Trump Keeps Using the Word “Cooperate.” I Do Not Think That Word Means What Trump Wants the Press To Think It Means

It’s that time that comes in many high profile investigations where it becomes prudent to remind readers — and journalists! — that the word “cooperate,” even the word “inform,” may not mean what sources want you think it does.

Correction: It’s long past the time to remind journalists that investigative subjects will boast to the press about “cooperating,” when their lawyers really mean, “complying” with the most basic requirements of legal process. When Ali Alexander ran to the press revealing he had received a subpoena (revealing a subpoena is something investigators generally consider uncooperative), most outlets repeated his claim to have “agreed to cooperate” with DOJ. What Alexander described instead was “compliance,” not cooperation.

Nevertheless, some really experienced legal beat reporters used the words often reserved for someone who has entered into a cooperation agreement to describe Alexander’s compliance and they did so in articles probably pitched as a way to share details revealed in a subpoena with other suspects in an investigation.

The latest messaging strategy from Trump demonstrates why the subject of an investigation might do this. This detailed WSJ report is based on Trump sources reading the content of letters sent between Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran and counterintelligence head Jay Bratt in June.

Aides to Mr. Trump have said they had been cooperating with the department to get the matter settled. The former president even popped into the June 3 meeting at Mar-a-Lago, shaking hands. “I appreciate the job you’re doing,” he said, according to a person familiar with the exchange. “Anything you need, let us know.”

Five days later, Trump attorney Evan Corcoran received an email from Mr. Bratt, the chief of the Justice Department’s counterintelligence and export control section, who oversees investigations involving classified information.

“We ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all the boxes that were moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago (along with any other items in that room) be preserved in that room in their current condition until further notice,” according to what was read to the Journal over the phone.

Mr. Corcoran wrote back, “Jay, thank you. I write to acknowledge receipt of this letter. With best regards, Evan.” By the next day, according to a person familiar with the events, a larger lock was placed on the door. It was the last communication between the men until Monday’s search of Mar-a-Lago, according to the person.

On June 22, the Trump Organization, the name for Mr. Trump’s family business, received a subpoena for surveillance footage from cameras at Mar-a-Lago. That footage was turned over, according to an official. [my emphasis]

Side note: The nice thing about Trump sharing a lawyer, Corcoran, with Steve Bannon is that we can evaluate Corcoran’s credibility based off stunts he pulled in Bannon’s case — which is a good reason to expect his representation of these events is not entirely forthcoming, especially when made without the ethical obligations stemming from making them as an officer of the court.

So this exchange, which doesn’t rule out further contact with Mar-A-Lago and which likely misrepresents Trump’s conviviality at having the head of DOJ’s espionage prosecutors waltzing into his golf resort, is designed to present the illusion of full “cooperation.”

And Trump’s spox uses that portrayal, later in the story, to claim that a search — the spox calls it a “raid” — was unnecessary. Trump had been so cooperative, the WSJ relays Trump camp claims, that his unreliable lawyer was even engaged in “breezy chats” with the head of the department that prosecutes spies.

“Monday’s brazen raid was not just unprecedented, it was completely unnecessary,” Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said. “President Trump and his representatives have gone to painstaking lengths in communicating and cooperating with all the appropriate agencies.”

WSJ doesn’t hide that this story is the one they’re being pitched.

A timeline of events, they say, demonstrates this cooperation, down to quickly fulfilling the June request to place a new lock on the storage door.

But it also doesn’t consider why putting a lock on a room full of suspected stolen documents amounts to cooperation.

More importantly, WSJ admits it doesn’t have the one detail that would test whether this fairy tale of cooperation were true or not: the warrant showing which crimes were being investigated, as well as the warrant return showing whether the government had obtained evidence that confirmed the suspicions they used to obtain probable cause.

The warrant, signed by a judge in Palm Beach County, refers to the Presidential Records Act and possible violation of law over handling of classified information, according to Christina Bobb, a lawyer for the former president. The warrant hasn’t been made public by Mr. Trump nor has the inventory of documents retrieved by the government.

The warrant Trump’s lawyers received doesn’t refer to “possible violation of law over handling classified information,” it refers to a law, possibly even the Espionage Act. Simply sharing that warrant and return would tell us far more about whether Trump was as cooperative as his unreliable lawyer — who made virtually identical claims about his contemptuous client Steve Bannon’s “cooperation” — now wants to claim about Trump.

There is a significant legal reason why Trump’s lawyers would like to claim he was cooperative, aside from ginning up threats against judges from Trump’s mob. As I laid out here, “fail[ing] to deliver [National Defense Information] to an officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it,” is a key element of 18 USC 793e. So in addition to stoking violence, it’s possible that Trump is already attempting to set up a defense for trial, that he simply had not yet complied with DOJ and NARA requests to give back the stolen documents, but surely would have if they just asked nicely one more time. This is, in fact, precisely the argument Corcoran made for Bannon at trial: he would have cooperated if only Bennie Thompson would have accepted a last minute offer to cooperate.

Anyway, given abundant precedent, it’s probably too late. If you’re storing stolen classified information in your basement, with or without a substantial padlock, you’ve committed the crime of unauthorized retention of NDI.

The issue of cooperation extends beyond Evan Corcoran’s dubious (and provably false, in Bannon’s case) claims of cooperation, though.

WSJ seems to match far more inflammatory reporting from William Arkin in Newsweek, that someone told DOJ that Trump still had classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

In the following weeks, however, someone familiar with the stored papers told investigators there may be still more classified documents at the private club after the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes earlier in the year, people familiar with the matter said. And Justice Department officials had doubts that the Trump team was being truthful regarding what material remained at the property, one person said. Newsweek earlier reported on the source of the FBI’s information.

Arkin is a well-sourced reporter (though not a DOJ reporter), but Newsweek is no longer a credible outlet. And in Arkin’s story — which seems like it was meant to be a comment primarily on the political blowback from the search — a headline Arkin probably didn’t write calls this person “an informer” (notably, language Arkin likely did have some say over also called it a raid, which credible DOJ sources would never do).

Exclusive: An Informer Told the FBI What Docs Trump Was Hiding, and Where

The raid on Mar-a-Lago was based largely on information from an FBI confidential human source, one who was able to identify what classified documents former President Trump was still hiding and even the location of those documents, two senior government officials told Newsweek.

There are other parts of this story that raised real credibility questions for me and for multiple counterintelligence experts I spoke with about. For example, it describes a 30-year veteran of the FBI, now a senior DOJ official, sharing grand jury information. Because Special Agents retire after 25 years, there are a very small number of 30-year FBI veterans running around, and describing the person as a senior DOJ official to boot would pinpoint the source even further. If this person really had knowledge of grand jury proceedings, it would be child’s play to charge them based on this story for violating laws prohibiting such things. Plus, the person doesn’t even describe what happens in a grand jury accurately, suggesting that the grand jury had “concluded” the law was broken (in which case there would be an indictment).

Moreover, the story relies on public reporting, based off Trump’s lawyer’s own claim, for its evidence that DOJ knew precisely where to look.

According to news reports, some 10-15 boxes of documents were removed from the premises. Donald Trump said in a statement that the FBI opened his personal safe as part of their search. Trump attorney Lindsey Halligan, who was present during the multi-hour search, says that the FBI targeted three rooms—a bedroom, an office and a storage room. That suggests that the FBI knew specifically where to look.

That claim is fundamentally incompatible with the earlier report that an “informer” had told FBI precisely where to look.

More importantly, it wouldn’t take an informant — a confidential human source infiltrated into the Trump camp — to obtain this kind of information.

Cassidy Hutchinson, who helped Trump move to Mar-a-Lago, reportedly “cooperated” (that word again!) with DOJ after her blockbuster testimony before the January 6 Committee. She worked at Mar-a-Lago and unlike others who moved with Trump to Florida, had the clearance to handle these documents. Her attorney, former Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt, knows firsthand about Trump’s attempts to suppress sensitive classified information from his attempts to kill the Russian investigation. So if Hutchinson had information that would be useful to this investigation (including details about where Trump stored what at Mar-a-Lago), DOJ likely has it.

Similarly, of the seven people whom Trump named to represent his interests with the Archives, three — Pat Cipollone, Pat Philbin, and Steve Engel — have been willing to testify with varying degrees of resistance before the January 6 Committee. Engel would have likewise been asked to cooperate on any DOJ investigation of Jeffrey Clark, but he didn’t share details of that with the press. The two Pats both recently received subpoenas in DOJ’s January 6 probe (which they did share with the press). And Pat Philbin is likely the lawyer described in earlier reports who attempted, but failed, to negotiate transfer of Trump’s stolen documents to the Archives.

Longtime Archives lawyer Gary Stern first reached out to a person from the White House counsel’s office who had been designated as the President Records Act point of contact about the record-keeping issue, hoping to locate the missing items and initiate their swift transfer back to NARA, said multiple sources familiar with the matter. The person had served as one of Trump’s impeachment defense attorneys months earlier and, as deputy counsel, was among the White House officials typically involved in ensuring records were properly preserved during the transfer of power and Trump’s departure from office.

But after an extended back and forth over several months and after multiple steps taken by Trump’s team to resolve the issue, Stern sought the intervention of another Trump attorney last fall as his frustration mounted over the pace of the document turnover.

If Philbin was the person who tried but failed to resolve the Archives’ concerns, he is a direct, material witness to the issue of whether Trump had willfully withheld classified documents the Archives was asking for, something the Archives would have made clear in its referral to DOJ. And because of the way the Espionage statute is written (note the Newsweek article, if accurate, mentions National Defense Information, language specific to the Espionage Act), Philbin would have personal legal exposure if he did not fully disclose information about Trump continuing to hoard stolen classified documents. Plus, Philbin has been involved in national security law since the 00s, and probably would like to retain his clearance to represent clients in national security cases.

All of which is to say that DOJ has easily identifiable people who are known to be somewhat willing to testify against Donald Trump and who are known to have specific knowledge about the documents he stole. If either Hutchinson or Philbin (or both!) answered FBI questions about Trump’s document theft, they would not be “informants.” They would be witnesses. Just like they’re both witnesses to some of Trump’s other suspected crimes.

Nor does that make them “cooperators” in the stricter sense — people who’ve entered into plea agreements to work off their own criminal liability.

As remarkable as six years of Trumpism has made it seem, sometimes law-abiding citizens answer FBI questions without the tantrums that Corcoran seems to tolerate from his clients.

Indeed, if the crime that FBI is investigating really is as serious as the Espionage Act, far more witnesses may see the wisdom of sharing their information with the FBI.

Update: Propagandist John Solomon offers a version of the same story as WSJ, though in his telling, DOJ also subpoenaed Trump in June, specifically asking for documents with classified markings, including those involving correspondence with foreign officials.

The subpoena requested any remaining documents Trump possessed with any classification markings, even if they involved photos of foreign leaders, correspondence or mementos from his presidency.

This is the kind of detail that the lawyers who negotiated initial efforts to retrieve stolen documents would know about. If Philbin, for example, knows that Trump had tried to hold onto his love letters with Mohammed bin Salman and Vladimir Putin, but Trump still didn’t provide them in response to a subpoena, then there’d be a clearcut case of withholding classified documents.

Update: CNN has matched Solomon’s report.

Trump and his lawyers have sought to present their interactions with Justice Department prosecutors as cooperative, and that the search came as a shock. The subpoena was first reported by Just the News.

In response to questions about the grand jury subpoena, Trump spokesman Taylor Budowich said in a statement to CNN: “Monday’s unprecedented and absolutely unnecessary raid of President Trump’s home was only the latest and most egregious action of hostility by the Biden Administration, whose Justice Department has been weaponized to harass President Trump, his supporters and his staff.”

But CNN’s version suggests that Trump’s lawyers showed the head of the espionage division of DOJ classified documents, but only agreed to hand over those that were Top Secret or higher.

During the meeting, Trump’s attorneys showed the investigators documents — some of them had markings indicating they were classified. The agents were given custody of the documents that were marked top secret or higher, according to a person familiar with the matter.

That suggests even after turning over 15 boxes of documents, Trump still had highly classified documents lying around the basement of a building riddled with counterintelligence concerns. And when the head of the espionage department came to collect classified documents, Trump withheld less classified ones.

Of course they had probable cause there were classified documents still at Mar-a-Lago. Trump’s lawyers told DOJ there were.

101 replies
  1. joberly says:

    Testimony before the grand jury by Hutchinson (reported by ABC News on July 27) and by Phibin (reported by CNN on August 3) about what was stored at Mar-a-Lago helps makes sense in explaining the urgency of the search of the property by the FBI on August 8. Those two witnesses might have offered information that there was more on-site than the Justice Department attorneys thought when they visited on June 3.

      • emptywheel says:

        Hutchinson did work there, although some time ago. But Philbin presumably would know what WAS there when this discussion started.

        • joberly says:

          Hutchinson worked for Trump as ‘post-presidential office coordinator’ Jan 20, 2021 through April 1, 2021. I am uncertain if she worked from Virginia or from Mar-a-Lago. However, she might have a good idea of what was in the boxes that went from the WH to FLA.

        • matt fischer says:

          From EW above: “[Hutchinson] worked at Mar-a-Lago and unlike others who moved with Trump to Florida, had the clearance to handle these documents.”

        • bmaz says:

          I am certainly not aware that she had, nor has, any official security clearance, especially a higher level one. Frankly, not sure she could have qualified for one. I guess Trump could have handed her one like he did Jared and Ivanka while he was POTUS, but not after he left office. But she was a 23-24 year old who worked for Pence, not Trump. And, again, any information she had would be beyond stale and unusable for the August 8 search.

          Philbin is different though, he would.

        • Peterr says:

          She was an assistant to Mark Meadows, the WH Chief of Staff. You don’t have a position like that without a solid security clearance.

          But that’s only half the story when it comes to access to classified documents.

          What she didn’t have, on Jan 21, was the other half: “need to know”. Nor, for that matter, did Donald Trump.

        • bmaz says:

          I can find no evidence of that, and will believe that a 23 year old glorified secretary had any upper level clearance when I see it.

        • Peterr says:

          Having worked inside an agency with security clearances, I can most certainly believe it. Did she have SCI clearances? Doubtful. But TS? Most likely.

          Look at it this way: If she didn’t, she couldn’t handle Meadows’ phone or even walk into his office when he was not present.

        • bmaz says:

          Prove it. Because I do not believe she had jack until somebody does, and neither do the clearance experts I talk to.

        • Peterr says:

          From Jennifer Miller, a lawyer who worked two separate stints in the Clinton WH under Ron Klain:

          ALL White House staff members are required to have security clearances, not just the senior ones. Everyone fills out an SF-86 form, which you can download at the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) website: Standard Forms.

          The first time I worked at The White House, I was only 23 years old and needed a Top Secret clearance. The FBI conducted a “full field” investigation, which means they went door-to-door in every area I ever lived, including college summer internship sublet apartments. . . .

        • bmaz says:

          Well that is funny. I have no idea who Jennifer Miller is, but she is full of shit. The best clearance lawyers in DC don’t think so, and neither do I.

        • chicago_bunny says:

          Minor correction that doesn’t change the fundamental point – she was assistant to Mark Meadows, not Pence. That did give her an office in the West Wing.

        • bmaz says:

          Maybe she was down there for a stint at first. Maybe not, I don’t know. My understanding, just based on reportage, is that she was mostly in the Virginia/DC area. But any of that would be far too stale to base the current warrant on.

  2. Peterr says:

    As I noted in the comments of an earlier thread, possessing classified documents without authorization is a big problem, failing to store those documents in a properly secure manner is worse, and refusing to return them when asked — repeatedly — is even worse.

    But what would put things over the edge would be if Trump did something with those classified documents.

    In that regard, two possibilities are clearly within the realm of possibility. One is that he pulled them out to impress some guest at Mar-a-Lago, to show them just how important a guy he is. The other is that he somehow tried to leverage them to his own benefit – blackmail someone to do his bidding, offer the information to someone else, use the information to enable him to engage in some financial transaction ahead of something the documents point to happening, etc.

    In either of those cases, he’s revealing to someone — or several someones — that he still has classified documents. I could easily imagine Trump trying to stroke his ego by showing, or even talking about, the docs he has in the basement to a guest — or several guests — who then happens to mention this exchange to a friend of theirs in law enforcement . . . and now the FBI knows the docs are there, and perhaps where they are.

    • notjonathon says:

      That was my thought, too, as I’ve mentioned a couple of times: that Trump started bragging to some random person about how he still has classified documents–“Ya wanta see some? Look here!”

    • phred says:

      Don’t forget he plans to run for re-election. Another rationale would be to offer information in a quid pro quo for election support.

  3. bg says:

    Someone, maybe Cassidy, talked about TFG putting documents in his pockets or taking them to private quarters. In that case, would someone be making notes about the specific documents involved? IF they were taking photos of toilet dumps, would anyone know about the specifics/have notes of what was flushed or perhaps burned, as we have also had mention? Outside of obvious possible missing things, like the love letters or the perfect phone call records, are there duplicates of TOP SECRET documents that would have been cross-checked at some point with what was produced so far? It is fairly mind boggling to imagine the quantity of what has been inspected and cross checked by now at the archives. And who at the archives has the clearances to do all that? Are there any actual “patriots” or honest brokers in TFG’s orbit? It must be wild with the speculation over all of this in TFG world. I hope we find out more about the safe. A hotel safe is not really very big. Did they bring a safe-cracker with them?

    Thank you as always for the content here.

    • Rayne says:

      What’s your guess on the next likely play? Of course Judicial Watch’s effort will be shot down and they’ll make a bunch of noise about Biden administration secrecy. But what’s the next wave of propaganda?

      In the background the election clock is ticking — we’re going to entire a quiet period in which the right-wing will have to both campaign for their candidates and push disinformation about multiple Trump-related investigations. We should be planning for this.

      • klynn says:

        A good question.
        The Intel community has done an amazing job of dropping intel bits to help Ukraine fight RU propaganda. Marcy has noted their efforts.

        I mention this because it does demonstrate one example of “getting out in front” with facts and that it does snuff disinfo narratives and changes the firehose to a kinked garden hose.

        So how do we apply this approach domestically?

        1. The Jan 6th Committee has actually been effective in tamping down both domestic and foreign propaganda. My hope is the additional hearings will be equally effective.

        2. Be ready to administer rhetorical jujitsu instead. Marcy is a master at reading tweets and leaks and turning it back on the subject and including readers along the way to understand. If there was a way to build her following to over 1 million on Twitter, she could be a more heard voice.

        3. Build a significant voice of integrity-based questions and ask the media why are they not asking said questions. Ask over and over.

        4. Any news/legal action about RU political influence needs to never be buried. RU is fighting an info war against the US. Watch how GOP responds to these. Such as the recent political influence locally in FL and CA.

        5. Capitol Hunters has been amazing. Support their efforts.

        Again, a really good question. I’ll continue to think about this. If I come up with more, I’ll message you.

        • bmaz says:

          Absolute and complete bullshit. Come on. That crap is not responsible for jack shit. People, even here, need to seriously get a grip. Good grief.

        • klynn says:

          So none of the conservative groups who filed to have the warrant unsealed had any impact on the decision, not even in the slightest?

        • Rayne says:

          bmaz says this is irrelevant, but it’s not about the presser or directly about the warrant as it is about controlling the narrative around Trump, the warrant, and the PRA/classified materials.

          Now Judicial Watch can say they influenced what’s going on even though they didn’t. They can swan into anything related because they now have a vested interest. They’re now part of the FOF nozzle.

          Now do a Google search for [“john solomon” “judicial watch”] and see what happens.

          They’re still trying to manipulate the narrative; what’s next in this chain?

        • klynn says:

          Garland did a great job including a statement about the work of his colleagues. After the Cinci attack, he had to.

          You point out, like Marcy is doing right now, that this is not about them, or their self image as conservative justice advocates, it is about saving lives, rule of law and then tag on – btw your guy could have released his copy all week to save lives and lessen divisiveness and you chose to attack DOJ and not confront the former guy. Conclude with how they are violating their own mission.

  4. cbear says:

    My fervent hope is that the search warrant was based on NSA intercepts of Top Secret documents relayed to Putin/MBS etc with odd looking stains and smudges—AND a forensic analysis of the source material seized from Mar A Lago bears the same suspicious markings……which turns out to be Trump’s pudgy little fingerprints etched in Kechtup and grease..

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      While the DoJ or FBI might have such data, Marcy’s post points out that it was probably not needed as a precursor to this search warrant.

      One reason for the distracting defensive hoopla is that Trump himself left so many bread crumbs that he was violating federal records handling requirements, a child could find their way through the woods by following them.

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Raising the specter of a mole inside the Trump camp deflects from the large number of people Marcy mentions, who might have good reason to cooperate with the DoJ, but who are not playing spy inside Trump’s camp. Rather, they are complying with their civic and legal duty, and trying to keep themselves out of legal hot water or prison.

    It also reinforces the essential meme, per Rayne’s preceding post, that Trump be a victim, both generally and of someone personally disloyal to him, in particular. That fires up the base and releases pent-up demand for expressions of everlasting loyalty, required to remain a member-in-good standing of Tribe Trump. They’re just not in German or in a 100,000 seat stadium in Berlin.

    As others have pointed out, this might also taint potential jury pools in Florida, Georgia, NJ, NY, DC, etc. There’s not much here that’s off-the-cuff, it’s very well orchestrated.

  6. BobCon says:

    The sloppiness around terms like compliance, cooperation, raid and more underlines a major failure at the editorial level. They just weren’t prepared for a likely event.

    A good parallel is hurricane reporting. There is no way for the Miami Herald to know when or where the next hurricane might hit Southern Florida, but they know there is a reasonable chance one will by October.

    They make an effort to have trained reporters already on staff who know the expert terminology and the likely scenarios so that they aren’t starting from scratch. They’ve thought through the issues of both underemphasizing risks or overhyping dangers.

    Editors on the Mar a Lago story clearly decided that since they couldn’t know where or when a hurricane might hit, they couldn’t prepare at all.

    Which of course is nuts. Basic elements like the honesty of Trump and his backers, the larger context of his legal troubles, and the methods of DOJ have long been in place. Gaming out scenarios into which a document reposession, an indictment of an associate, or the seizure of computers from Trump Tower is something editors could do — but clearly refuse to do. There are defined patterns to Trump’s PR strategies, but editors are still getting caught flatfooted even at the risk of losing out to rivals.

    CNN has no way to know today if a hurricane will blow the roof off a hospital or destroy a subdivision in September anywhere from New England to the Gulf Coast. But their hurricane team is ten times better prepared to cover a future surprise than their political desk was for an equally possible event.

    • bmaz says:

      Meh, there are extremely few reporters that have this kind of knowledge and experience. There is no way all the outlets have them who are truly steeped in criminal procedure. And, no, you cannot expect them to all just be sitting and waiting.

      • BobCon says:

        Sure, they don’t have them now, even though editors knew five years ago that much deeper understanding of these issues would be critical.

        As an example, the reporter who wrote the Washington Post article referenced in the lede of this CJR piece was covering local Washington DC education issues until this month.

        That’s not a case of not knowing as much as experts, it’s a sign of editors who are completely unprepared and don’t care.

  7. Badger Robert says:

    Thank you Ms. Wheeler. Some swearing would have been justified.
    Neither Philbin nor Trump’s personal attorneys ever denied he had the records.
    I think Cipollone and Philbin just added that he was told not to take the records, and why he should not take them. Just another rock cairn on the trail to indictment.

  8. John McManus says:

    An empty safe can be proof of non-compliance if someone testifies that restricted documents were therebefore the search.

    • bmaz says:

      No. An empty safe, if it really was empty, is indicative of nothing but that it was empty when the search was executed.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Donald probably tells all the kids his safes are empty. He knows what he would have done to his dad’s safes, so why tempt his own kids.

  9. Drew says:

    I’m fascinated by this Newsweek article. On the one hand it seems like an utter dog’s dinner cobbled together for effect. On the other, it really seems likely that the author talked to *somebody*–there’s new information and quotes that aren’t that likely to be made up. I looked up the author & it appears that his biggest work was a book on 9-11 and stuff about national security. It’s common for journalists, when a big story is breaking, to reach out to their usual sources, even if they aren’t the most relevant to the main story, to find out what they can and to get some quotes. Then the story is pitched & written & the quotes are worked into whatever story can get through the process. Without the quotes this is a typical story of contemporary Newsweek, basically soft propaganda on the right with little real substance.

    I just wonder whether the sources aren’t just puffed a bit in their description. Sure, they are hanging around DOJ and/or the intelligence community, probably still employed. And sure they are “senior” but that could mean lots of things. The critique of the decision as “the best and worst” of the bureaucracy does NOT sound like a description by a participant in the decision, but rather as someone who watched it happen from the outside. [The notice of the “raid” itself didn’t leak and so was closely held, but that doesn’t mean discussions, frustrations about stuff, etc weren’t more broadly known in NatSec portions of DOJ] In fact the quotes sound like informal toss off stuff, not carefully planted rebuttal to Trumpworld assertions.

    So if Arkin is not so much a legal reporter, but a natsec reporter chatting up sources, it would make sense that he would elide and fill in just his understanding of how things would work, because the source wasn’t going to give him detail, just a comment or two.

    So “human source” is interpreted by the reporter as confidential informant when it could be any human source, as you point out. The source didn’t actually have to know about Grand Jury deliberations, just to have picked up that certain people were interviewed by DOJ and that a Grand Jury was going on. The question of actionable information coming from the GJ could well have been garbled. The source, in other words, could have passed on to the reporter a couple of choice tidbits that he’d found out at the office, without even knowing, for instance the identity of the human source, or the precipitating reasons for the decision to get the warrant.

    Yet it does seem like the quotes are real, even if over-interpreted. My wife’s been a reporter and editor for a long time, and she frequently tells me of instances where there’s a quote or a piece of information and then a story is confected around it that’s largely irrelevant, but the quote is worthwhile, but a story following it just didn’t pan out.

  10. bmaz says:

    Lol, CNN now reporting there “was” a subpoena served in June. So, to obtain and serve the August 8 warrant, there is substantial information to support it since then. Or, alternatively, nothing was produced responsive to said subpoena. Either is devastating to the Trump/MAGA narrative of outrage. Hilarious.

    • Rugger9 says:

      And ‘cooperation’ flies out the window too. Will the courtier press issue corrections after breathlessly reporting how sudden and unfair this duly warranted search was? I doubt it. There is too much money to be made stoking the fears. I did see that Digby posted a video of Steve Doocy (another Dolt on the Divan, h/t Charlie Pierce) correcting Scalise about the warrant.

  11. Overshire says:

    Not to question the reasoning of the lawyers being the responsible parties, but my first thought about the alleged “inside source” for the search warrant was that there are two groups of people at MAL who might have accidentally laid eyes on incriminating material and felt the need to tell – 1, the domestic staff of maids, cleaners, supplies handlers, etc., and 2, the Secret Service. Is anyone here familiar enough with relevant SS protocol to understand how they would see their legal obligations if they ran across such items in the course of their normal security sweeps of the buildings?

    • Drew says:

      There’s also plenty of reason to think that some Secret Service officers who might now be detailed to Trump, could have been brought in to talk with DOJ and/or the Grand Jury on all this Jan 6 related stuff. I would think that most of them would answer direct questions about documents from the White House, etc when asked.

  12. klynn says:

    You are amazing. You are on fire on Twitter right now. AND your snark is making me gasp for air! ROTFL over the craziness of how this search is unfolding.

    It’s playing out like a new Beverly Hills Cop IV! This is hysterical!

  13. gmoke says:

    Timing: one speculation I heard from the TV talking heads is that the search warrant was executed now in order to avoid the 90 day deadline before the November election, not that such a thing stopped Comey in 2016. Haven’t seen that come under discussion here. Yet.

    Just a thought that most certainly could be wrong.

    • bmaz says:

      No. It does not have squat to do with the impending midterms in November, that is just idiotic for the TV dopes to say. Also, too, Trump is NOT on the ballot. JFC. Not to mention there IS NOT any hard “90 day deadline”.

    • P J Evans says:

      It’s a sixty day deadline, and it’s for people who are actually on ballots. Doesn’t apply to the former guy this year (or next).

  14. klynn says:

    Am I wrong in assuming the requested video will include showing the meeting with agents demonstrating the lawyers handled top secret files and did not return all?

    Could video from his own home be evidence against him and his lawyers?

    • Ravenclaw says:

      If you film or tape yourself, that’s a record. Ask Tricky Dick. Or that other dick, Weiner.

      My *guess* is that what DOJ would find most interesting in such videos would be any visitors being shown (or otherwise accessing) documents that can be shown to be classified.

      • klynn says:

        Oh I understand that dynamic. However, based on EW’s Tweets in the last 2 hours, if the tapes include documenting the meeting for the subpoenaed documents, it would be poetic.

  15. Ravenclaw says:

    Now there’s a published report that DOJ had subpoenaed TFG demanding the documents (no surprise). This preceded (and likely led to) the early June visit by Bratt & Co. The NYT seems to have a couple of knowledgeable sources, though it was first reported by one John Solomon (see link below). Weirdly but I guess predictably, TFG allies (including Solomon and his lawyer Bobb) are citing this as evidence that he cooperated with the investigation and therefore ought not to have been subjected to a search.

    [FYI: link replaced with archived version for security reasons. /~Rayne August 23, 2022]

  16. Tom-1812 says:

    Mick Mulvaney was on CNN thus morning trying to downplay the importance of whatever documents Trump may have had in his possession. “If this is only about documents.” he said at one point, “then this [i.e., the search of MaL] is absurd.”

    Maybe this is the GOP’s next position: “Hey, what’s the big deal? They’re only documents. You know, common everyday paper.”

  17. GKJames says:

    On what grounds did Trump withhold the documents (classified and non-classified)? They belong to the government. Why (and what) was NARA negotiating for 9 months before turning the matter over to DOJ? And why did Bratt leave Mar-a-Lago without everything he asked for?

  18. Cosmo Le Cat says:

    If CNN reporting is accurate, a subpoena was served in June and some, but not all, classified documents were turned over, so authorities knew that classified documents remained at MAL. It seems to me that would be sufficient cause to get a judge to authorize the “raid” a few days ago. But would that be fresh enough intel for the judge? It seems to me that there must have been something more. CNN also reported that the June warrant included surveillance video, so is it possible that a review of that was the trigger? We are in the dark until more is made public.

  19. Spank Flaps says:

    The media are all amateurish and extremely gullible.
    Despite 6 years of constant BS from Trump, Bannon and co, they still take everything they say at face value.
    And it’s not just Trump BS and psyops that they swallow.
    Back in February a few days before Russia invaded Ukraine, Russia announced they were withdrawing troops from the border, and showed a video of 3 tanks being put on a train.
    Most of western MSM were like “phew, it’s all over!”
    Despite over 50 years of Orwellian BS from Russia.
    I couldn’t imagine Walter Cronkite doing that during the Cold War!

    • bmaz says:

      Lol, sure Jan. Must be easy there in the cheap seats. What do you really know about complex criminal pre-trial procedure?

      • blueedredcounty says:

        Did you mean to post this on Cosmo le Cat’s post about the subpoena, the judge’s response, et al? Because that post seems to be commenting about criminal pre-trial procedure, while this post is talking about media regurgitation of propaganda.

  20. MB says:

    Ummm…live press conference with AG Merrick Garland to begin…soon. Staring at an empty podium at the moment.

    On all the usual streams: PBS, Guardian, Lincoln Project etc.

    • Estragon says:

      How soon can we expect to see the warrant now that DOJ has moved to unseal?

      OT: this seems like a great opportunity to bring back the word yegg!

    • MB says:

      Well, that was a quickie – less than 5 minutes.

      He confirmed DOJ made a motion to unseal the search warrant with Southern District of Florida

      He confirmed that he personally signed off on the search warrant.

      He defended the integrity of the FBI against unjust allegations

      C’est tout.

  21. Cosmo Le Cat says:

    For all you Andrew Weissman haters, he just asked three pertinent questions: Why did Trump take the documents, why didn’t he return all the documents when asked, and what did he plan to do with the documents.

    • bmaz says:

      Are you familiar with the “Enron Task Force”? Weissmann has been lame for a very long time. You don’t have to be a “hater” to recognize that he is dubious at the very best. I honestly do not think he really understands that much on the granular level of real criminal trial court law.

  22. Ed Walker says:

    Let’s think about record storage. A fully loaded bankers box weighs about 30 pounds, a fact I picked up working as a lawyer who personally moved boxes to storage.

    If you want to find records you have stored, you have to keep a record of what you put into each box. In normal law firms like mine that handled single matters for most of our clients, it’s enough to identify the client and the matter on the record. If you are a general counsel, you have to have a better way of identifying things. In a single day you might get 10 different small matters, and identifying them by the name of the client and the opposite interest isn’t enough. That means detailed records so you can find the precise issue. You can imagine this isn’t easy.

    Now think of how this has to work when TFG moves out. There have to be lots of records of records, or no one could ever find anything.

    1. More than one person has seen the relevant records. That could include the office personnel and the lawyers.

    2. Government lawyers didn’t go through boxes looking for stuff. They inspected what they were told were the records of what was in the boxes. I bet they got copies of these to carry back to the National Archive people.

    3. The NARA officials had a pretty good idea of the documents that TFG had on and before Jan 19 2020. They did an item-by-item check of what they thought he had with what they got on Jan 19 and in the subsequent production and what was in the records TFGs people gave them. They then figured out what was still missing.

    Wild speculation.
    1. Maybe the record of records given to the DoJ team was incomplete. Maybe the informant was a person who prepared the records of records that the DoJ team reviewed in January and June.

    2. I’d bet what’s missing is a lot more than just the lowest level classified documents.

  23. Owen McNamara says:

    Dr. Wheeler et al, thank you for all your efforts. This is where I go for the final word on the ongoing horror show that is TFG and his minions. In regards to this “inside man” theory I wonder if it was just put out there to make 45 go insane. Have some minor functionary at JD leak this to some reporter, watch the editors jump all over it, and voila, everyone at Mar a Lago gets strip searched. And I’m sitting here in a Nomex suit in preparation to be flamed by Mr. Bmaz, but I would like to know if I’m losing it or not.

  24. Spencer Dawkins says:

    “So this exchange, which doesn’t rule out further contact with Mar-A-Lago and which likely misrepresents Trump’s conviviality at having the head of DOJ’s espionage prosecutors waltzing into his golf resort, …”

    Almost everyone commenting here would know better than I whether Trump had ever laid eyes on Jay Bratt before, but if he recognized him sitting with his lawyer and WAS convivial, that’s got to be a record for narcissism, even for Trump!

    • timbo says:

      Twitler is good at this sort of thing. He’s going to be charming and disarming out of habit. Don’t be fooled by anything he says or done…it’s always about the grift and self-preservation for people like him.

  25. Eureka says:

    What’s salient to me in that WSJ (even prior to learning of the subpoena for the documents): the pregnant parenthetical to preserve

    “(along with any other items in that room)”

    Sounds crime-sceney.

    Full stop.

    Plus given Trump counsel’s (let’s say) breezy acknowledgement, would foreclose most reasons for entrance and egress [and certainly any item removal] from the room (surveillance video subpoena).

    • Eureka says:

      I mean Bratt on behalf of DOJ is “ask[ing]” [suggesting, telling] Trump what to do/not do with his own stuff in this instance.

      No dusting, cleaning; garage sales; limited hangouts; — please.

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