The Known and Likely Content of Trump’s Search Warrant

Yesterday, Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart found that, “the Government has not met its burden of showing that the entire [Trump search warrant] affidavit should remain sealed.” He ordered DOJ to provide a sealed version of proposed redactions for the warrant affidavit for Trump’s search by August 25 at noon.

Two days after the search of Mar-a-Lago I did a post laying out the likely content of what’s in that search warrant (which pretty accurately predicted what we’ve seen since). Because a warrant affidavit is one of the best ways to show how DOJ and the FBI think of the events of the last 18 months, I wanted to do a second version including all the things we have learned since.

For comparison, here are the warrants for Reality Winner and Josh Schulte, both of which were also, at least in part, warrants for a 793 investigation. Here are warrants to search Roger Stone and Oath Keeper Jeremy Brown’s houses, both Federal searches in Florida related to investigations conducted in DC (the search of Brown’s house even found allegedly classified documents, albeit only at the Secret level). Stone’s showed probable cause for a different part of the obstruction statute. Here’s the warrant Robert Mueller’s team used to get Michael Cohen’s Trump Organization emails from Microsoft.

Cover Sheet to Warrant Application


This cover sheet shows that DOJ swore out the affidavit to Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart over WhatsApp, who signed it on August 5.

It describes applying for a warrant to search for evidence of crimes and for contraband (a reference to the illegally possessed Presidential records). It doesn’t permit the seizure of property used in the commission of a crime so, unsurprisingly, the FBI didn’t have authority to seize Mar-a-Lago.

The cover sheet describes the three crimes under investigation this way.

The Search Warrant


The search warrant notes the docket number 22-mj-8332 that the entire country has been watching for 10 days now.

The search warrant authorizes the FBI to conduct a search of 1100 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, FL.

It was signed by Reinhart, who was the Duty Magistrate, at 12:12PM on August 5.

The warrant gave the FBI two weeks, until August 19, to conduct the search and limited the search to daytime hours (defined as 6AM to 10PM, which Trumpsters often complain amounts to a pre-dawn raid).

Attachment A


Attachment A describes Mar-a-Lago as a “resort, club, and residence” with approximately 58 bedrooms and 33 bathrooms. The warrant permitted the FBI to search all parts of Mar-a-Lago accessible to Trump (whom they refer to as FPOTUS) and his staff, except those currently occupied (at the time of the search) by Members or guests. It mentioned the “45 Office” explicitly and storage rooms, but did not describe the storage room at the center of much reporting on the search.

Attachment B


Attachment B authorized the FBI to seize “documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed” in violation of 18 USC 793, 18 USC 2071, or 18 USC 1519.

This post describes the search protocol authorized in Attachment B, with nifty graphic.


Search warrant forms have a return form (describing what was seized) included in them. But here, the FBI provided that list to Trump in the form of two receipts, one signed by a Supervisory Special Agent, and one signed by a Special Agent; I’ve dubbed the latter the “CLASS receipt,” because all the classified documents described are included on that one.

The receipt lists:

  • 27 boxes, one of which is described as leatherbound; 11 are described to contain documents marked classified
  • Executive grant of clemency for Roger Stone
  • Potential Presidential record
  • 2 binders of photos
  • Handwritten note
  • Other documents catalogued on the SSA receipt

See these two posts for more on the significance of the two different receipts.

Christina Bobb signed for both receipts at 6:19PM on August 8.


This would start with:

  • Several paragraphs describing the affiant’s background and training
  • An assertion that the affiant believed there was probable cause that the FBI would find evidence of violations of 18 USC 793, 18 USC 2071, and 18 USC 1519 at Mar-a-Lago.

Particularly given the novel legal issues implicating a search of the former President, I think there’s likely a section describing the statutes involved. It’s likely to include:

Note: If there’s a version of this statutory language, it may be among the things DOJ would acquiesce to releasing, particularly if it implied that Trump was under investigation for stealing nuclear documents. But they might be unwilling to do that if they’re not yet sure they’ve gotten all known nuclear documents back. 

Then there’d be a section describing who was involved (the Roger Stone warrant has such paragraphs). There will be a paragraph about Trump that looks like:

Donald J. Trump (Former President of the United States, FPOTUS) is a businessman who owns and resides at 1100 S. Ocean Blvd., Palm Beach, FL. From January 20, 2017 at 12:00PM until January 20, 2021 at 12:00PM, he was the President of the United States. He ceased exercising the constitutional authorities of the President at 12:00PM on January 20, 2021. On February 5, 2021, the current President of the United States, Joe Biden, discontinued classified briefings for FPOTUS.

In addition, there are likely descriptions of the National Archives and its statutory duties.

There may be descriptions of Patrick Philbin, Pat Cipollone, Mark Meadows (all of whom were involved in negotiations with NARA over retrieving the documents), anyone caught on surveillance video entering or exiting the storage closet, of Kash Patel and John Solomon (including past security concerns raised about both), and the Trump lawyers involved in the June meeting.

There may be a paragraph describing MAL in more depth. It might describe the SCIF used during Trump’s presidency and its apparent removal. It might describe the arrest and prosecution of Yujing Zhang, who breached MAL and might include other known foreign intelligence targeting of MAL. It might describe Trump’s refusal to use secure facilities at MAL, including a 2017 meeting with Shinzo Abe, though it would likely rely on public reports for this, not classified intelligence. It might describe the tunnels underneath and — and the public availability of historic diagrams of them. It might describe the known employees at MAL, including any foreign citizens. Finally, it might describe both the terms of membership and the ease with which others could access the golf club.


The rest is probably a timeline of the investigation. The following known details are likely to appear.

On December 30, 2020, DOJ provided Trump a binder of material from the Russian investigation.

On January 8, 2021, Mike Ellis attempted to retain a compartmented NSA report for White House archives, initially refusing efforts to return it.

On January 14, 2021, the White House returned the compartmented NSA report to NSA.

On January 17, 2021, the FBI provided a list of continuing objections to Trump’s declassification of Crossfire Hurricane materials.

On January 19, 2021, via letter to Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, FPOTUS designated (among others) Pasquale (Pat) Cipollone and Patrick Philbin as his representatives with the NARA.

On January 19, 2021, FPOTUS wrote a letter authorizing the declassification of records pertaining to FBI’s investigation into Russian ties with FPOTUS’ campaign that had not yet been declassified. Patel later described the materials to include:

transcripts of intercepts made by the FBI of Trump aides, a declassified copy of the final FISA warrant approved by an intelligence court, and the tasking orders and debriefings of the two main confidential human sources, Christopher Steele and Stefan Halper, the bureau used to investigate whether Trump had colluded with Russia to steal the 2016 election.

Patel’s description appears to conflict with Trump’s order, which explicitly, “does not extend to materials that must be protected from disclosure pursuant to orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.”

On January 20, 2021, Meadows sent “The Attorney General” a memo, citing the January 19 order from FPOTUS, ordering “the Department must expeditiously conduct a Privacy Act review under the standards that the Department of Justice would normally apply, redact material appropriately, and release the remaining material with redactions applied.”

On January 20, 2021, FPOTUS ceased exercising the authorities of the President of the United States.

On January XX, records deemed to be the final production of Presidential Records arrived at NARA.

The affidavit would describe the inventorying process and then describe known documents that were not included.

  • Love letters from Kim Jong Un
  • Altered map of Hurricane Dorian

It would also include a description of evidence of document destruction, including any evidence those records pertained to a Congressional investigation, impeachment, or a criminal investigation.

Starting on May 6, 2021, NARA General Counsel Gary Stern communicated with Philbin regarding the missing records. [This will cite the date of each communication and quote anything that captures Trump’s refusal to return the documents.]

Having not secured identified records, starting in Fall 2021, Stern communicated with Trump attorney (probably Cipollone) to arrange turning over the records.

October 18, 2021: Trump sues to prevent the Archives from complying with January 6 Committee subpoena.

November 10, 2021: Judge Tanya Chutkan denies Trump’s motion for an injunction against NARA. (While it wouldn’t appear in the affidavit, in recent days Paul Sperry has claimed that Trump withheld documents to prevent NARA from turning them over to the January 6 Committee.)

On December XX, 2021, XX informed NARA certain missing records had been located.

December 9, 2021: DC Circuit upholds Judge Chutkan’s decision releasing Trump records to the January 6 Committee.

On January 17, 2022, NARA retrieved 15 boxes of Records from 1100 S. Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL.

January 19, 2022: SCOTUS upholds Chutkan’s decision.

On January 31, 2022, NARA completed an initial inventory of the retrieved documents. It discovered over 100 documents with classification markings, comprising more than 700 pages. Some include the highest levels of classification, including Special Access Program (SAP) material.

On February xx (possibly February 8), 2022, NARA reported FPOTUS’ failures to comply with the Presidential Records Act to the Department of Justice and requested an investigation.

DOJ and FBI likely conducted interviews between February and May, which would be listed.

On April 11, 2022, Biden’s White House Counsel instructed NARA provide FBI access to the 15 boxes of materials returned from Mar-a-Lago.

On April 12, 2022, NARA instructed the Trump team of that decision, and informing him that the FBI would start to access the documents on April 18.

On April XX, Trump’s attorneys ask the White House counsel for more time before the review of the documents; Biden extends the date to April 29.

On May 5, 2022, Corcoran proposed reviewing the records at NARA.

On May 5, 2022, Kash Patel made public claims that the contents of materials returned to NARA had been declassified, describing that FPOTUS wanted to release,

information that Trump felt spoke to matters regarding everything from Russiagate to the Ukraine impeachment fiasco to major national security matters of great public importance — anything the president felt the American people had a right to know is in there and more.

FBI conducted early interviews during this period, likely including Philbin, Scott Gast, Derek Lyons, and Cipollone, and possibly Mark Meadows. Philbin and Cipollone would have described their own inspections of records, including their knowledge that identified missing records had been at MAL when they had conducted records searches.

FBI would include multiple interviews of people describing Trump saying the Presidential Records belonged to him.

On May 10, 2022, Acting Archivist informed Evan Corcoran the FBI would get access to the records on May 12.

On May 11, 2022, FBI subpoenaed Trump for documents remaining at Mar-a-Lago bearing classification marks.

On May 12, pursuant to a subpoena, FBI accessed the 15 boxes turned over in January.

From May 16-18, FBI conducted a preliminary review of. the documents and discovered:

  • 67 Confidential documents
  • 92 Secret documents
  • 25 Top Secret documents
  • Documents marked HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI
  • Handwritten notes

On May XX, 2022, DOJ subpoenaed FPOTUS for any remaining documents bearing classification marks.

Surveillance video from this period, later obtained with a subpoena, showed people moving documents in and out of the storage room. The people and dates would be included.

On June 3, 2022, Jay Bratt and three investigators met with Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb to collect the subpoenaed materials.

  • FPOTUS joined the meeting and acknowledged the effort to retrieve classified materials.
  • Bobb and Corcoran provided XX documents marked with classification marks.
  • One of the lawyers signed an attestation that all classified documents had been turned over.
  • Bratt informed Bobb and Corcoran all records covered by the Presidential and Federal Records Act were US government property.
  • Bratt informed Bobb and Corcoran about the regulations guiding storage of classified records.
  • Bratt and investigators inspect storage facility, find storage facility fails to meet required standards for storage.

On June 8, Bratt emailed Corcoran. He said, in part, that,

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

It’s likely either at the meeting on June 3 or in the email, Bratt also informed Corcoran that the storage closet did not comply with CFR guidelines.

On June 9, Corcoran wrote saying only, “I write to acknowledge receipt of this letter.”

On June 19, FPOTUS sent a letter to NARA designating Patel and Solomon as representatives to access “Presidential records of my administration.”

NARA, possibly Gary Stern, likely informed DOJ of the designation of Patel and Solomon and (probably) Trump’s reference to “Presidential records,” generally, not records at NARA.

On June 22, DOJ subpoenaed surveillance video of the storage closet for a 60-day period. Analysis of the video showed uncleared people entering in and out of the storage closet.

DOJ likely had follow-up interviews after the Bratt meeting and the surveillance video return, in part to identify who had access to the storage closet and to identify documents believed to remain outstanding.

The affidavit would include a description of known documents that remain extant, including documents that were altered or mutilated (perhaps transcripts of Trump’s meetings with Russia) and known classified documents, including those pertaining to nuclear weapons. 

Finally, the affidavit would include a conclusion stating that all this amounts to probable cause that Trump was in possession of documents that were covered by the PRA, some subset of which were believed to be classified and some other subset of which had either been hidden or damaged in an effort to obstruct either this or other investigations.

emptywheel Trump Espionage coverage

Trump’s Timid (Non-Legal) Complaints about Attorney-Client Privilege

18 USC 793e in the Time of Shadow Brokers and Donald Trump

[from Rayne] Other Possible Classified Materials in Trump’s Safe

Trump’s Stolen Documents

John Solomon and Kash Patel May Be Implicated in the FBI’s Trump-Related Espionage Act Investigation

[from Peterr] Merrick Garland Preaches to an Overseas Audience

Three Ways Merrick Garland and DOJ Spoke of Trump as if He Might Be Indicted

The Legal and Political Significance of Nuclear Document[s] Trump Is Suspected to Have Stolen

Merrick Garland Calls Trump’s Bluff

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

[from Rayne] Expected Response is Expected: Trump and Right-Wing DARVO

DOJ’s June Mar-a-Lago Trip Helps Prove 18 USC 793e

The Likely Content of a Trump Search Affidavit

All Republican Gang of Eight Members Condone Large-Scale Theft of Classified Information, Press Yawns

Some Likely Exacerbating Factors that Would Contribute to a Trump Search

FBI Executes a Search Warrant at 1100 S Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL 33480

The ABCs (and Provisions e, f, and g) of the Espionage Act

Trump’s Latest Tirade Proves Any Temporary Restraining Order May Come Too Late

How Trump’s Search Worked, with Nifty Graphic

Pat Philbin Knows Why the Bodies Are Buried

Rule of Law: DOJ Obtained Trump’s Privilege-Waived Documents in May

The French President May Be Contained Inside the Roger Stone Clemency

Which of the Many Investigations Trump Has Obstructed Is DOJ Investigating?

The Known and Likely Content of Trump’s Search Warrant

181 replies
  1. JohnForde says:

    Most interesting might be the identities of persons going in and out of the storage room. Might DOJ and the judge clear the release of their names?

  2. John Paul Jones says:

    “Philbin and Cipollone would have described their own inspections of records, including their knowledge that identified missing records had been at MAL when they had conducted records searches.”

    Philbin and Cipollone both being lawyers, I would guess that their inspections led to the creation of lists/inventories which they then turned over to their interviewers. Just a guess, but it seems likely.

  3. Elaine says:

    Thanks much for this overview. You wrote:

    “On June 8, Bratt informed Corcoran the storage closet did not comply with CFR guidelines, instructed Corcoran again that all classified documents must be stored properly.”

    Was this because Bratt and others, having reviewed some materials within a few days, became suspicious that, despite the written attestation, they hadn’t really gotten everything? That suspicions arose within days, leading to the request for the lock, the surveillance videos and eventually the broad search warrant?

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named “Elaine,” “Elayne,” or “Elane.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • emptywheel says:

      My informed speculation is that the email from Bratt to Corcoran DIDN’T say, add a lock, it instead included a link to the CFR guidelines stating that those are the required standards for storing docs. I say that for a bunch of reasons, not least that Bratt would have known or suspected the TS/SCI docs were somewhere else, and so telling the lawyers abt the standard would mean they were warned about it WRT ALL docs, the closet and the leatherbound box.

      • PieIsDamnGood says:

        It does feel similar to a non-denial denial.

        “The government told us to put a lock on the door, so we did” is very different than “out of the list of security requirements, we complied with the easiest and cheapest one”

      • my2cnz says:

        So it’s possible that the video surveillance may show someone putting the leatherbound box BACK into the storage?

        • Troutwaxer says:

          Those videos are not an afterthought. They’re the real meat of the whole thing. Who had access? Who went in there? Who carried what box? I’m reminded of the soldiers at Chernobyl – go pick up those pieces of steaming metal and carry them to the truck – those documents might as well be radioactive, and plenty of people are going to undergo a long course of treatment at Dr. Leavenworth’s.

  4. Marinela says:

    Why would the judge even consider releasing a redacted copy of the affidavit? This helps Trump team get insight on what DOJ knows so far.

    How typical is for a judge to consider releasing the affidavit for crimes related to National Security?

    If the affidavit is released I hope it is heavily redacted.

    • Rwood says:

      IANAL, but from Marcy’s excellent timeline it appears that Garland is playing Trump every step of the way.

      If you follow her timeline of events leading up to this “raid” it’s easy to see him giving trump all the rope he needed to hang himself. Now he’s done it again with this Judge. I’m sure Garland knew Trump would try this “Release the affidavit!” crap, his ego and narcissism won’t let him NOT try, and he anticipated the ruling the Judge would make.

      Now Garland gets to release only the parts of the affidavit that he wishes, with the part Trump wants released safely kept in secret where it belongs.

      Am I wrong to assume that the judge would not bicker over the redactions too much?

    • Rugger9 says:

      Back in the day we’d get regular briefings about the sensitive stuff we knew, and one of the critical points hammered home was to avoid talking around a subject as well as not talking about a subject. You don’t know the other pieces the other person has to add to your input and collectively it’s more comprehensive than you want to be known by others. I see the same thing here with a redacted affidavit.

      One of the things the spooks would do is the so-called ‘Red Cell’ operation to see what chatter was out there to be picked up. You’d be surprised how thorough it can be, and as an example we would pull into Subic where we’d be able get a deployment jacket with all of the ports already listed in embroidery. Chances are pretty good it was the shore staff trying to impress the local dating opportunities but it sure didn’t help us.

        • Rugger9 says:

          Olongapo has its charms (ahem) starting with the crossing of S&&^t River and the mystery meat skewers. The thing to remember about the tropics is that all sorts of bugs live there, including ones the corpsmen couldn’t kill off. They’re the practical experts for curing all sorts of sailor afflictions (and not all of them are naughty, tsk, tsk).

          But, the beer is good and overly attentive staff can be managed without insulting them so on the whole it was a plus to visit. Subic Bay was / is a fully equipped shipyard which comes in handy.

      • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

        “You don’t know the other pieces the other person has to add to your input and collectively it’s more comprehensive than you want to be known by others.”

        This is known as ‘accretion’. It’s a methodology used by many white and black hat actors including detectives, spies, social engineers and so on.

        It’s the main reason that ‘need to know’ is enforced. You need to determine whether anyone that asks you for classified information can establish their need to know.

        As POTUS:

        1) Do you need to know how to access the launch codes? Yes
        2) Do you need to know where the launch codes are physically? Yes
        3) Do you need to know what the launch codes are? No…unless you can prove to me your need to know.
        3a) Do you need to know how to call back a lauch? Yes
        4) Do you need to know how to launch a nuke? No
        5) Do you need to be able to input the codes at the launch site? No
        6) Do you need to hold the key/s to the launch controller? No

        All this is kept completely compartmentalised in order that nothing untoward happens to the nuclear arsenal.

        However, if you can accrete all this data yuo can make the thing go boom!

        Interestingly, it is this step that is most crucial:

        3) Do you need to know what the launch codes are? No…unless you can prove to me your need to know.

        How does POTUS convince the guy carrying the football that he needs to know? How does the aide determine if handing over the codes is in response to a ‘legal’ demand?

        Given that the aide is one of only around 25 holders of a Yankee White clearance I would think that there is another protocol around such an instruction, perhaps having to get approval from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs or following down a line of the chain of command.

        But I wouldn’t know. I don’t have the need!

    • Tom-1812 says:

      Even if only one sentence of the affy-davy is redacted, the MAGA mob will claim it’s the one that reads, “Of course, this whole document is a pack of lies intended to stop Trump from running for President again in 2024.”

      • Rugger9 says:

        Of course they will, which is one reason why splitting hairs like the judge is trying to do here is a fool’s errand.

        Speaking of curiously redacted documents, CREW was able to extract the Barr memo about the Mueller report and will publish it. So just like many other things related to the RWNM, it will be another example of projection when they go nuts about the M-a-L affidavit.

    • Tech Support says:

      I don’t think we should dismiss the most obvious explanation, which is that he takes the argument by the press seriously and was sincere in suggesting that the DOJs argument was insufficient to outweigh the compelling public interest in this historic act of federal law enforcement.

      If you’re of a cynical mind, you could imagine the Judge Reinhart doesn’t want to be seen as being in the pocket of the DOJ and is using this as an exercise to demonstrate his independence and impartiality. There could even be a little of Column A and Column B working together here.

      The thing is, it’s likely that DOJ is capable of producing a set of redactions that makes the release functionally worthless to the press and the general public, and only of marginal value to the Trump legal team and EW. The redacted version might additionally double-down on the warrant in terms of being a brand new cycle of bad PR for Trump and his flunkies.

      Which might explain why they are avoiding getting directly involved. Arguing either for or against disclosure is probably a lose/lose on the PR side.

      • timbo says:

        It is curious that the judge is considering releasing the affidavit at all. I’m of a mind that it may be that the information unredacted won’t tell anyone anything new that you could figure out already. However, it might help others who cannot follow along as well precisely how seriously the government takes having its records stolen and mutilated, particularly by ex-Presidents?

      • jeco says:

        Aside from hearing himself yap and maybe a minor delay is there any reason why trump wants the judge to recuse himself?Maybe a trump friendlier judge is avail as replacement? trump makes these public legal sounding statements but Boob does nothing but give good TV head w/o any filings. She’s apparently waiting for someone to tell her what to do.

        Laura Ingram and Jon Sale had some decent sounding legal advice on TV. Maybe trump could use crowd-lawyering to get him thru this legal quagmire.

        • Tech Support says:

          Demanding recusal is in effect accusing someone who took an action harmful to trump (approving the warrant) of being corrupt.

          It’s simple finger-pointing in order to shift critical opinions away from himself.

        • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

          His spurious demand is based on the fact that Reinhardt recused himself in a racketeering case involving HRC and because he was a supporter of Bill Clinton.

      • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

        Most judges of a ‘political’ persuasion will always weigh up the optics of any ruling they make. I don;t know whether Reinhart is one of those sorts of judges. He’s a magistrate which is somewhat different. Perhaps bmaz can educate us on the difference.

  5. Unabogie says:

    What fascinates me about this whole mess is the similarity to the election loss denial in his head. He was told by everyone around him that he lost. His data scientists. His campaign leaders. His lawyers. And he refuses to accept this. Deep down he knows, but it’s too psychically painful for him to bear, so he just says he actually won.

    In this case, he stole all these embarrassing and/or top-secret documents. He insists they somehow belong to him. Then, his lawyers, the DOJ, and NARA all inform him that he must return them, and instead of processing this painful information, he decides it makes him too sad and he digs in to the lie that he somehow de-classified these docs, and that this would somehow make the documents belong to him.

    He’s a very unstable person and it’s still horrifying that people want to put him in charge of the country again.

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use the same username each time you comment so that community members get to know you. Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • Rugger9 says:

      That’s not the scariest part, which would be that something like 20-30% or so of the country thinks that God had anointed Individual-1 for POTUS and by throwing him out we’re doing the Devil’s work. And, they’re usually armed.

      • TooLoose LeTruck says:

        Usually armed?

        In some cases, heavily armed…

        Aren’t there something like close to 400 MILLION guns in this country?

        And that’s not like 1.3 guns per person for every man, woman, and child in the country…

        I’ve seen pictures online of clowns w/ their personal arsenals all laid out… 50, 60, 100 semi-automatic rifles and pistols…

        Clearly some of them believe ‘Red Dawn’ was a documentary…

        • Tom Marney says:

          The superintendent on my current jobsite is a former USMC sniper who claims to own two hundred forty-eight rifles. I wish he was on the good guys’ side, but he’s not.

          I’ve read that three percent of Americans own half the firearms in our vastly overarmed country. I guess that’s what the Three Percenters really are.

          • vvv says:

            My former father in law was a Texas cop and he took me out shooting a couple of times using different guns from his 50+ collection.

            Me, I have some guitars.

            • bmaz says:

              Somewhere I have an antique (maybe circa 1910 or so?) Winchester rifle my grandfather gave me as a kid to take to summer camp. They had riflery at camp back then. Last time remember firing it was early in high school, and never since.

              But do have a couple of guitars in my living room.

              • elcajon64 says:

                I have my late father’s bear gun locked down in the basement (I have literally never handled it) and guitars strewn about the house.

                • bmaz says:

                  Axes are better than guns.

                  I just went out to the garage workshop and found the Winchester. Cannot remember the last time I really looked at it.

          • Scott Church says:

            Thankfully, he can only use one rifle at a time.
            Helicopter gunships have many more.
            MAGAs don’t own any helicopter gunships.

    • Rayne says:

      This is little more than an apologia for a man who was told repeatedly through his four years in office how classified materials and presidential records were supposed to be handled. It doesn’t matter whether he accepted the election’s outcome — and there are plenty of indications he knew he would lose and had lost and was merely refusing the outcome — he had four-plus years of guidance about the records and he pointedly refused to return the materials to NARA and originating agencies.

      There are lot of unstable people in federal prisons; he may increase their number by one.

      • Unabogie says:

        I’m not disagreeing at all, nor do I think Trump should skate due to this derangement of his. I am just saying that the same pathologies that led to him denying the election were at play here as well. In other words, he did all of this in the face of a concerted effort to get him to relent on the part of those around him, including his family and his lawyers. To me, this is scarier than if he did this with a plan in mind. It’s the kind of irrational thinking that could lead to dropping a nuclear bomb to stop a hurricane, or to put down a “riot” in a “Democrat city”

        • Rayne says:

          I’ll argue the pathology is psychopathy and/or sociopathy which underpins his lifelong criminal behavior, combined with his malignant narcissistic personality disorder.

          He’s always cheated, lied, and committed crimes. That has never changed. In other words, Occam’s razor – the simplest explanation is the most likely, which is that he knows no other way to behave except as a crook.

          • Drew says:

            Well said. And malignant narcissism explains even some of the stuff that looks like cognitive problems. He’s stupid, in the sense of not understanding truth or reasoning that is not convenient for him to understand, but he’s far sharper/cagier than that would lead us to believe.

            I still haven’t seen an indication of what is so important to *HIM* about this *particular* stuff that he continued to hang onto it after really serious legal onslaught that satisfies me. He’s legendarily stubborn, but there are many examples of him relenting when faced with defeat and embarrassment otherwise.

            Bratt’s visit and all that led up to it, should have indicated to Trump how serious the DoJ was about getting this stuff–do What’s in this stuff? There must be something of existential interest for Trump.

          • Knox Bronson says:

            Very succinct, Rayne. I don’t think Trump is capable of doing a straight deal, anywhere, any time. He must get over on the other party and he must dominate the other party and the other party must know it. It’s always a zero-sum game. If he ever did a straight deal with anybody, one where he didn’t cheat somehow, that would make him a loser. Not permitted.
            I remember when Justice Kennedy announced his retirement to make way for the appointment of Matt Kavanaugh. Kennedy and Trump walked away and when they were well out of reach of microphones, about fifty feet away I would estimate. Trump said something to Kennedy. Kennedy stopped and turned to face Trump, clearly furious. There were words. I don’t recall how it ended, but the body language was clear.
            I’ve always wondered what Trump said to him. It had be something really underhanded and something Kennedy was now powerless to do anything about.
            PURE conjecture on my part, of course. I can’t find the video on YouTube.

      • Mainly Mike says:

        About that, if and when Trump is imprisoned will he still have secret service protection? Will agents do shifts or can they just sentence the guys who wiped their phones. My prediction is that after a week in the can and starting food fights and race wars, he gets put in solitary and perishes within hours from inattention. Absurd thoughts on a Friday night.

          • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

            Yeah that’s just a garbage post.

            But, I wonder exactly WHAT his accommodation would be in such a scenario?

    • Lemoco says:

      I think you’ve put your finger on it, but I think his narcissism is in the driver’s seat. I think he was surprised by the number of people who flocked to his awful message in 2016, and suddenly found himself idolized by an adoring crowd. That they are an ideological mishmash of idiots, bigots, miscreants, saboteurs, and fifth columnists makes no difference. It’s an adoring crowd, and he can’t give that up.

      The narcissist in him likes standing in the spotlight, being cheered, but his criminal mind saw an opportunity to leverage that adoring crowd to defend him, to fight for him. And so he, paints himself as a victim over and over again, just like his fans see themselves, and eggs them on.

      If he were a Somalian strongman, rather than FPOTUS, we’d call him a warlord.

      • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

        “That they are an ideological mishmash of idiots, bigots, miscreants, saboteurs, and fifth columnists makes no difference.”

        It’s almost as if there’s a whole basket of deplorables supporting him.

    • jeco says:

      The excitement ratchets up when/if these hi security/defense docs are lost by trump. that will be a Big Orange Bad Hair Day. There will be an immediate reversal from FBI was planting evidence to FBI stole documents that trump had secured at MAL.

  6. Yogarhythms says:

    We have all severed a business relationship. FPOTUS is the apical epitome of disgruntled former employee who just happened to have access to truckloads of purloined documents and mementos from former employer. Numerous laws preventing possession of purloined documents have been open and notoriously violated by FPOTUS’s actions. Would evidence of millions of dollars supporting FPOTUS illegally stored at MAL warrant searching MAL? Would sharing DOJ evidence contained in search warrant affidavit with the presumed innocent open and notorious FPOTUS serve the interests
    of the office of POTUS or the FPOTUS?

  7. eyesoars says:

    Under affidavits:
    “An assertion that the affiant believed there was probable cause that the FBI would find evidence of 18 USC 793, 18 USC 2071, and 18 USC 1519 at Mar-a-Lago.”

    … evidence *of violations* of 18 USC …

    “… breached MAL and might other known foreign …”

    … might *include* other known …

    “Sinzo Abe” -> “Shinzo Abe”

  8. Vinny says:

    Love the work.

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named “Vinny,” “Vinnie,” “Vincent,” or “Vincenzo.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

  9. obsessed says:

    The affidavit would include a description of known documents that remain extant, including documents that were altered or mutilated (perhaps transcripts of Trump’s meetings with Russia)

    With regard to transcripts of meetings with Putin and other foreign leaders, wouldn’t DOJ and NARA be able to interview the translators and clerical workers responsible for creating those documents? If so, how hard would it be to get that admitted in court? If Translator-1 listened to Putin speak and wrote it down in Russian and English, and Trump subsequently flushed, ate, or burned the handwritten notes and made sure no electronic version existed, and Translator-1 testified to the general contours of what he or she had written, wouldn’t that be non-hearsay testimony? I mean, the translator was not only an eye witness, but would have a more credible recollection having memorialized it with written notes (even if they no longer exist) Also, now that POTUS is FPOTUS would this line of investigation be any easier for the current DOJ than it would have been for Mueller? And would Mueller have had to justify it in terms of looking for a crime while it’s now just a presidential record that NARA is entitled to regardless of its suspected content?

    • timbo says:

      The affidavit contains descriptions of the documents sought, even if they were not recovered…the biggest question in my mind is what else the USG is looking for that is missing.

    • Rugger9 says:

      If our translators were used, sure. However, Individual-1 in many of his meetings with the Russians deliberately kept our side out and the Russian notes are probably quite unreliable for NARA. Individual-1 wouldn’t be able to tell the difference, though and is probably buried in kompromat anyway.

      • Yorkville Kangaroo says:


        There was an American translator in the room; Marina Gross.

        But I can’t NOT believe that the CIA and FBI (at the very least) have not spoken to her about this little ‘fireside chat’ with his buddy Vlad.

  10. Randy Baker says:

    While it appears that classified status is not an element of an Espionage Act violation, were the documents de-classified it almost certainly would make prosecution more problematic. Of course, it seems barring the crediting of what is essentially divine [likely post facto] declassification of the documents, it is likely DOJ can show the documents in fact were classified. Nonetheless, were there arguments between DOJ and Trump re their status, since Biden was President, could he not have reclassified the documents and so advised Trump, thereby cutting off the declassification argument at least from that date?
    Also, while it is encouraging that Garland ordered the document recovery, and apparently is proceeding with a criminal inquiry related thereto, the extraordinary delay between the time the government discovered Trump’s theft to issuing a subpoena, and then getting the search warrant — leaving the criminal investigation more than one year later in an “early stage” according to DOJ — hardly inspires confidence that Garland has been proceeding, as he represents “without fear or favor.”

    • timbo says:

      Note that the Biden administration could have reclassified these documents as controlled documents again as of day 1 of taking office. This complicates a lot of the arguments about what is and isn’t secret…if that was done. In either case, the PRA is clear. The President does not get to keep government records on a whim and take them home after they’re no longer President. That law is clear…and was definitely violated here by Twitler.

    • P J Evans says:

      As to declassification, all we have is the former guy’s word. Which isn’t enough to declassify anything, and which can’t be trusted anyway.

    • Hika says:

      My understanding from an earlier piece by Dr Wheeler referencing the prosecution of Joshua Schultz is that “National Defense Information” (re 18 USC 793 – Espionage Act violations) is NDI by its nature, which can be determined in court, so it doesn’t swing on whether something is classified or not. Classification shows that someone in authority formally identifies that it’s important information related to national defense/security. Trump could argue that his purported declassification shows that the material shouldn’t continue to be considered important to national defense. That is refuted by the ongoing objections of the agencies that developed the information.

    • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

      All this dicussion about the classifcation of the documents here and in the Press is counter-productive.

      Regardless of the classification the items The Donald held didn’t belong to him. They belonged to the American people through the offices of NARA.

      The only matter really in question is just not whether he IS actually in shit but just how DEEP a pile of shit The Donald is in.

  11. Tom-1812 says:

    On the whole, it would seem better for the affidavit to remain sealed while the wheels of justice grind slowly away, but then the 24/7 news anchors wouldn’t have anything to talk about and would have to invite their viewers to wait and just be patient: “In the meantime, folks, let’s join David Attenborough for this three-hour documentary on the life-cycle of the Eastern red-spotted newt.”

    I can imagine the DOJ must have anticipated the demands to reveal the text of the affidavit, in which case I wonder if they might not have composed the document in such a way that it highlights Trump’s lack of cooperation and general intransigence in easily excerpted passages that could be disclosed to the public without putting the investigation(s) at risk.

    When I was a child protection worker dealing with abusive and neglectful parents whose children had been apprehended, I found it useful in the affidavits I wrote for family court to include significant detail about the parents’ level of cooperation with our agency. For example, informing the judge that the parents not only failed to attend drug counselling, but the addiction centre was only three blocks from their home. Or the parents not only refused to attend a plan of care meeting regarding their child, but the dad snarled, “We’ve got better things to do!” At the same time, I’d also let the judge know when parents attended all of their access visits, even if they had to take time off work to do so, and that they brought healthy snacks for their children. Or that the parents made a point of saving their disagreements with the agency to times when their children weren’t present.

    Of course, the DOJ’s affidavit is nothing like the ones I used to write, but I would hope that the team at DOJ will have included enough background information, local detail, and quoted conversation to convey exactly what it was like trying to retrieve the nation’s secrets from the Fuh-POTUS.

  12. Paulka says:

    One thing I would like the media to address is the declassification. Not the procedural aspect, which has been covered, but the motive behind Trump’s actions regarding declassification. From a non-news junkie’s perspective, the impression is Trump was trying to declassify and release for public consumption the details of the Russia investigation and/or Impeachment No. 1 investigation that would exonerate him. He can paint himself the victim of government secrets that he was powerless to overcome-he was prevented from releasing the information that exonerated him. That would give someone who wanted an excuse to let a former president off the hook for such crimes.

    Obviously, Trump would release selective materials and I think that needs to be explained in plain language. I think it important to destroy this argument and I don’t remember seeing much about Trump’s motivations and the problem with declassifying information beyond the threat to sources and methods. Basically, putting the crime in perspective as to how retaining the material benefited him. I understand that at least some of that is related to the specifics of what he kept, but still the media needs to do a better job of why retaining the material is so problematic. It is easy when the material is say, nuclear weapons information, but less clear when the information is something like transcripts of calls that would exonerate Trump on something or more likely would be problematic for Trump in investigations.

    • timbo says:

      Trump could have done this declassification long before he left office? Why didn’t he do it then? Similarly, why didn’t he turn over the all documents Congress requested during its impeachment hearings? To use them later as some sort of PR stunt? Basically, Twitler wanted control of these documents and the information they contained, documents that he did not own and that he stole upon leaving office. And by declassifying them, he could take them with him (or so he thought), with less legal jeopardy than if they were still classified. And after all this, we still do not know if they were reclassified by the Biden administration, perhaps “in absentia”, given that Twitler stole records that are properly the proper of the USG, not Twitler’s to do with as he liked. Again, as a former employee, you do not have a right to steal documents that you are required by law to leave with your employer—that’s exactly what Twitler did here…>he stole government documents<

      • P J Evans says:

        You’re assuming that they *were* declassified – which hasn’t been proven, even if it mattered to this search warrant.

      • notjonathon says:

        The whole “but I declassified everything” is nothing but an ex post facto red herring. The DOJ even anticipated that move, as Marcy has so clearly pointed numerous times, because the statutes used for the search warrant don’t require that the materials be classified. So even if Trump did plunk his magic twanger over the entire lot, saying, “I declassify thee, I declassify thee, I declassify thee,” three times, it doesn’t matter.
        Not that I believe for a moment that his pocket declassification process is valid.

        • Matt Peterson says:

          Could it be that the de-classified argument has more to do with other people that were given access to the documents than Trump himself? He has influence beyond technical legal authority. Others not so much.

    • blueedredcounty says:

      There is another issue with “declassification” – things which were improperly classified for preventing political embarrassment. Like the transcript of his “perfect phone call” which (inappropriately) ended up on a classified server.

    • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

      This has alreaady been ‘addressed’ by Patel who alleges it’s so that ‘the public’ can have access to all the ‘information’ regarding things like the Mueller report, et al.

      Of course, The Donald also sealed up his info for the maximum permitted number of years.

      So much for letting ‘the public’ know what’s going on.

  13. Adam Selene says:

    Great job, Ms. Wheeler! Thanks for assembling all of the separate threads together into one tangled web. :)

    • Pedro P says:

      I just hope the DOJ affidavit has adequately supported facts and doesn’t rely on anonymous leaks or witnesses with political motivations.
      Lucy Van Pelt could be holding the ball again.

      • Tom-1812 says:

        Seems unlikely. I caught a brief news clip on YouTube in which a reporter (didn’t catch her name) said she’s been informed the affidavit is “lengthy” and contains “significant detail”, which is what you’d expect.

      • Purple Martin says:

        Hmmmm. Between the options that the DOJ affidavit supporting a granted judicial request for a search warrant enabling recovery of known TS/SCI from a former President’s home…

        A) …has inadequately supported facts, relies on anonymous leaks/politically motivated witnesses
        B) …is the most carefully drafted, comprehensively vetted affidavit DoJ has ever issued

        …think I’ll go with B.

  14. WilliamOckham says:

    Here’s a distinct list of the nouns used in the numbered items (excludes all the 1A, 2A, etc.) on the receipts:
    grant [of clemency]

    Note that there is only one plural. I don’t know what that means. I think it means something…

  15. punaise says:

    Pretty good comment at TPM:

    I have a bad feeling about this. This is not the right thing to do. I know there’s a public interest angle, but it’s also ‘the people’ that the DOJ is representing when it investigates and prosecutes someone.

    Also, too: no matter how much you disclose, it will never be enough. They will never accept what you release. Just look at how they acted when DOJ allowed the release of the search warrant. That just gave them more fodder to get angry over and now here we are possibly releasing the Affidavit (albeit redacted).

    The judge has to realize he is trying to negotiate with terrorists. TFG’s supporters are basically terrorists (they’re already threatening the judge) and you can’t negotiate with crazy. Perhaps the judge thinks they will leave him alone if he does this, but they won’t. They just won’t.

    • Randy Baker says:

      If the DOJ submits a redaction, which substantially releases little more than Trump knows, e.g. what he said to DOJ, what they said to him, and that he repeatedly didn’t turn over the stuff — which is likely — it will not impede the investigation. Moreover, it likely will make him look even worse than he already does now — to anyone looking. Since there is no evidence the judge is brain dead or cowardly, there is no reason to believe his order for partial disclosure reflects an effort to assuage hard core Trump fascists. In fact, I don’t see an argument against publishing the class of materials I anticipate them disclosing.

              • Rayne says:

                We already know he cheats egregiously and unapologetically at golf, even when playing with/in front of children.

                I know I linked to a story which reported on his golf cheating in one of my Trump golf posts. I guess I need to dig it up. He thinks because he owns the course the rules and etiquette of golf everyone else follows do not apply to him. Same mindset when it comes to his education, his marriages, his businesses, his presidency, and now these documents. He will cheat as long as he can get away with it.

                ADDER: I knew I’d linked this piece in a post; this is an excerpt from the article which was based on a book about Trump’s cheating, Commander in Cheat: How Golf Explains Trump by Rick Reilly, c. 2019.

                Trump doesn’t just cheat at golf. He cheats like a three-card Monte dealer. He throws it, boots it, and moves it. He lies about his lies. He fudges and foozles and fluffs. At Winged Foot, where Trump is a member, the caddies got so used to seeing him kick his ball back onto the fairway they came up with a nickname for him: “Pele.”

                “I played with him once,” says Bryan Marsal, longtime Winged Foot member and chair of the coming 2020 Men’s U.S. Open. “It was a Saturday morning game. We go to the first tee and he couldn’t have been nicer. But then he said, ‘You see those two guys? They cheat. See me? I cheat. And I expect you to cheat because we’re going to beat those two guys today.’… So, yes, it’s true, he’s going to cheat you. But I think Donald, in his heart of hearts, believes that you’re gonna cheat him, too. So if it’s the same, if everybody’s cheating, he doesn’t see it as really cheating.”

                • Tom-1812 says:

                  I recall that the caddies’ nickname for Trump was Pele because of his habit of kicking his ball to a better location.

                • earlofhuntingdon says:

                  It doesn’t matter to “Trump” if he cheats. He doesn’t care whether it matters to anyone else.

                • Ginevra diBenci says:

                  Thanks, Rayne. I was going to link to Reilly’s article myself, since it remains the definitive word on Trump’s worldview as it is reflected in his golf game–and dedicated players (about whom I co-wrote a book) perceive one’s game as both test and proof of character.

                  • Rayne says:

                    I’m glad I went and tracked that article down to find the link to that piece and Reilly’s book. I needed to recommend it to someone whose irksome friend wrapped an iron around a tree during a round this week. Off the course as on it and vice versa.

  16. my2cnz says:

    As many have noted the odds of Trump finding a competent lawyer are nil.

    “Dershowitz said that since he represented Trump, at least six lawyers have asked him about what it was like working for the former president and if it affected his career. In one conversation, when Dershowitz told another attorney about his experience being blacklisted, he said the person responded, “I’m not going near this with a 10-foot pole.”

    “Everybody who has called me has shown reluctance to do it,” he said. “They say their law firms won’t let them do it. Their husbands or wives won’t let them do it. Their children won’t let them do it. Their friends won’t let them do it even though they want to do it.”

    • bmaz says:

      I’m sorry, that is just bullshit. First off, Dersh is crazy and not a criminal trial lawyer. But pay enough, shut up and listen to them, and criminal defense lawyers will represent you. That is the ethos. The problem for Trump is he won’t do that.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Wasn’t Dersh in criminal appellate defense like 40 years ago? I seem to remember him defending Claus von Bulow and OJ Simpson, among others. As I recall his last big success was with von Bulow, almost 40 years ago.

        • bmaz says:

          The key word there is “appellate”. The Dersh is not, and never has been, much of a trial lawyer.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            A list of his principal clients reads like the front page of the National Inquirer: celebrities or the infamous, with lots of dough.

          • Rugger9 says:

            A different skill set from trial work, no doubt but I think it’s more telling that Dersh really hasn’t won in a while.

      • Ramona Rosario says:

        I was wondering whether lawyers specializing and experienced in national security are relatively rare?

        • jeco says:

          I wonder what Christina Boob’s legal expertise is? She was in Marine Corps, maybe that makes her a national security expert. She must have had a perfect interview with trump.

          • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

            For The Donald she’s qualified. She’s a solid 7, maybe even an 8.

            *with apologies to the Feminists out there*

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Dershowitz is as much a self-promoter and professional victim as Trump. He is hoping to stay relevant and savvy. Both left him long ago. Nobody qualified to represent Trump through this mess would ask Alan for advice.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Repeating part of my comment from a couple of posts back:

      Trump is reportedly having trouble lining up lawyers who are…competent in the legal issues that put him most in jeopardy….As bmaz has been saying, the keys to this particular jailhouse are in Trump’s pocket. If he would STFU and pay up front the millions required to mount a proper, multi-front defense, he’d have plenty of lawyers to choose from. But the Don would rather be a victim, in part, because it’s easier to extract a million a day from the rubes. No lawyer wants that for a client.

  17. Willis Warren says:

    What are the odds that the leaker/doj informant is a Republican who wants to sabotage Donnie. I’m guessing it’s well above 50% and the judge may know that, given he’s a liberal blah blah blah

    Anyway, my instinct is that the idiot kept the nuclear codes so he could sell them or just as some weird memento to fap off to

    • timbo says:

      “Wants to” and “needs to” are two feelings that often get conflated in criminal investigations when prosecutors start zeroing in on targets?

  18. Purple Martin says:

    Trump said he issued a ‘standing order‘ that anything he took from his office to the White House residence was automatically and immediately declassified. It’s obvious that’s just another bald-faced, after-the-fact, lie, a fact reemphasized when every person who would have had to implement de-classification action saying they had never heard of such an order.

    But one thing I haven’t seen mentioned (perhaps it’s too obvious?) is that this act itself constitutes an impeachable offense (yeah yeah, I know, but bear with me). From the Reality Winner affidavit Marcy cited earlier:

    6. Under Executive Order 13526, information in any form may be classified if it: …
    (3) is classified by an original classification authority who determines that its unauthorized disclosure reasonably could be expected to result in damage to the national security.
    7. Where such unauthorized disclosure could reasonably result in…exceptionally grave damage to the national security, the information may be classified as “Top Secret” and must be properly safeguarded.

    As Chief of Information Security for an Air Force MAJCOM (granted, more than 25 years ago), I was involved in analysis of at least a dozen incidents of ‘classified leakage’ from information systems/networks, sanitization/destruction of the resulting accidentally-classified storage media, and occasionally in a subsequent information declassification process as authorized by the original classification authority (OCA).

    Couple of things here…

    1) The basis for declassification is the OCA’s determination that disclosure of, say, formerly Top Secret info no longer would “…reasonably result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security.” The OCA’s determination may be overridden if a higher authorized authority deems necessary, but always must be considered as part of that higher authority’s decision.

    2) All classified paper or storage media must remain under protections mandated for the highest classification it has ever contained until completion of an OCA-approved declassification process, including re-marking as Declassified.

    So, as both Trump and Kash Patel described the automatic declassification standing order covering the TS/SCI the FBI recovered from Mar-a-Lago last week, it would inevitably result in repeated disclosure to the public at large and foreign adversaries, of information formally determined to present “…exceptionally grave damage to the national security,” with no knowledgeable consideration of the national security consequences of such damage.

    Again, such automatic declassification never took place (remember 30k lies?) but if it had, who can now argue that it would be proper? Who could have then argued against impeachment for such an act?

    Yeah, I know, rhetorical question. But still…

    • Rayne says:

      Pretty sure all of this has been discussed before but the biggest single problem with the theoretical unilateral instadeclassification under standing order is that any national defense information falling under purview of DOE AEA *cannot* be declassified by the president alone. They’re trying to sweep the most likely reason Jay Bratt appeared at Mar-a-Lago under this instadeclassification rug and it’s not going to fly.

      • Purple Martin says:

        Yup. Fortunately I never had to get into the DoE side. But my point is that even sticking to things he arguably could legally declassify by himself, Trump’s instadeclass routine repeatedly and routinely liberated SCI/SAP/SAR compartmented code-word special access information—for which disclosure “…could reasonably result in exceptionally grave damage to the national security”—from mandated protection protocols. (btw, ‘code-word’ doesn’t refer to a secret code, but programs assigned an unclassified code name for reference outside a cleared environment.)

        Sometimes we get hung up in the (necessary!) detailed weeds of the legal profession. Outside of whatever laws he broke, a President entirely unconcerned with causing “exceptionally grave damage to national security” by issuing his own arrogant, stupidly ignorant, “standing orders” forfeits any moral claim on leadership. Assuming what he claims as true, his excuse is an impeachable act.

        • Ginevra diBenci says:

          Best example of on-the-spot declassification resulting in grave danger to national security: Trump’s May 2017 meet-and-greet with Sergey Lavrov, during which he divulged classified information that eventually resulted in our best Kremlin source getting exfiltrated and our relationship with Israeli intelligence taking a massive hit.

    • Tom-1812 says:

      Trump was exercising his priestly power of Presidential transubstantiation. Documents may look like they’re classified. They may even have the words “Classified” and “Top Secret” stamped right on them. But once Father Don passes his hands over the files and utters the sacred word “Covfefe”, they’re as classified as last year’s Auto Trader magazine.

      • Purple Martin says:

        Following the example of his hand-edited weather map, he uses a sharpie to draw an expanded arc on the Northwest corner of the stamped ‘Top Secret,’ and writes the word “NOT” inside.

  19. Puriya says:

    IANAL, but might it not be very useful to the government’s case if DoJ presented (a) all the publicly-known information in Marcy’s argument above, with names redacted and (b) some details about Trump’s unwillingness to comply with requests. This would all be known to Trump and his team, and they would also know that DoJ knows it, because it’s a record of their communication with DoJ. To my inexpert mind, it feels like DoJ can exploit the asymmetry [they wrote the affidavit, Trump doesn’t know what’s in it; they get to redact the affidavit, and Trump is not participating in the discussion re: what is ok to reveal]. So they don’t worry about the privacy of the defendant part of the reason for secrecy, and work only on the integrity of investigation bit. I suppose it depends on how it’s written.

    Be nice to me, bmaz. I am new.

    • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

      I won’t put words into bmaz’s mouth (because he would excoriate the hell out of me) but he has already said that the judge should, in no situation, allow the release of the articles in question and that DoJ should appeal if he decides to unseal any of it.

      I assume that is because, the use of the ‘public interest’ doctrine by media to unseal the document, is a somewhat fraught concept and simply stating that ‘enquiring minds need to know’ should not be enough to get something unsealed especially given the nature and sensitivity of this case, let alone the obvious issues surrounding threats that will be made to anyone named and potential to derail the investigative process.

      IANAL but on a purely logical basis the case to unseal doesn’t stand the test.

  20. Puriya says:

    I really (no, I mean it literally) don’t understand why the media cannot be told to wait, say, 6 months for the indictment? And then if DoJ does not make the redacted affidavit public by then, then the judge would force them. Or something like that? Is it because of the upcoming election? But Trump isn’t a candidate. Is it a PR issue for the judge/justice system: that the judge wants to appear independent? Or is it that the only options for the judge are to say “redacted release” or “no release” and “delayed release” is somehow not an option by the rules of the judiciary.

    • Pragmatic Progressive says:

      Your point is entirely reasonable. While it probably wouldn’t go down exactly like you laid out, judges do often defer rulings until a later time.

      In fact, it is very common for judges to indicate how they intend to rule before they actually rule when a ruling addresses a novel situation or a novel area of the law.

      The judge has a plethora of options at his disposal.

      • bmaz says:

        There is nothing whatsoever “novel” about this issue. Nothing. Warrant affidavits get filed every hour of every day. They remain sealed until charges are filed. You are making a farce by acting like this is different because of the clamoring ginned up by media dopes. It is not. Same rules that apply every day should apply here.

        • Pragmatic Progressive says:

          Oh bmaz my friend, I get the impression you think I have some sort of agenda. The bottom line is that it isn’t credible to say this isn’t a novel situation. I could list out half a dozen reasons why, but I don’t come here to argue.

          If you take a breath and step back, it is easy to recognize that General Garland’s willingness to deviate from the inflexible “rules are rules” approach adhered to by Counselor Muller might be exactly what is necessary to secure justice when dealing with someone who has treated rules as a sucker’s game his whole life.

          • bmaz says:

            That is a complete load of crap. And only dopes refer to AGs as “General”. I do not need to take a breath nor step back. And I am not your friend either.

            • Pragmatic Progressive says:

              Fair enough. I can think of you instead as a potential future friend.

              To be clear though, I never said that you needed to step back and take a breath. If you did though, you might pause to realize that General Garland’s public statement that he personally approved the warrant application is a fact directly at odds with your pontification about nothing being novel in this situation.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                You forgot to put the “Herr” in front of General. If you meant a lawyer, such as the Attorney General of the US or any state, it would be more appropriate to say so. If you meant all of them, Attorneys General would do.

              • bmaz says:

                He is not a fucking general. And you are a stooge for calling him that and completely full of it in your bleating assertions. Get lost.

              • vvv says:

                “The title “attorney general” is an example of a noun (attorney) followed by a postpositive adjective (general).[8] “General” is a description of the type of attorney, not a title or rank in itself (as it would be in the military).[8] ”

                “Even though the attorney general (and the similarly titled solicitor general) is often referred to as “General” or “General [last name]” by senior government officials, this is considered incorrect in standard American English usage.”

                Correct to assume you are not a senior gov’t official?

            • benfdc says:

              I once had the privilege of litigating in a case where Jim Guy Tucker was opposing counsel. This was long after his stint as Arkansas Attorney General but before he re-entered politics. He insisted on being addressed as General Tucker.

  21. L. Eslinger says:

    Just doing tech research within a large company CTO, we were trained and required to follow fairly tight controls on our data. Our engineering logbooks, for an example, were issued to individuals for specific projects, and these books were sequentially numbered and contained numbered bound pages. Each page that contained data was titled, dated, and signed by the author[s]. Logbooks did not leave the labs, which had electronic entry for the main door, electronically monitored hard key access to rooms, and locked storage for protected items. Policy did not allow for copying or removing logbooks (no copiers were in restricted areas and we didn’t have cellphones with cameras at that time), and violating the rules could lead to termination (the actual punishment was determined by review).

    Yeah, this is a bunch of tl;dr yadda yadda yadda. But the point here is that highly secret government documents would (should?) be managed in such a way that there are records of copies made and who has what, just to control access and risks, and to facilitate retrieval. If this is true then the DOJ might have a list of information that has disappeared into the maw (or plumbing) of the Trump administration.

    This is speculation, but it leads me to wonder about the potential actual size of the document investigation iceberg since what has been publicly reported likely represents just the tip.

    • josap says:

      I would think the DoJ has a list of all documents signed out and not signed back in. Also who signed each document out, Trump did not go get them himself. I would also think that DoJ has spoken to each person who signed out documents and asked them what happened or why they were not returned.

    • P J Evans says:

      The company I worked at had a computer system trackign work orders, from planning to completion. You could, with the proper access, see who had it where…assuming that it was updated correctly. (I had a time with one that was sitting in an engineer’s preliminary files, when I knew-for-a-fact it was complete: I could see the result in aerial imagery!)

    • JohnJ says:

      I was taught that as long as the document itself said it was classified and was not properly re-marked as declassified, it is classified. Period. No word of mouth or prior knowledge of declassification was acceptable, if it said classified, that piece of paper was classified; all the rules apply. The declassification has to take place in a suitably classified environment because it is classified until it is marked.

      I doubt seriously that any of this has changed.

    • jeco says:

      Secret/defense documents must be uniquely identified and there is a chain of custody for these items, trump appointees wouldn’t dare ask him to sign for custody so they are technically on the hook for all documents he took as souvenirs or has lost/sold.

      I’m mystified electronic devices weren’t also seized looking for copies & transmission of documents. Maybe in another subpoena or search warrant.

  22. notjonathon says:

    Perhaps Trump had a special method of sorting documents:

    1) for mastication (makes me mad enough to spit)
    2) for flushing (take that, you son of a bitch)
    3) for ripping (I’m gonna tear him to pieces)
    4) for hiding (this one’ll bring in a fortune)

  23. Alberto the Significant says:

    Fun thought experiment…

    Imagine the furor on the Right if the situation was reversed and a Democratic President had pulled the same stunt as Trump.

  24. Pragmatic Progressive says:

    Is it known for sure that the Trump Org was actually responsible for acquiring the lock that was used to “secure” the area in question? The language I have seen reported makes this point far from clear.

    Many of the protocols for storage of sensitive National Defense Information call not just for secure storage, but also tamper evident storage.

    The thought that export control would have been like “go get a Masterlock off Amazon and put it on that door,” doesn’t make any sense. While it’s possible DOJ could have advised Trump Org what the storage requirements were, given all the events that led up to that, it wouldn’t seem very prudent to trust them in that context.

    WRT to the affidavit, expect the DOJ to propose only unsealing the facts *directly* related to 45, like when he left office, when he designated reps for NARA, when he communicated with DOJ, etc.

    • bmaz says:

      DOJ should propose a document with everything but the caption blacked out. It is absolutely stunning how many people blithely think releasing anything is okay and proper. It is not whatsoever.

      • Pragmatic Progressive says:

        To be fair bmaz, the judge does not agree with you and he read the actual affidavit.

        • bmaz says:

          To be “fair”, I don’t give a shit what the judge says. That is literally a stupid position.

          Frankly, given the threats that have been made to Reinhart, the motion ought be kicked up to an Article III judge anyway.

          • Ginevra diBenci says:

            Could Reinhart have referred it to an Article III judge himself, or can it only reach that level on appeal?

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              I believe he could have recused, for the reasons bmaz cites. But that might have given the case to another magistrate judge rather than to an Art. III judge, which might have kicked the can down the road rather than solved a problem. (Only Art. III judges have lifetime tenure.)

              Reinhart could have recused in a way that highlights his abuser-attackers rather than any alleged “sensitivity” to their threats. That way, it would not have been a victory for them.

              • timbo says:

                There’s no point in the current judge recusing if the next judge will be subjected to the same threats and intimidation.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            You sound like the kind of guy who wants CNN and MSNBC to hire defense lawyers for commentary, as a refreshing counterpoint to the former prosecutors that lounge about their studios of an evening. ;-)

              • vvv says:

                Some years ago a criminal defense attorney friend of mine was often on CNN (MSNBC?), the last time opining on the Scott Peterson case when he got into it with Nancy Grace.

                It was pretty funny, she looked pretty foolish, and he was never back on there. He does show up on local TV news analysis – sees it as good advertising.

                • bmaz says:

                  Good grief, Nancy Grace. She has been around here a little, most notably, at least semi-recently, for the Jodi Arias trial. Not a lawyer, but a local extremely good crime and courts reporter, described her as “fucking insane”. Or maybe I said that to him, not sure. But she is fucking insane.

          • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

            ‘To be fair’ he actually hasn’t agreed OR disgareed with bmaz yet.

            What he said was; “As I ruled from the bench at the conclusion of the hearing, I find that on the present record the government has not met its burden of showing that the entire affidavit should remain sealed.”

            He hasn’t actually MADE a ruling yet, just that the DoJ hasn’t made a sufficient case to not unseal the document.

            The DoJ will now make an appropriate petition (?) and the judge will rule.

            I’m guessing he’s just CYA and making sure he is seen to be doing due diligence both for any appeal that might be made and to keep the MAGA rabble at bay…though it won’t.

  25. jeco says:

    Short of a documented transmission of secret/defense information to a foreign power is there anything here that a future GOP president wouldn’t pardon? If there is a 2024 Hollywood squares GOP primary pardoning trump for his WH souvenirs will be the loyalty test and single plank in the GOP platform. Delays and lies are his best legal defense.

    Oddly stealing secret government documents incl nuke defense items have made him a stronger GOP candidate, at least in primaries. In a poll 22% were OK with him taking Nuke secrets, that 22% base pretty much guarantees him an unbeatable position in GOP primaries. Espionage and obstruction of justice make him an ideal GOP presidential candidate.

    Of course, he’ll continue his pattern of doing worse in the general election but then he and his base can take their fight to state capitols or to the streets.

  26. Ddub says:

    Fantastic reporting and analysis!
    I keep imagining the Bekins semi pulling up at Mar-a-Lago from the WH. The guy/gal in charge is telling the movers where to put stuff. They are nervous – there’s some top secret tags and it’s making them uneasy.
    He or she directs them to the main storage room by the pool. It’s already filled with 40 boxes so, in addition to pool supplies, liquor and mixers for the bar. They are told to just find space. As they are unloading, another person with sunglasses so dark they look like welding glasses sees some markings on some boxes and a leatherbound box that is glowing like the box in the trunk in Repo Man.
    Those go to the big guys office, they say.
    As they are finishing up the big guy himself appears to say hi, and if they want a drink there are waters at the bar – don’t forget to pay.

  27. atriana smith says:

    I have a dumb question. Would or would not most of the docs TFG took be on a computer or server already? Of course we need all hard copies back and taking them is a crime that should be charged.

    But I’m wondering about the obstruction part.if most of the docs he took have an extant electronic version then how could they make obstruction stick? Could he have had someone deliberately erase electronic documents? That would be pretty huge, right?

  28. blueedredcounty says:

    Marcy, I have a question.
    Your write-up has this statement: “It might describe the SCIF used during Trump’s presidency and its apparent removal.”

    Do we know that there was a SCIF installed at Mar-a-Lago? I’m thinking Trump would have pitched a fit about his precious property being touched, plus it would have been too functional and not gaudy enough for his taste. If he needed to review something requiring SCIF security while at Mar-a-Lago, wouldn’t it have been easier to head on over to Air Force One parked nearby? Considering it is our nuclear airborne command post, I’m thinking it would have to be a mobile SCIF.

    • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

      Accordig to my looksees The Donald not only had one at MaL but also at his pantheon to ’80s excess inn NYC. Which would make storage of these TSI documents, if they were merely being held in some sort of storeroom, even MORE flagrant.

      Unless SCIFs expire or he took them out of commission.

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