The bizarre claims emerging in the Trump documents case

Justice Department via AP

Wow. The entire Trump classified documents story really took some wild turns on my day off, none of them involving any good news. As Ed pointed out yesterday, the charges against the former President are far more damning than we had originally imagined. In fact, even with a Trump-appointed judge hearing it, Trump’s lawyers may be unable to get the charges dismissed and he could well be convicted… eventually. (That may become important later.)

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I understand why Beege is angry and frustrated over this. Trump did this to himself and allowed himself to be taped while admitting he knew it was wrong. But the lopsided claims about this case showing up in the press are quickly turning the entire thing into a circus. To be fair, the coverage from right-wing media outlets, particularly the Fox News primetime lineup, has been totally off the mark. It has been assumed that Trump’s documents were little more than an assortment of vanity news clippings or personal communications. But he allegedly really did have documents dealing with nuclear materials and war plans against (presumably) Iran. And he showed them to people who had no right to see them. This is serious business.

Oddly, the bureaucrats at the National Archives took the unprecedented step of weighing in on the case, as reported by CNN.

The National Archives is pushing back on claims made by former President Donald Trump, his lawyers and his allies over his retention of classified documents, for which he now faces a federal indictment.

On Friday, the Archives took the rare step of releasing a public statement rebuking claims suggesting that Trump was allowed to keep classified materials under the Presidential Records Act.

“Recent media reports have generated a large number of queries about Presidential records and the Presidential Records Act (PRA). The PRA requires that all records created by Presidents (and Vice-Presidents) be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at the end of their administrations,” according to the statement released by the National Archives on Friday afternoon.

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I’ve done a bit of digging and I was unable to find a single statement from the National Archives about Joe Biden’s mountain of classified documents scattered around the country in various locations. Nor did they weigh in on the controversies surrounding Hillary Clinton’s private email server back in 2016. But for some reason, they felt compelled to jump on the dogpile surrounding Trump. So be it, I suppose.

Another laughable CNN headline describes Biden’s “legal and normal documents collection” at the University of Delaware. CNN takes a stab a minimizing any potential Biden crimes by pointing out that the documents are from Biden’s term as a Senator and were therefore the property of the Senate, not the executive branch. That’s true, but as Jonathan Turley pointed out in Ed’s article, any government documents that discuss classified material are still classified documents, even if there is no stamp applied. The same goes for Hillary’s emails. It will take ages to find out if any (or how many) of Biden’s documents fall into that category. CNN also limits their coverage to only the documents in the University of Delaware office, making no mention of the piles located in Joe’s garage and elsewhere. (Insert your own Frank Zappa reference here.)

And, as mentioned above, what about Hillary Clinton? Remember that back in 2016, it was James Comey himself who said “no reasonable prosecutor would bring a case” against Clinton. Here’s the full statement from the FBI archives of Comey’s remarks saying Clinton repeatedly broke the law but he wouldn’t recommend charges. In bringing these charges against Donald Trump, prosecutors will need to prove intent on Trump’s part to thwart the system. But didn’t the BleachBit and hammers show “intent?” Obviously, they did, but the letter “D” after Clinton’s name shielded her from Comey’s wrath and he should stop pretending otherwise.

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Still, the “Hillary did worse” argument will hold no water in court. The trial will be about what Trump did. But this trial will likely take a very long time. Possibly, if not probably until after the election. If Trump is the nominee and he wins, could he pardon himself before he’s convicted? SCOTUSBLOG seems to think so. The courts have traditionally held that pardons are the sole purview of the executive branch and they are loathe to get involved. As long as the situation involves federal charges (which is the case with Trump), the President can pardon whomever he or she chooses.

But will he win if he’s nominated? The charges in Manhattan are laughable and the case in Georgia looks similarly dubious. But this case appears serious enough that some moderates and independents who might have been willing to see Trump as an upgrade from Biden’s disastrous presidency may see this as a bridge too far. Asking them to vote for someone who might legitimately be on their way to prison on federal charges could be a serious stretch. And if that’s the case, the GOP’s desperately needed opportunity to take back the White House and start cleaning out the swamp may slip through our fingers yet again.

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David Strom 1:20 PM | July 18, 2024
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David Strom 8:00 AM | July 18, 2024
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