SCOOP: DOJ just told me all the documents they seized from Mar-a-Lago are still classified--and why this matters.
Long past time to charge Tru
Shortly after the August 8, 2022, FBI search of Mar-a-Lago (aka Donald Trump’s crime lair) that resulted in FBI seizing large swaths of classified documents, Trump panicked looking for a defense to his apparent crimes. That is when--as I’m sure you recall—Trump claimed that he had actually declassified all the documents seized, stating: “You’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified…even by thinking about it.”
Ahhh, the genius of Trump on display! Now as a reminder, the FBI seized “nearly 200,000 pages of document” in that search. Of those, more than one hundred documents bore the following classification labels: 18 documents marked as top secret, 54 marked as secret, and 31 marked as confidential. Some of these classified documents included highly sensitive intelligence regarding Iran and China.
In response to Trump repeatedly saying he had magically declassified the documents, I made a Freedom of Information Act Request (FOIA) in late August to the Department of Justice for a copy of all documents they seized from Mar-a-Lago that were in fact declassified by Trump. (Yes, anyone can do that easily and online.)
If DOJ had determined that Trump had in fact declassified these documents, then I should be able to get a copy of them—or at least redacted copies—since they were no longer classified but simply run of the mill government documents. At the time, I joked that I would soon have the coolest collection of government secrets in the neighborhood!
My point, however, was to show that in reality Trump had never declassified any of these documents.
As required by the FOIA, the DOJ did respond. On September 22, 2022, the DOJ wrote stating that: “This is to acknowledge receipt of your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated and received in this Office on August 26, 2022, in which you requested copies of the documents declassified by former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago.” DOJ then explained they needed additional time to review their records. (Partial screen grab below)
So I waited for a response. And waited…and waited.
But finally on Wednesday, the DOJ wrote stating they had completed their search. The DOJ’s letter dated March 1 states: “This responds to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request dated and received in this Office on August 26, 2022, in which you requested copies of the documents declassified by former President Donald Trump at Mar-a-Lago.
Please be advised that searches have been conducted in the Office of the Attorney General and Office of the Deputy Attorney for copies of the records recovered from Mar-a- Lago. No copies of those records have been located.”
The DOJ is telling us that they have no evidence that Trump validly declassified any of the hundreds of pages of documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago pursuant to their search warrant. That doesn’t mean if Trump is criminally charged that his lawyers cannot assert as a defense that he did declassify the documents. But it does indicate that for investigatory purposes the DOJ does NOT believe Trump’s claim he declassified any document.
Why does that matter? Well if the DOJ did buy Trump’s claim that he had validly declassified the documents, it could end the possibility of charging Trump with a violation of the Espionage Act - 18 U.S.C. § 793—that makes it a crime to “willfully” retain such documents. (That is one of three laws DOJ cited as potentially violated in their affidavit in support of the application to a magistrate to search Mar-a-Lago.)
Also from a public opinion point of view, if all the documents had in fact been declassified, that would mean Trump was simply in possession of government records that should’ve been returned. While illegal, it’s challenging to believe that this DOJ would charge Trump for that.
Of course, the strongest case against Trump is for “obstruction of justice,” – a felony. We know that Trump responded in June 2022-via his lawyers—that he had provided all the classified documents at Mar-a-Lago to the DOJ in accordance with a subpoena demanding the same. That was a lie.
We know that because the August 2022 search found hundreds of pages of clearly marked classified documents at his residence. In fact, as the DOJ noted in their legal filings after the Mar-a-Lago search, they found classified documents in Trump’s personal desk in his office: “Three classified documents that were not located in boxes, but rather were located in the desks in the “45 Office,” were also seized.”
Adding to the evidence that Trump knowingly obstructed justice are reports that one of Trump’s employees told investigators that Trump personally instructed them to move boxes of documents containing government records from the storage room to his residence at Mar-a-Lago. That was AFTER the Justice Department had subpoenaed all classified documents at the location. And the moving of these boxes was captured on security cameras.
I’m sure you are asking: Why hasn’t Trump been charged already?! Great question. Trump plotted a coup, incited the Jan 6 terrorist attack and committed crimes in connection with these classified documents. He should be charged—if not in jail already. Instead, Trump is speaking at CPAC this weekend where he will be celebrated and cheered.
While I appreciate the DOJ’s response to my FOIA request, they have failed us when it comes to holding Trump accountable for his crimes.
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Amen! DOJ is becoming a laughing stock to rich white mentally ill rePUGliCONs. All the rest of us would be in prison.