We don’t have to rummage through the many folders of excuses offered by Donald Trump and his advocates for his Mar-a-Lago filing policy. Firstly, we have already done, and secondly, he simply collected several, all in one Pravda. Yes, the former president turned on his copy machine and seemed determined to put a tick in front of every little thing in three sentences:
It’s horrifying how the FBI, during the Mar-a-Lago raid, randomly scattered documents all over the floor (probably pretending I did it!), And then started photographing them for everyone to see. Thought they wanted them to keep a secret? Lucky I declassified!
So we have both a toned down version of Trumpworld’s earlier fantasy that the FBI “planted” the documents or otherwise framed him, and the already familiar claim that Trump magically declassified those documents. (At the same time, the Justice Department said in a lawsuit on Tuesday evening that “the government also provided evidence that government documents were likely hidden and removed from storage, and that efforts were likely made to obstruct a government investigation.” .) There are also some (mockery?) notions that the feds would like to keep top secret stuff under wraps, with the obvious claim that the photo on the outside of the folders revealing the contents of the folders. A few minutes later he again spoke the truth:
Whatever happened to NUCLEAR, word that the FBI/DOJ leaked to the fake news media!
You’ll notice that he’s not actually denying that there was nuclear material among the documents here, but he’s still betting that the feds won’t show the contents of those files to the public. That’s the problem they face: it’s hard to explain why these top secret documents are serious without being able to describe the content. The photographs clearly show files marked “TOP SECRET/SCI” or “Confidential Non-public Information”, but it is unlikely that we will know why they are marked as such.
Maybe they are just classified, and there is nothing to worry about! Maybe Trump didn’t do anything wrong and he won’t be charged with a crime! It just doesn’t seem like the right time – as always – to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. He and his people lied about every aspect of it, to the point that the feds never asked for documents before sending the agents, and that they cooperated with requests from the authorities. You’ll notice there’s some inconsistency here, and besides, if what’s in the files doesn’t really matter, why couldn’t they just return them?
But also another At the heart of this incessant stream of nonsense is the idea that it doesn’t matter, even if the material in question is serious enough, because Trump declassified it, and he has the right to declassify anything. This is not entirely true, and there is no evidence that he declassified any of these specific documents. But also, by this logic, Trump really could declassify nuclear weapons plans and then throw them out the window with no repercussions. No harm done! Haven’t you heard? They are declassified! I expect they will soon accept the argument – or at least the conclusion – that Trump is just a fool who liked to hoard these shiny things. Look at those funny markings on the outside! Makes you feel important to have all those important documents. Wait, they’re not important, so he declassified them and left them in the basement of a cool club! And even if they were important, it wouldn’t matter! Jesus.
Jack Holmes is Esquire’s Senior Staff Writer covering politics and sports. He also hosts the Helpful Context video series.