A week go Donald Trump blasted out a primal scream about the FBI warrant to search his Florida golf club for improperly retained government documents.
“These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before,” he moaned, adding that, “After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate.”
From which one might rationally infer that the former president had been “working and cooperating” to return government property in an orderly fashion, only to have jackbooted government thugs escalate wildly.
“A raid is supposed to be a last resort,” Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz derped on Newsmax, inventing out of whole cloth a requirement that the FBI seek to reclaim government property via subpoena before seeking a warrant.
Eric Trump, never one to keep his mouth shut until all or indeed any of the facts are in, raced over to Fox to opine that his father was always keeping mementos of his great achievements — perhaps for his scrap book? — and in the “six hours you have to move out of the White House” might have retained something of purely sentimental value. This was echoed by Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, who expressed disgust that the FBI would send in agents because Donald Trump “in effect checked out books too long from the archivist.”
A rational observer might note that Trump had more than “six hours” to pack, since he’d been given an eviction notice on November 3, 2020. But you know how it is when you get so busy plotting a violent coup that you just have to throw your clothes and some nuclear documents in a bag and hang onto them for another 18 months. Right, Professor Turley?
This weekend also saw a trial balloon being floated wherein Trump tried to blame the General Services Administration (GSA) for sticking all that classified stuff in his suitcase.
Points for creativity, all! But in fact, the National Archives’ failed effort to get back the purloined documents, some of which were highly classified, was followed by multiple Justice Department subpoenas that Trump similarly ignored. As CNN reported Thursday, Trump’s lawyers even showed the head of the Justice Department’s Counter Intelligence Division multiple improperly retained documents in June and then refused to give back anything that wasn’t marked top secret or higher. Which didn’t stop at least one of those lawyers signing a declaration that all classified documents had been returned, according to the New York Times.
Last week saw a couple of news cycles in which MAGAworld suggested that the FBI had planted evidence on poor, innocent Donald Trump, while the man himself screeched that “President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified. How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!”
This prompted the poor, beleaguered archivists to take a break from scotch taping shredded documents back together to issue a correction which included a patient explanation of WHAT IS PRESIDENTIAL LIBRARY?
Trump’s lackey Kash Patel was duly dispatched to Fox (obvs) to insist that his boss had already declassified all the documents in question before leaving the White House — which doesn’t account for his failure to return them, or his failure to mention this declassification to anyone else before pocketing the papers and vamoosing to the golf course. Then disgraced former journalist John Solomon read out a statement from Trump purporting that all products taken to the private residence were presumptively deemed declassified. Because it’s fun to say crazy shit on teevee!
Which brings us to yesterday, when the former president took to his own social media platform to make a belated assertion of executive and/or attorney client privilege.
“Oh, great! It has just been learned that the FBI, in its now famous raid of Mar-a-Lago, took boxes of privileged ‘attorney-client’ material, and also ‘executive’ privileged material, which they knowingly should not have taken,” Trump arglebargled. “By copy of this TRUTH, I respectfully request that these documents be immediately returned to the location from which they were taken.”
Which makes complete sense if you pretend that the FBI isn’t part of the executive branch. There’s also the minor matter that any documents covered by executive privilege are inherently government property and belong at the National Archives.
But other than that, you’re doing great, sweetie. No doubt Attorney General Garland will put that stuff back on a plane and return it to the storage locker near the club swimming pool ASAP.
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.
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