Donald Trump Committed Unforced Error in Mar-a-Lago Documents Case – The latest indictment of former President Donald Trump happened because of an unforced error on his part.
He knew his enemies were out to get him, yet he did not cover himself on the way out of the White House. If he wanted to take the documents with him, he could have taken the necessary steps to explicitly ensure that the documents were declassified while he still was president.
His failure to do could have been related to his refusal to accept his loss in the 2020 election and his desperate belief that he could hold on for a second term.
And now Donald Trump may have damaged his 2024 White House chances to the point where victory will not be easy – if not impossible.
Donald Trump Allegedly Recorded Acknowledging Docs Never Declassified
Trump’s handling of the classified documents stabs at his competency as president and could be something his opponents could question in the 2024 election.
The indictment notes that Donald Trump lacked authorization to retain classified materials after leaving the White House.
“There doesn’t have to be a process, as I understand it,” Trump said last September in an interview with Sean Hannity on Fox News. “You’re the president of the United States, you can declassify just by saying it’s declassified, even by thinking about it.”
Documents in Trump’s possession included ones from the CIA, Defense Department, NSA, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, the State Department’s Intelligence Bureau, and the Department of Energy’s information on highly classified nuclear weapons programs.
Text messages showed that Trump employees deposited the documents in unsecured locations across Mar-a-Lago during the first few months after Trump left the White House.
The indictment states that Trump said, “See as president I could have declassified it,” while discussing a classified war plan against Iran with a person who lacked clearance at his Bedminster, N.J. country club in July 2021.
If this is all genuinely accurate, this would show that Trump fully understood that the documents had not been properly declassified.
Questions About Selective Prosecution
But all might not be lost. Donald Trump’s lawyers will be able to point to precedent to claim their client has been subjected to selective prosecution.
They can refer to the prosecutions and sentencings of Clinton-era officials such as former CIA Director John Deutch and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger to argue the recommended sentences of 20 years for each violation are excessive. They can also refer to the FBI’s decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for storing classified documents on her illegal home server to make their case.
In Deutch’s case, he illegally brought classified documents home in an unsecured laptop. He pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge before being pardoned by Bill Clinton in his last days in office. According to the Washington Post, the charges he was set to plead guilty to included the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents.
Four years later in 2005, Berger was fined $50,000 and sentenced to community service and probation for illegally removing documents from the National Archives and destroying some of them.
Former FBI Director James Comey’s 2016 statement declining to seek prosecution of Clinton could provide Trump’s defense with what they need to claim selective prosecution considering that the FBI found that eight email chains were Top Secret, 36 were Secret, and eight were confidential. Comey cited prosecutorial discretion when it came to Clinton’s legal violations.
“Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case,” Comey said.
Donald Trump likely broke the law. However, the prior handling of other high-profile cases of the mishandling of classified documents by the Justice Department could give the former president’s legal defense ammunition to argue their client was unfairly targeted and is subject to malicious prosecution.
John Rossomando was a senior analyst for Defense Policy and served as Senior Analyst for Counterterrorism at The Investigative Project on Terrorism for eight years. His work has been featured in numerous publications such as The American Thinker, The National Interest, National Review Online, Daily Wire, Red Alert Politics, CNSNews.com, The Daily Caller, Human Events, Newsmax, The American Spectator, TownHall.com, and Crisis Magazine. He also served as senior managing editor of The Bulletin, a 100,000-circulation daily newspaper in Philadelphia, and received the Pennsylvania Associated Press Managing Editors first-place award for his reporting.