In the six weeks since Donald Trump‘s Palm Beach home was raided by the FBI, the ex-president and his allies have come up with all manner of bullshit re: why it was perfectly reasonable for him to take highly classified documents from the White House and refuse to give them back , despite repeated requests to do so from their rightful owner, ie the US government. Said bullshit has included things like:
- The boxes got packed in a hurry and no one really knew what was in them.
- “Everyone” brings their “work” home and Trump was no different.
- Trump loves scrapbooking and he was going to use the documents for this completely innocent purpose.
- Federal agents planted the documents at Mar-a-Lago as part of a setup.
- People steal classified documents all the time and it’s never been a big deal until now.
- Melania Trump, and not Donald, was the one who took them, and she should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. (This one is a joke, but if it came down to it, you know that he would not hesitate for a second to throw his third wife, and several of his children, under the bus.)
But there’s one excuse in particular that’s been widely trotted out by Trump and his pals: that the former president declassified the documents the Feds seized from his house and therefore did nothing wrong, rendering him a victim in all this. The problem with that defense is that (1) more than a dozen ex–White House staffers told CNN that it’s not true and (2) when it comes to the Trump laws may have broken, it doesn’t necessarily matter if the documents were declassified or not. But just for yuks, let’s say it’s true that Trump declassified much of what the FBI agents uncovered at Mar-a-Lago and that having done so could serve as his get-out-of-jail-free card. If that were the case, the ex-president and his legal team would have no problem telling the special master assigned to the case exactly which documents it applied to, right? Apparently, not so much. Possibly because—and we know this might come as a shock given that it’s about famously honest person Donald Trump—it’s a total lie.
In a Monday filing, lawyers for Trump pushed back on a request from the special master—senior US district judge Raymond Dearie, aka the guy Team Trump personally requested for the case—to disclose “specific information regarding declassification” to the court. Why the bashfulness?
In their filing, Team Trump claimed that they should not have to reveal details about Trump’s (alleged) declassification because such information may be used as a defense in the event of an indictment. And while one can understand why Trump’s attorneys would want to be prepared for criminal charges, not everyone is buying it.
“Why won’t Trump lawyers tell Judge Dearie whether Trump declassified the docs? It’s because the lawyers don’t want to lie and be disbarred and subject their client to a criminal false statement charge,” Andrew Weissmann, former general counsel for the FBI, tweeted on Tuesday.