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.”
— 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..