Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Not Only Did trump Piss Off Archivists, He May Have Violated National Security

Following up on the big story about the FBI's warrant to recover materials at Mar-A-Lago.

It always helps to follow Emptywheel: A good place IMHO to check on any legal matters. With regards to trump's legal woes over the warrant and seizure at his luxury resort/fake home this past Monday, she's pointing out a few things of interest:

1) The Department of Justice visited trump at Mar-A-Lago back in June to discuss additional boxes of documents he failed to turned over earlier this February (he was forced to hand over 15 boxes back then). There were apparently attempts to subpoena for the documents - a means to get trump to voluntarily return the papers as part of an ongoing investigation into what happened - but trump refused. It seems these papers were so important to him that he wouldn't give them up... and they were so valuable to him he wouldn't shred them either, meaning the DOJ had to get the warrant to get those docs back.

2) As discussed earlier about the Presidential Records Act of 1978, trump wasn't supposed to flee the White House with any documents at all (they were supposed to go to National Archives), and yet he did so in January 2021. trump has also been documented destroying papers during his time in the Oval Office, meaning he's violated the US Code in multiple ways when it comes to concealing, destroying, or mutilating documents.

3) The documents in question were verified back in February of being "Classified" in nature, meaning trump's ongoing possession of them became a national security risk. Turns out, when Biden became President he refused to give trump clearance to receive any more intelligence briefings (ex-Presidents may retain the privilege in case the current President needs to consult with them on ongoing matters. It is after all a very exclusive club...). Whatever security status trump had between 2016 to 2020 no longer applies, meaning his possession of those boxes of documents were illegal, and above all he had no authority to share those documents (which the DOJ investigation may have found out, hence the urgency to get that warrant).

Remember kids: While trump served as President Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice), trump behaved rather... poorly with national security intel. He revealed in 2017 a then-undercover operation shared between US Intelligence and Israel's Mossad to a pair of Russian buddies, which blew the operation and may have risked the lives of Mossad agents. He later gloated in 2019 over a failed Iranian rocket launch by sharing a top-secret high-orbital photograph of the launch site, which exposed our nation's intelligence gathering capabilities. THAT was so egregiously stupid it enraged Adam L Silverman - a paid professional expert on foreign intel - at Balloon-Juice to infinity and beyond. Yet in spite of the security blunders, trump was untouchable because there was a standing policy that the President - as Commander-in-Chief - can declassify anything he likes. As Silverman noted "...the President can just put classified information out there, claim he has the right to do it, even if it hasn’t been formerly and properly declassified, and he faces no jeopardy and the rest of us with clearances do, it is because THE RULES WERE NOT CONCEIVED OF AND WRITTEN WITH (trump) IN MIND!!!!! NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM!!!! The assumption was, based on historic performance of previous presidents, that NO FUTURE PRESIDENT WOULD BE THIS STUPID AND CARELESS!!!!"

Once out of office, however (and THANK GOD), trump no longer has that power to declassify a damn thing. Meaning if he DID do that with any of those 15 actually 25 no wait it's been bumped up to 27 (!) boxes of national security documents he took to Mar-A-Lago, he could be in real serious trouble.

According to Emptywheel, trump's handling of those docs at Mar-A-Lago might involve violating 18 US Code sect.793, Gathering, Transmitting or Losing Defense Information (!), specifically part e). Whoa, what:

Whoever having unauthorized possession of, access to, or control over any document, writing, code book, signal book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, blueprint, plan, map, model, instrument, appliance, or note relating to the national defense, or information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation, willfully communicates, delivers, transmits or causes to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted, or attempts to communicate, deliver, transmit or cause to be communicated, delivered, or transmitted the same to any person not entitled to receive it, or willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it... Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both...

In short: If trump even offered to share any one of those classified documents to another person - especially to a foreign agent - he's toast. That trump failed to deliver those documents to the officer/employee of the United States entitled to receive it (cough National Archivist cough) means he's toast.

That trump resisted to deliver the entirety of the remaining boxes he basically stole from the White House from June onward tells this observer that trump intended to willfully communicate, deliver, transit those documents to any person not entitled to receive them. Which could not only mean adversarial nations like Russia getting access to them, but even allied nations like Saudi Arabia (there are things at some point we dare not share with allies due to competing economic and foreign policy interests).

Even Emptywheel has her concerns:

Trump is such a psychopath that the answer to this might normally be in question. After all, he routinely treated top secret intelligence like it was toilet paper or party favors for visiting Russians.

Except DOJ went to Trump’s residence in June and told him this information could harm the US. Then they wrote him a letter, saying that it could harm the US and could he please put a padlock on the basement room that had, up until that point, been accessible to all the suspected foreign assets who’ve paid the price of admission to Mar-a-Lago...

Again, DOJ asked and asked and asked. Trump exhibited awareness the Archives were asking. He stopped in to say “hi!” when Jay Bratt, the head of DOJ’s espionage section, came to visit. And he still hoarded the document.

This may be why Trump claims that nothing was in the hotel safe in his bridal suite, by the way. Keeping these documents at Mar-a-Lago was willful by itself. But keeping such documents in his safe would be proof that he, personally, was hoarding it.

If the FBI really did scoop up highly sensitive documents when they were at Mar-a-Lago the other day, then there may be relatively few steps left to charging him — aside from cataloging the 12 new boxes of stolen documents. DOJ may only need permission from the agencies that own these documents to make the declassifications required to prosecute it.

By going to Mar-a-Lago and asking for these documents in person on June 3, DOJ made it very easy to prove that Trump had been asked, but refused, to give any classified documents found in Trump’s possession on Monday back...

Again, in short: trump is toast. It's now a question of how soon the Justice Dept. can declassify enough of what trump had in possession and whether Attorney General Merrick Garland - who has, after more than a year of seeming inaction, revealed he had the DOJ doing exactly what it needed to do - will file charges on a former President Loser of the Popular Vote (Twice) in a criminal proceeding our nation has never seen before.

Then again, we've never had a crook like trump in the White House before. trump's violations of national security, and disdain for executive responsibility, above all refusal to adhere to decent common sense brought us to this crisis. The partisan outrage may explode - literally - but for the LOVE OF GOD AND COUNTRY, Garland, trump is an ongoing threat to all of us. You HAVE to make this a matter for the courts, and trump HAS to answer to the law for the damage he's done (and still doing).

1 comment:

dinthebeast said...

Garland this morning said that he authorized the warrant, and that he is working on making it and the manifest of confiscated items public.
The problem as I see it isn't so much Fergus as it is the fact that Fergus is exactly what the Republican base want to have running the country.

-Doug in Sugar Pine