents arrive at Mar-a-Lago to collect the material. They are given a single envelope containing 38 documents. Trump attorney Christina Bobb signs an affidavit asserting, “Any and all responsive documents accompany this certification.”
While there, Bratt views the storage room. Attorneys for Trump reportedly prevent his team from looking in any of the boxes there.
Nauta later helps load an SUV in which Trump would depart for Bedminster, N.J.
We’re way past the point at which Trump could plausibly argue he didn’t know he had government documents he wasn’t supposed to have. We learned from other reporting that Jack Smith has notes from Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran saying that Trump had been told explicitly that he couldn’t lawfully keep the government’s documents from the government. And we have plenty of Trump’s public statements saying that the documents were all his and he had a right to keep them.
The next question is, why did he want to keep these documents? It’s possible he wanted to sell them; please see emptywheel on that point. But I think it’s entirely possible he wanted to keep them as a way to feel connected to the presidency, which he still thinks is his, too. He’s basically a grossly overgrown eight-year-old child, you know. Showing off classified documents makes him look cool. And his warped psychological makeup doesn’t allow for letting go of things that aren’t his, once he’s made up his mind those things are supposed to be his.
Trump will be indicted for obstruction. I don’t see any way that’s not going to happen. The question is, are charges under the espionage act also possible?
I expect this will result in Espionage Act charges. Dissemination is key.
“Prosecutors…have gathered evidence indicating that Trump at times kept classified documents in his office in a place where they were visible and sometimes showed them to others.”https://t.co/1pmZkv7TG2
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) May 25, 2023
There it is. Espionage Act.
“Other evidence demonstrates that the former president willfully sought to retain classified documents when he was not authorized to do so, and knew it.”
— sealed court opinion on crime fraud exception@alanfeuer @maggieNYThttps://t.co/UykokqM27j
— Ryan Goodman (@rgoodlaw) May 26, 2023
So, maybe. Here’s a 2022 article from the Lawfare Blog on the espionage act. This makes espionage act charges seem less likely. But who knows?
In other news: There’s a fascinating story at Politico about the No Labels organization and its plans to produce a “unity” presidential ticket in 2024. Some “moderate” Democrats have objected, saying such a candidate would just split independent voters and make re-electing Donald Trump more likely. Here’s how No Labels responded.
A group of House Democrats with ties to No Labels is turning on the centrist group after it attacked one of their founding members.
On Tuesday, No Labels texted people who live in the district of Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.), criticizing the congressman for scoffing at their idea for a unity presidential ticket and claiming it could result in Donald Trump’s return to the presidency.
In its message, No Labels said it was “alarmed to learn that your U.S. Rep. Brad Schneider recently attacked the notion that you should have more choices in the 2024 presidential election.” They called Schneider “out of step” with his voters.
WTF? This mightily pissed off members of the so-called Problem Solves caucus in the House, but not enough for anyone to renounce their membership in No Labels.
I’ve written in the past about how “No Labels” Democrats have worked to undermine much of what President Biden has tried to accomplish. I think it’s likely the people behind No Labels — think capital management, equity firms, hedge funds — really would like to see Trump back in the White House rather than re-elect Biden..
No Labels is funded by (among others) Rupert Murdoch and Harlan Crow, and is almost certainly a false flag operation by Republicans.
There are billions of dollars of 'income' for which they bought the tax laws saying it is taxable at capital gains rates and not income tax rates. Ken Griffin (Citadel) was the highest paid hedge fund manager in 2022 at $4.1 BILLION. Spending a couple hundred million to not have that taxed at income tax rates more than pays for the 'investment' in less than a year.
Based on some research, it is my opinion that Problem Solvers are wall street/corporately owned and #NoLabels is owned by 1/10th of 1%er dark money. I came across multiple search results that said that Clarence Thomas's benefactor (Crowe) is providing some of the #NoLabels money.
He’s basically a grossly overgrown eight-year-old child, you know.
I had been thinking three-year-old but it has been more than 30 years since my son left the nest so I bow to your wisdom with thanks.
Questions looking for answers: Why is it that whenever MSNBC has lawyers on and they talk about Trump they always say that Jack Smith (or other prosecutor) must prove intent? If a man walks into a bank, pulls a pistol, and robs some money; does the prosecutor at his trial have to prove 'intent'? Were Trump's coup attempts 'intent' not as obvious as the bank robber's?
I will not be completely satisfied until Donald Trump is indicted for Seditious Conspiracy.
Why is it that whenever MSNBC has lawyers on and they talk about Trump they always say that Jack Smith (or other prosecutor) must prove intent?
I would assume it is because that's what is needed to convince a jury to find him guilty. It's the highest hurtle for prosecutors to overcome to secure a conviction.
I will not be completely satisfied until Donald Trump is indicted for Seditious Conspiracy.
I only care that he’s behind bars and can only scream and pound the walls. As long as he’s been stripped of power, sidelined, and his supporters humiliated – I’m happy. I don’t care what it takes to get rid of the cancer, I just want the cancer gone.
And I’m thrilled that this fate is coming into focus and getting closer with each day. I remember how people honked horns and banged pots and pans – world wide – when Joe Biden was declared winner in 2020. Something similar is going to happen again.
"Warped psychological makeup" – recall his propensity to use paper as visual props, sometimes folders (empty?), sometimes huge stacks of paper (blank?) meant to impress as a display of his tremendous work ethic and commitment to burdensome detail. The classified docs had actual words printed on the pages, definitely impressive to have such to show your friends and brag about; "just look at the important matters I had to handle!".
I'm sure Trump used the docs like you say, to still be President psychologically. But going to such lengths to not listen to his advisors and hide them from their rightful owners, says he saw them as valuable bargaining chips, things he could sell to foreign powers.
Jack Smith has a strong case for obstruction (maneuvering to keep the documents), and probably a weaker case for espionage. I'll take Obstruction for $1000, Alex. I've been hearing this saying a lot this year, "if you want to kill the King, you better not miss".
Showing off classified documents to make him look cool reminds me of the New York mobster who wandered around Brooklyn is a bathrobe so's people would think he was to crazy to be a mobster. This is laying the groundwork for an insanity or incompetency plea …
Trump will never let his lawyers plead on the basis that Trump is incompetent. It might be a valid defense in Trump's case – I'm not sure Trump can perceive right from wrong. He also does not think laws do apply to him. He has an insanity defense but Trump is driven entirely by ago.
He'll never permit it.
I wonder if DeSantis has the nerve to (after Trump is indicted over the documents) run on the basis that Trump can not pardon himself (probably true) and the only way to escape jail is if DeSantis is elected and pardons Trump.
This pitch has all the advantages of being factually true but would the promise of a future pardon for a crime that has not been tried in court be deemed corrupt? Such an argument by Rhonda BEFORE the evidence has been presented is no attempt to correct an injustice – the evidence of the prosecution is not known!
It will be an interesting test of the psychology of the cultist – do they vote to save Trump by going with DeSantis or stick with Trump expecting Trump can suspend reality (and the Constitution) to make himself king? If charges are filed before the primary season begins, expect this to be a major issue. If a trial date for the case of the documents is set before Nov. '24,
This plays into NoLabels strategy, possibly not in the way they intend. If Trump has sewn up the nomination, how many Trumpsters who can't vote for Biden vote for the 3rd-party candidate? Assuming Trump is charged, Trump will frame the election as being about the trial and about freeing the J6 insurrectionists. I think that's poison for Trump's chances.
Yes, no surprise.
tRUMP "hoarded" top-secret documents.
Probably because he wanted to "whore" out those top-secret documents to the highest bidder(s).
In American history, there's never been a human being less patriotic than Donald John tRUMP.
At least Benedict Arnold won a victory or two over the British military.
What did tRUMP ever do in his (too) long, miserable that was in the "plus" column for our nation?
I won't hold my breath…
There's nothing guaranteed about the schedule of events but I did some objective speculation plus googling. IF… Jack Smith gives a recommendation to Merrick Garland in the next week, and if the A/G takes 60 days to review and consider every aspect, THEN charges might be filed around August 1. The trial might begin in a year, August 1 of 2024. Assume it lasts a month. Verdict in early September. The normal gap between conviction and sentencing is 90 days. (I looked that up.) So Trump might well be convicted BEFORE the general election and be scheduled for sentencing BEFORE Jan of 2025, when the transfer of power would take place.
Got the implications of that? First – it's very possible the trial will finish a month before the election. (The October Surprise no one will ever beat.) The election will be a referendum on the verdict – and nothing else. (Trump will lose twice.) Trump will claim he won the election, regardless.
Problem: to stay in the US and challenge the election means Trump would have to show up in court in DC to hear his sentence and possibly be taken to jail in cuffs. I predict an unscheduled flight to Moscow after the election. If the DOJ could prevent the flight, they might not. It solves a lot of problems for Trump to be in exile.
The cult that the GOP has become loses its figurehead. The word "disintegration" captures what would follow. I think the GOP, especially the donor class, will pull the plug on Trumpism if the Democrats take the House and Senate. (Trump will call for violent revolution in explict terms from his perch in Moscow.) The fracture will make bitter enemies of two factions, the "new" GOP who renounces fascism and violence vs the Trumpist wing, demanding one more chance at the title, by armed revolution.
I'm not saying this WILL happen, though it's very possible. The temptation to look at yesterday's political news before you make a political move today should be resisted. A chess master feels the shifting dynamics as trends – he's planning a dozen (or more) moves ahead. Progressives who are loyal to a vision (not a party) should have an idea of how events could lead to an end-game that advances the values we cherish. Nothing will happen exactly as expected – we have to adjust to unexpected events. But be strategic in your thinking with the end-game always at the front of your mind.
@doug wrote: If the DOJ could prevent the flight, they might not. It solves a lot of problems for Trump to be in exile.
The FBI will look like complete fools if they let Trump escape, which I am certain he would attempt, should he get cornered. He may try to bolt before the indictments come down, it’s his best window to beat the rap.
As much as Trump is doing everything he can to continue on as cult leader, the cracks are beginning to emerge. Small ones like the E Jean Carroll verdict(s) and the DA Bragg / Stormy Daniels hush money indictment. Bigger ones coming this summer.
Heather Cox Richardson wrote about how the Ken Paxton impeachment trial in Texas is really a battle between the MAGA forces in Texas versus those who want to dump Trump and restore the GOP to a more normal political party. Today’s vote in Texas is an important read on where GOP is at w/r/t their figurehead.
I suspect that Trump took Documents just because somebody told him he "can't do that". Yes, he's still an 8-year old boy.
And Yes, "No Labels" looks like a front group for Zillionaires. OTOH, it's possible that it's actually a nice Grift, run by the has-been "centrists" from both parties to get some easy money from gullible Zillionaires. Most likely a combination of the two. I was disgusted to find that Joe Lieberman is their "Founding Chairman"; he is quite capable of causing enormous amounts of trouble while appearing reasonable.
Thanks for the heads-up on Joe Lieberman. That says everything right there.
Something to raise your glass over, this weekend: Ken Paxton was impeached. One less nasty right-wing a$$hole. Link should take you over the paywall. Hope everyone is having a great holiday.