Two trucks and a cloud…
After reading the redacted affidavit released on Friday and considering reasons why Trump would not have been more careful when the Feds came a’callin at the ‘Lago I am left with questions. My speculation begins with a simple observation given the timeline provided. Why would Trump have kept the boxes filled with highly sensitive tradecraft and the more mundanepresidential flotsam and jetsam that were included for 18 months? The stubborn refusal to return documents cannot simply be explained as Trump being Trump. The suggestion to his WH staff that the boxes of papers belong to him and are akin to souvenirs-memorabilia- of his term in office just doesn’t wash. According to a New York Times article today, the timeline begins with a recognition among the WH staff that something has to be done about the documents that the defeated president was mulling over. They had to be appropriately handled and prepared for submission to the National Archives in accordance with the Presidential Records Act. According to the Times reporting, it was Mark Meadows who takes responsibility for the task. Boxes were then packed and removed from the premises days before Trump left office,
“Two days before Mr. Trump is to leave office, at least two moving trucks are spotted at Mar-a-Lago, his club and residence in Palm Beach, Fla.”
— “Inside the 20-Month Fight to Get Trump to Return Presidential Material” by Luke Broadwater, Katie Benner, and Maggie Haberman
The NARA noticed that letters from Kim Jong-un and Barack Obama were missing from the materials submitted to them in May 2021 and requested the return of documents that were not turned over by the FPOTUS. Pat Cipollone Trump’s former WH lawyer then determines that at least two dozen boxes belonging to the NARA were among the documents being held in Mar-a-Lago. It took until January 2022 for the transfer of 12 boxes, of the 24 that Cipollone had identified as being in Trump’s possession, to find their way back to the Archives. The archivists discovered, as recorded in the affidavit, 184 highly sensitive documents packed in disarray among the more ordinary, but still illicitly held documents.
At this point, given the actions by the ex-president and his staff in refusing to return the documents after requests and a subpoena for more than 20 months, the question remains, “Now why”? Since there is no longer an innocent possibility, the darkest motives have to be considered.
Why the originals?
The wondering for me begins with the question, “Why did Trump keep the original documents for 20 months”? Given his purpose was corrupt, why weren’t the documents simply copied or photographed? This could have been done in the WH before he left, but that would have been dangerous, Surely in the 20 months since there was ample time for the traitor of Mar-a-Lago to go through the boxes and make copies of the sensitive materials and comply with the first request in May of 2021, but certainly by January 2022. The answer may lie in the affidavit.
“ The locations to be searched include the “45 Office,” all storage rooms, and all other rooms or areas within the premises used or available to be used by FPOTUS and his staff and in which boxes or documents could be stored, including all structures or buildings on the estate.”
— Attacment A, Property to be searched
According to reports, boxes were discovered in various locations and video requested by the government showed boxes being taken in and out of the basement room the Trump lawyers identified as “secure” but that was not authorized under Federal guidelines for securing classified materials. In fact, Mar-a-Lago had no such secure designated space on its premises. Clearly, the handling of the materials depicted on the surveillance tapes was not done by personnel with the appropriate clearances, again alluding to the lack of protocol by Trump and his staff.
It seems logical to conclude that Trump needed original documents for his purposes and not copies. This suggests that one of the reasons the documents were released in stages was to cull the most sensitive documents, separating those that would be of most value if they could be presented as sole copies. This would serve the purpose of compromising material that could be used to leverage individuals or governments as Kompromat. Any of the tradecraft information would be just as valuable to foreign sources as copies. The retention of such documents in the national archives would be preferred since it would suggest that the “secrets” were protected allowing the foreign agents to act on them without alerting our defenses or human intelligence sources.
Bobb and Corky
The letter signed by Atty. Christine Bobb, “custodian of the documents “, indicating on June 6, 2022, that all boxes containing classified documents had been turned over to the National Archives, gives us further pause. The statement written by another Trump lawyer, Evan Corcoran, represents a lie that needn’t have been told if the documents could have been copied. Why lie, when ostensibly the DOJ would find the truth or already had known the truth? The innocent interpretation on the lawyers’ behalf could include;
- that the lawyers were unaware, and neither lawyer had the proper clearances to check the veracity of their statements.
- the boxes were in such disarray that the “team” thought it was a true statement
- the lawyers didn’t know about hidden documents and Bobb, as custodian, was being duped.
None of these acquit Donald Trump. A more likely interpretation is that Trump believed that the trove he had given back earlier and that was on display in the “secured space” would satisfy the Fed’s curiosity. The Obama and Kim letters were returned and maybe the retention of their artifacts by an ex-president could be explained away as simply a misreading of the Presidential Records Act.
The more nefarious explanations might include;
- Trump needed more time to go through or copy some documents
- some documents that were taken had already been compromised and were unavailable
- the documents included some communications that would have embarrassed (unlikely-he’s shameless) or could have revealed further corruption, especially regarding J6 (also unlikely as they would have been flushed or burned.)
The condition the FBI found the materials in, open boxes with classified and non-classified documents mixed, papers “unfoldered”, and multiple storage areas suggest that there was haste involved even after 20 months. Were the various storage areas indicative of some sort of sorting of materials into various categories? Were documents mixed and “unfoldered” at the time they were packed and overseen by Meadows in the WH suggesting they were packed by Trump and not staff? Was there an attempt at searching for specific records that were requested by outside sources, therefore explaining both the haste and the muddled condition of the boxes?
We may never get the true story but conjecture does have its place. It is clear by now that a crime has been committed. The question is its severity and potential for prosecution. As some TV pundits have suggested, by the very nature of the sensitivity of the materials seized on August 8 and before, a court trial may be untenable. The best case scenarios include charges relating to an obstruction of justice charge and/or conspiracy. In any case, we can be sure that there are yet closets-full of other shoes to be dropped, other facts not yet revealed. A reasonable guess would be that there are aspects of this case that are so sensitive and so dangerous to the nation’s interests that they will never be disclosed.
Cut to the chase…
This may again require us to employ Occam’s razor to determine the most likely of theories. Trump has been in many ways consistent in his behavior so as to point in a direction. We now know the extent of the evidence that he was found to have obstructed justice based upon the release of the internal Barr DOJ communications. His affinity to appease and reward Russian interests is easily apparent as quid pro quo for their help in electing him in 2016. His use of threats and interest in compromising material on others goes back to his friendship with National Enquirer publisher David Pecker. Reports of documents floating in WH commodes indicate his propensity to destroy evidence and distressing materials.
The breadcrumbs lead us to a fair assumption that far from carelessness or pique, the ex-president of the United States is a criminal, and likely a traitor. Twenty months is more than enough time for him to have feathered his foul nest and sold his country down the river. The J6 insurrection is further evidence of the unscrupulous lengths this man would take for power and wealth. Taken together with the stolen documents the pattern emerges not as separate and distinct crimes, not as one-offs, but as a concerted effort to betray the nation he once was honored with its presidency.
Roman Senator, Marcus Tullius Cicero, from over 2000 years ago suggests to us that Donald Trump is but one of many of history’s traitors. Cicero’s words were spoken after a coup d’etat attempt by Lucius Catiline after he had been defeated in a consular election around 62 BC. Catiline’s conspiracy was turned back and his co-conspirators were rounded up and executed. Trump’s betrayal is not unique, original, or particularly extraordinary:
A nation can survive its fools, and even the ambitious. But it cannot survive treason from within. An enemy at the gates is less formidable, for he is known and carries his banner openly. But the traitor moves amongst those within the gate freely, his sly whispers rustling through all the alleys, heard in the very halls of government itself. (emphasis mine)
— Marcus Tullius Cicero, c. 40, BC
In this case, the enemy within continues his crimes behind the gates of Mar-a-Lago. Whether he realizes it or not, his end is near. His place in history is secured alongside others like him. Hidden among the documents he stole and within the boxes he hid is likely more evidence of his perfidy, enough, perhaps, to label him a traitor.