[guest post by Dana]
[Ed. Pressed for time, so a quick post on the DOJ filing last night and the incredible mess in which Trump finds himself.]
US government documents were “likely concealed and removed” from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago as part of an effort to “obstruct” the FBI’s investigation into former President Donald Trump’s potential mishandling of classified materials, the Justice Department said in a blockbuster court filing Tuesday night.
More than 320 classified documents have now been recovered from Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department said, including more than 100 in the FBI search earlier this month.
Tuesday’s filing represents the Justice Department’s strongest case to date that Trump concealed classified material he was keeping at Mar-a-Lago in an attempt to obstruct the FBI’s investigation into the potential mishandling of classified material.
The Justice Department revealed the startling new details as part of its move to oppose Trump’s effort to intervene in the federal investigation that led to the search of his Florida resort and his desire for a “special master” to be appointed to the case.
Here’s a photo from the storage room finds:
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) August 31, 2022
(If you enlarge the photo, you can see the classifications on the file folders, including SCI)
Laying waste to Trump’s claims:
Trump has pushed an “incomplete and inaccurate narrative” in his recent court filings about the Mar-a-Lago search, the Justice Department said.
“The government provides below a detailed recitation of the relevant facts, many of which are provided to correct the incomplete and inaccurate narrative set forth in Plaintiff’s filings,” prosecutors wrote.
Whether to prosecute Trump is fraught with possible complications for Merrick Garland:
Political fallout, precedent and national security risk are just some of the intangibles Garland will have to consider as he considers what would potentially be the highest-profile criminal case in American history, according to former prosecutors, intelligence agency lawyers and Justice Department officials.
One consideration for Garland is how Trump’s alleged actions stack up against other cases DOJ has brought or not brought over mishandling classified information. A second factor is how confident prosecutors are they could win at trial — knowing the political fallout of a losing case against a former president could be devastating.
And finally, Garland has to consider the damage that a trial might have on national security secrets, given the nature of the Mar-a-Lago document seizures.
Of course, one unknown ultimately looms large over all the other machinations: Does Garland view Trump’s cavalier and even defiant approach to the national security secrets at Mar-a-Lago as something of sufficient magnitude to bring the first criminal case against a former president in U.S. history?
“They’re going to have to be satisfied that they’re going to have a very, very strong case to present to a grand jury and ultimately to a jury,” said former CIA general counsel Jeffrey Smith. “If the prosecutors can get over all those hurdles, given that it’s a former president, it will be a tough call for the attorney general.”
If the necessary legal thresholds are met, isn’t there an obligation to prosecute despite warnings of fallout across the nation (looking at you, Sen. Graham):
Where I disagree with some of my friends and colleagues is in the fact that I want heightened attention to politically connected crimes across the board. I think that those who argue that we should be gingerly about investigating such figures as former president Donald Trump because such investigations are bound to produce political convulsions are wrong on the merits: Former presidents should be subjected to a higher degree of scrutiny when it comes to illegal actions, not a lesser degree of scrutiny. If some nobody takes a bunch of classified documents home without going through the proper channels, that nobody is liable to go to prison. If we really mean what we say about equality before the law, then we must not refuse to investigate a former president for a similar offense because we are afraid that doing so will upset some people.
Not all riots are the same thing: Looting a sneaker store is a serious crime and ought to be treated as such, but attempting to overturn an election by means of violence is a very different sort of thing. Not all useless rich-guy drug addicts are created equal, and neither are their crimes. We should be more inclined to prosecute the powerful and the connected, rather than less inclined.
Crimes of a political character erode the foundations of the regime itself and as such are a menace more urgent and more general than what might be suggested by the particular details of the crime itself. In Texas, theft of less than $1,500 is a misdemeanor — but if Senator Bob steals $1 from the Treasury, he needs to go to the least pleasant prison we have for a very long time. A free society has to defend its institutions fiercely and with great vigilance.
P.S. From Trump this morning:
Allahpundit points to three problems with Trump’s take “that the documents really were on the premises when the FBI got there but that they’d been declassified, so who cares?”:
First, none of the potential charges he’s facing depend on whether the national defense material in his possession was classified. It’s a red herring legally. Second, and relatedly, his lawyers have never made the declassification claim. Third, the idea that Trump ever issued a “standing order” by which classified material would automatically be deemed declassified once it was on his person is preposterous even according to the people who worked for him.
Have at it.