Dear Commons Community,
The conservative National Review had an editorial on Sunday that said one cannot read the allegations outlined in the federal indictment against former President Trump and “not be appalled by the way he handled at the way he handed classified documents.
The editorial board also noted that many of the boxes that Trump had moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his presidency contained hundreds of documents with classified markings. The information on the documents covered information relating to U.S. nuclear programs, defense capabilities, vulnerabilities and plans for potential retaliatory action in the event of an attack from another country, according to the indictment.
The board said Trump no longer had a right to possess these documents after his term ended, and he stored them “recklessly” in locations like his bedroom, a bathroom and a ballroom at Mar-a-Lago. It also mentioned federal prosecutors’ allegations that Trump ignored requests for the documents to be returned for months and attempted to keep investigators from obtaining the documents he had.
The editorial board argued the “most damning” part of the indictment is the transcript of the conversation Trump had in which he showed one document to a reporter who was not authorized to see it.
“Equally damning, particularly for someone who was and would like again to be the nation’s chief executive, responsible for the enforcement of the laws, is the evidence that Trump not only deceived the investigators and the grand jury, but his own lawyers — knowing and intending that they would consequently obstruct the investigation,” the editorial states.
The indictment alleges that Trump had an aide, who has also been indicted, move boxes of documents away from a storage room when one of his attorneys came to Mar-a-Lago to confirm that the subpoena was being fully complied with. This caused his legal team to wrongly tell investigators that all documents had been turned over.
The board said it understands conservatives might be frustrated with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton not facing charges for her use of a private email server while serving and that President Biden might not face charges for his own alleged mishandling of some classified documents.
“But it doesn’t change the fact the country wouldn’t be in this uncharted territory if Trump hadn’t taken documents he had no right to, and simply complied when asked to give them back,” the editorial concludes.
The board previously declared in November that it would reject Trump as a choice for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
The entire editorial is below!
The Trump Indictment Is Damning
By the Editors
June 10, 2023
Just as paranoiacs sometimes have enemies, people obsessively pursued for alleged violations of the law by their political opponents sometimes commit criminal offenses.
At many junctures, most recently with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s flimsy charges, we’ve had occasions to point out how Donald Trump’s adversaries have twisted the law in a politically motivated effort to nail the former president. And we certainly do not welcome the precedent of a federal prosecutor, who ultimately reports to the president, indicting that president’s leading rival for reelection. That said, it is impossible to read the indictment against Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents case and not be appalled at the way he handled classified documents as an ex-president, and responded to the attempt by federal authorities to reclaim them.
When he moved out of the White House, Trump moved many boxes of materials to Mar-a-Lago. Many contained nothing more than mementos such as newspaper clippings, photos, cards, and various notes and letters. But included along with these run-of-the-mill items were hundreds of documents marked classified. These documents, according to the indictment from special counsel Jack Smith filed in the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Florida, included “information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack.”
Once Trump was no longer president, he had no right to these materials. He stored them recklessly — not in a secured space that had been approved to handle classified documents, but, farcically, in places including his bedroom, a bathroom, and a ballroom. This was within his Mar-a-Lago Club that has hosted events for tens of thousands of people within the roughly year and a half that the documents were in his possession.
Trump brushed off months of demands from the National Archives and Records Administration to return the missing records before relenting in January 2022, but only providing a portion of what was in his possession — roughly 15 boxes, which included 197 documents that were marked as classified. After a grand-jury subpoena demanded all classified documents, Trump’s lawyers then turned over 38 more documents marked classified. But when the FBI carried out a controversial search warrant later that summer and seized more boxes, they found 102 additional documents with classified markings.
The indictment offers evidence that Trump misled investigators about his possession of the documents and took actions to conceal them. But most damning is the transcript of a conversation during which Trump showed one of the documents to a reporter. Speaking of a theoretical attack plan, Trump produced a document and said, “It is like, highly confidential.” He also said, “See as president I could have declassified it” but admitted, “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”
The audio of this conversation makes it a lot more difficult for Trump to chalk everything up to an innocent case of some classified documents getting mixed up with other personal items from his presidency. It also directly contradicts some of the laughable public defenses that were made by Trump and his team last summer, including the idea that there was a “standing order” that whatever documents he brought to Mar-a-Lago to work on were automatically declassified. It’s clear from the conversation that he not only knew he was in possession of secret documents that were never declassified, but knowingly shared them with people who lacked the security clearance to see them.
Equally damning, particularly for someone who was and would like again to be the nation’s chief executive, responsible for the enforcement of the laws, is the evidence that Trump not only deceived the investigators and the grand jury, but his own lawyers — knowing and intending that they would consequently obstruct the investigation. If the allegations in the indictment are true, Trump tried to nudge his lawyers into concealing or destroying incriminating evidence. Unable to bend them in that direction, he and an aide hid boxes of documents from them, causing them falsely to tell the grand jury, under oath, that the classified documents they delivered to the FBI in June 2022 were the only ones remaining in his possession. They weren’t lying; according to prosecutors, they were passing along what he told them. It is worth noting, moreover, that the substantiation of this allegation is likely to come from testimony of the lawyers themselves — not from people out to get the former president, but people who tried, futilely, to help him.
We understand why many conservatives are unwilling to view the charges against Trump in a vacuum given that the Justice Department let Hillary Clinton off the hook for her reckless handling of government secrets and the resulting cover-up, that President Biden is unlikely to pay a price for his own mishandling of classified documents, and that Democrats and their allies have pursued a yearslong campaign to get Trump. All of those are legitimate considerations, and the contrast with how James Comey and Co. handled the Hillary case is particularly galling. But it doesn’t change the fact the country wouldn’t be in this uncharted territory if Trump hadn’t taken documents he had no right to, and simply complied when asked to give them back.