Report: Mar-a-Lago docs contained extremely sensitive secrets — and Trump went through them himself

Source: Hot Air

My assumption since the FBI searched Trump’s property has been that there’s less to this saga than meets the eye. You can find lefties on social media speculating darkly that he took classified material with him when leaving the White House because he wanted to sell it to the Saudis or trade it to the Russians for a Trump Hotel in Moscow or whatever, but all of that sounds far too … rational, frankly, for our boy.

The John Bolton theory of the case makes more sense given the Trump we know.

That sounds like him. He thought the presidency was his personal fiefdom and that fiefdom gave him access to material to which few other people in the world are privy. It was rare and valuable. So naturally he claimed it as his own.

I don’t think he wanted it because he knew Mohammed bin Salman, for instance, would want to see it. I think he wanted it so that he’ll have something cool to show Kid Rock the next time he visits Mar-a-Lago. “Nuclear secrets? That’s dope, bro.”

In fact, I thought there was a better than even chance that he had no idea what, precisely, was in the documents when he took them. He’s not a big reader. It’s easy to imagine him giving Mark Meadows and his deputies an order to pack up everything classified that was lying around and to put it in the truck for the move to Florida. He wanted the documents because they were a hallmark of rare privilege, not because he cared what was in them — I thought.

But after reading this, I’m starting to wonder.

WaPo describes how the National Archives spent many months last year trying to coax Trump into voluntarily returning the documents he took with him. He finally returned some of them in January 2022; when Archives employees opened the boxes, they found a mishmash of material inside rather than a carefully catalogued collection. Worse, some of the documents were obviously marked “classified.” In April, the Archives notified Trump that the FBI would need to have a look at the papers given the risk to national security. When the feds sifted through it, they found some “extraordinarily sensitive information related to secret operations and programs with very limited access, on a need-to-know basis.”

A month later, Trump’s lawyers received a grand jury subpoena demanding the transfer of any other classified documents in his possession. His team handed over more stuff. But at some point thereafter, the feds somehow figured out that there were *still* classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, which triggered the now famous search. What did they find in that search?

Some material recovered in the search is considered extraordinarily sensitive, two people familiar with the search said, because it could reveal carefully guarded secrets about U.S. intelligence-gathering methods. One of them said the information is “among the most sensitive secrets we hold.”

They asked him twice for the return of all classified material and still he insisted on holding back some dangerously sensitive documents. Why didn’t he just return them initially? “Again and again, he reacted with a familiar mix of obstinance and outrage,” WaPo writes of his reaction to the feds’ requests, “causing some in his orbit to fear he was essentially daring the FBI to come after him.”

Was he daring them? Did he think the FBI wouldn’t dare investigate a former president? Or was he hoping that they would, knowing how that would make him a martyr to his base ahead of 2024?

Again, I had assumed that no matter how the documents got to Mar-a-Lago, Trump was likely unaware of their contents and only tangentially involved in the back-and-forth in the negotiations with the feds to turn them over. But I was wrong:

It could not be determined who was involved with packing the boxes at Mar-a-Lago or why some White House documents were not sent to the Archives, though people familiar with the episode said Trump oversaw the process himself — and did so with great secrecy, declining to show some items even to top aides.

Hands-on management of a process as dull as document review doesn’t sound like him (although the “great secrecy” part does). It’s possible that he simply couldn’t convince any of his aides to help him out and had to do it himself. Per Rolling Stone, some of his advisors “say they want absolutely nothing to do with the now-infamous boxes of documents, fearing that any knowledge of them could invite an unwanted knock on the door from the feds.” Maybe they feared criminal jeopardy if they started looking through documents and inadvertently stumbled across classified stuff they weren’t authorized to see.

But there’s another possibility:

Is that it? He’s not keeping classified material because he plans to give it to some foreign adversary, per Nichols’s theory. He’s keeping classified material because he wants to keep it away from the DOJ, fearing that they might find evidence of … something inside. We can only guess.

Even now, it’s unclear if the feds have recovered everything that was initially brought to Mar-a-Lago. It turns out there was activity in the area where the materials were kept:

On June 22, the Justice Department handed a new subpoena to the Trump Organization, which owns Mar-a-Lago. The subpoena sought surveillance video to help show who might have been coming and going from the storage area where Corcoran and Bobb had indicated boxes of records taken from the White House were being stored.

The footage showed various people entering and leaving the room, according to a person with direct knowledge of it.

Did someone remove some document or documents to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Archives and/or DOJ?

You can see at least why the FBI finally decided that they couldn’t just let the material sit there any longer.

According to Rolling Stone, Trump is demanding that his lawyers figure out a way to get all of the documents back from the Archives, telling them it’s “mine” even though some of it obviously isn’t. But notwithstanding his public bravado, behind the scenes he’s worried, says the Times: “[D]espite the bravura, Mr. Trump has betrayed anxiety in private conversations about where this is all leading, people who have spoken to him say.” I don’t know how to square that with his repeated refusal to turn the documents over after the feds asked nicely multiple times. How did he think this standoff was going to end?

What’s in those documents that’s so important that he’d risk an indictment to hold onto them?

I’ll leave you with this from my pal Karl, which is in line with my own view that the conventional wisdom is overestimating how much Trump benefits from the Mar-a-Lago search. It helps him short-term with Republican voters but it helps Ron DeSantis long-term by making him seem that much more electable by comparison.