Keeping track of all the Trump-related legal news is a daunting task. And forcing oneself to actually care about all of the endless Trump legal news is another matter entirely.
Philip Rotner, writing in The Bulwark, argues that Trump’s classified documents investigation has had a particularly numbing effect on the public, thanks to the slow but steady drip of information being revealed about the investigation.
“Take a step back. Get away from the drips and look at the complete picture revealed by a timeline of the saga of the stolen documents,” Rotner writes. “ask yourself, “What would the government have done to me if I had done this?””
Well, let’s take a closer look at the timeline of events in the document’s investigation.
The Trump Documents Investigation Begins
When Trump left office, in January 2021, he seems to have taken some government property with him. Namely, documents marked CLASSIFIED and TOP SECRET.
No attempt to record or catalogue the materials Trump took from the White House was made, so we don’t know precisely what Trump took on his way out the door.
In January 2022, a year after Trump left office, Trump’s team returned some of the documents to the National Archives – about fifteen boxes worth.
The returned records included national security information “up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials.”
Allegedly, Trump went through the boxes himself while they were stored at Mar-a-Lago.
And apparently, not all of the documents were returned – which is potentially a problem for Trump because his legal team provided a sworn certificate claiming that he had in fact returned all of the documents.
The Plot Thickens
The search uncovered about 13,000 documents at Mar-a-Lago. One hundred or so have some form of classified marking. Eighteen are marked TOP SECRET.
Some of the documents recovered had information relating to Iran and China, which according to Rotner, if exposed “could expose intelligence-gathering methods.”
One of the documents detailed Iran’s missile program. “The risks posed by unauthorized disclosure of the documents include endangering the lives of people aiding U.S. intelligence efforts,” Rotner wrote.
The Search Continues
In October 2022, the New York Times reported that the Justice Department believed Trump still had not returned all of the documents.
Then, in December 2022, a search of a Trump-owned storage unit in West Palm Beach uncovered two more classified documents.
You get the idea.
Rotner, and many liberals, are calling for the DOJ to indict Trump for his mishandling of sensitive documents.
I’m curious what Rotner and the rest of left-leaning America’s stance was when Clinton was being investigated for comparable transgressions (sending State Department-related emails from her personal email address).
I’m personally having a difficult time engaging with the Trump documents investigation. I’m one of the people Rotner describes as having checked out. Not because I can’t grasp the big picture but because I can.
Democrats have impeached Trump twice. Democrats are approaching the third calendar year of investigating January 6th – but are yet to bring criminal charges against Trump; Endlessly, liberals are claiming Trump should be imprisoned for this or that violation. The documents investigation feels very similar, like something that will fizzle out like all the rest.
I’m also receptive to the argument that government protocols surrounding sensitive documents are unnecessarily neurotic. I’m not getting the sense Trump has endangered national security here. Maybe I’m being naïve. I certainly am not willing to engage with Rotner’s hypervigilant line of questioning:
“Which Trump staffers had access to these materials when they were still at the White House? How were they packed up? How were they transferred from the White House to the Northern Virginia office? Who had access to them during the transfer? Once they arrived at the Northern Virginia office, who then had access to them? What kind of security was in place at the office?”
Does Rotner really care so much about security protocols? Does he really think Trump’s mishandling endangered HUMINT sources on the ground in Iran?
Maybe the concern is genuine. I suspect that Rotner, like so many liberals, just needs to get Trump at this point. Trump has eluded liberal inquiry and prosecution for seven years, he’s their White Whale, and it’s driving them mad (clearly).
Listen, if Trump broke the law, he should be held accountable like any other citizen. But don’t let the left talk like sensitive documents protocol is sacred. Liberal indignation is not about national security, it’s about finally getting Trump.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive.