“The President Was … Working in a Filing Room”

The unredacted part of the affidavit for Trump’s search shows that it incorporated a “statement” Trump put out on February 18, in an attempt to rebut the report that the Archives provided Carolyn Maloney about what was discovered in the 15 boxes Trump finally returned. In a redacted part of the affidavit, there’s something that looks like a second post of some kind, which appears at the end of a nine-paragraph section describing the Archives’ fight to get the boxes back. One possibility is that it’s a second statement Trump issued before the other one.

I’d like to look at the two statements he put out in February, the one that might be that second post, and the one that is included in the affidavit but was illegible in the rendering of it on PACER. Here’s the first one:

The first attacks Maggie Haberman’s story about flushing documents (but is limited just to White House toilets; she has since reported he flushed stuff while traveling as well).

It also falsely claims that “the papers were given easily and without conflict and on a very friendly basis.” Whatever the seven redacted paragraphs in the affidavit about the fight to get the documents back includes, it would show that that claim was utterly false.

But the statement does claim that “I have been told I was under no obligation to give this material back based on various legal rulings.” We know Trump was told this after the documents were returned. As CNN reported, Judicial Watch’s Tom Fitton was telling Trump just that, citing a ruling pertaining to Bill Clinton.

Not long after the National Archives acknowledged in February that it had retrieved 15 boxes of presidential records from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, Trump began fielding calls from Tom Fitton, a prominent conservative activist.

Fitton, the longtime head of the legal activist group Judicial Watch, had a simple message for Trump — it was a mistake to give the records to the Archives, and his team should never have let the Archives “strong-arm” him into returning them, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Those records belonged to Trump, Fitton argued, citing a 2012 court case involving his organization that he said gave the former President authority to do what he wanted with records from his own term in office.

The Judicial Watch president suggested to Trump that if the Archives came back, he should not give up any additional records, according to sources with knowledge of their conversations, which have not been previously reported.
While Trump continued to publicly tout his cooperation with the Archives, privately the former President began obsessing over Fitton’s arguments, complaining to aides about the 15 boxes that were handed over and becoming increasingly convinced that he should have full control over records that remained at Mar-a-Lago, according to people with knowledge of his behavior at the time.

Trump even asked Fitton at one point to brief his attorneys, said a person familiar with the matter.

“The moment Tom got in the boss’ ear, it was downhill from there,” said a person close to the former President, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters.

If Trump’s statement was a reference to Fitton’s advice, it may suggest that advice started even before the Archives publicly confirmed returning the documents (or that Fitton immediately got inside Trump’s head).

What I was most interested in, however, was Trump’s description that the “boxes [] contained letters, records, newspapers, magazines, and various articles,” suggesting that all this excitement was just a fight over 15 boxes of shit.

In fact, the affidavit reveals the initial Archives referral explained, those boxes did contain a lot of shit. But intermixed with all that shit were “a lot of classified records.”

The NARA Referral stated that according to NARA’s White House Liaison Division Director, a preliminary review of the FIFTEEN BOXES indicated that they contained “newspapers, magazines, printed news articles, photos, miscellaneous print-outs, notes, presidential correspondence, personal and post-presidential records, and ‘a lot of classified records.’ Of most significant concern was that highly classified records were unfoldered, intermixed with other records, and otherwise unproperly [sic] identified.”

As I understand it, the description that this was “unfoldered” means it had been separated from a classified cover sheet that the government uses to highlight that the document enclosed is classified (they’re color-coded so a person can readily see how secret something is). When people try to hide that they’ve got classified information, one of the first things they do is rip off that cover sheet because it’s such a dead giveaway (which is, after all, the point). As I’ve said elsewhere, the FBI found such cover sheets in Joshua Schulte’s shredder when they did the search of his apartment, which they used to suggest, fairly or not, that Schulte was trying to hide things in the wake of the Vault 7 release.

As Elizabeth de la Vega noted when reading the affidavit, newspaper articles and magazines are the kinds of things that white collar criminals use as filler to try to obscure their crimes.

Trump claimed that the boxes were full of things that might appear worthless, and when the Archives opened them up and looked more closely, that’s precisely what they were full of, aside from the classified documents stripped of their cover sheets. But in a public statement the day after the investigation was announced, Trump tried to insist it was just filler, as if that were going to confuse the FBI or even a building full of committed archivists.

And that’s one reason the second post — the one that we know appears in the affidavit — is so interesting.

Unsurprisingly, Trump pitched the discovery of classified documents in a continuity with his past investigations — Russia, Ukraine Impeachment, January 6 Impeachment.

Trump’s statement said the same thing when the search broke on August 8.

Since then, however, Kash Patel, in a column cited in the affidavit, has given us reason to believe that the real continuity is that (at least some of) the documents Trump had stolen were about the Russian investigation or the Ukraine impeachment.

Patel did not want to get into what the specific documents were, predicting claims from the left that he was disclosing “classified” material, but said, “It’s 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.”

And Paul Sperry revealed that one reason Trump was withholding these records was because of the ongoing investigation(s) into January 6.

I guess, if you refused to turn over records regarding past investigations, wailing that this is just a continuation of those past investigations is a good way to inoculate your mob for scandalous new disclosures about those past investigations.

But I’m most interested that Trump’s response deflects by complaining,

The Fake News is making it seem like me, as the President of the United States, was working in a filing room.

In fact, there was a public report that had emphasized Trump’s role in packing up the boxes before they got sent to the Archives, one of the WaPo stories that really led the way on this story in February.

At one point, Archives officials threatened that if Trump’s team did not voluntarily produce the materials, they would send a letter to Congress or the Justice Department revealing the lack of cooperation, according to a third person familiar with the situation.

“At first it was unclear what he was going to give back and when,” said one of these people, who, like the others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to share candid details of a sensitive situation.

Trump was noticeably secretive about the packing process, and top aides and longtime administrative staffers did not see the contents, the people said.

That entire article — which includes details about Trump trying to get the Archives to issue false claims about his cooperation with the investigation — seems to be closely aligned with the kinds of sources that the FBI seems to have subsequently developed.

But the allegation Trump was attempting to rebut — that he personally was involved in packing boxes — has since been matched. The NYT cited multiple sources describing Trump going through the boxes to be returned to the Archives personally.

Mr. Trump went through the boxes himself in late 2021, according to multiple people briefed on his efforts, before turning them over.

More recently (and possibly part of an attempt to blame Mark Meadows for all this) the NYT described how stuff that had accumulated on the dining room table of the White House where he worked was not only getting dumped into two dozen boxes that would not get sent to the Archives, but staffers were bringing additional documents into him there, including the Kim Jong Un letters that — because the Archives knew to go looking for them — have served as a beacon for the stolen documents throughout this story.

Papers he had accumulated in his last several months in office had been dropped into boxes, roughly two dozen of them, and not sent to the National Archives. Aides had even retrieved letters from Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, and given them to Mr. Trump in the final weeks, according to notes described to The New York Times.


Although the White House Counsel’s Office had told Mark Meadows, Mr. Trump’s last chief of staff, that the roughly two dozen boxes worth of material in the residence needed to be turned over to the archives, at least some of those boxes, including those with the Kim letters and some documents marked highly classified, were shipped to Florida. There they were stored at various points over the past 19 months in different locations inside Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s members-only club, home and office, according to several people briefed on the events.

Whether the first of these two posts is the redacted one or not, both times the Archives issued a public statement, Trump issued public, false, denials (and, according to the contemporaneous WaPo story, attempted to get the Archives to do the same).

At that level, then, the statements feel familiar from the Russian investigation, Trump’s well-studied ability to flood the zone with bullshit.

But buried in the two, together, seems to tie closer to actions — Trump’s personal involvement in stuffing the boxes full of shit under which to hide damning documents — that would go some distance to prove deliberate obstruction.

185 replies
    • Wajim says:

      I suppose so. I’m still laughing at Trump’s “statements from the desk of,” so, yeah, obscure tea leaves, what have you. I believe he’s losing his mojo, Mr. Powers

  1. joel fisher says:

    Various thoughts on an excellent piece:
    1) If, as I believe, MAL had foreign intelligence agents as members, guests, and employees, all this stuff would have been photographed by them or Trump’s people and moved off site. It should be assumed that the secrets are out and about. With smartphones, we can skip the Xeroxing and get right to the emailing.
    2) Due to Trump’s laziness, it’s hard for me to believe he “went through his papers” in the sense I need to go through the piles of stuff on my desk.
    3) Non-lawyer Fitton needs a subpoena soon.

    • LadyHawke says:

      Disagree with #2: We’ve seen how obsessive and relentless Trump can be about some things, like grudges he holds for decades about the most insignificant slight. He likely had specific things he wanted (“mine!”) and things he thought might pay off later.

      Can definitely see him both asking for and keeping stuff at ready. Especially once he began to think he might not be able to stay. And bet the “filler” was not just random, but things like newspapers with his photo and praise.

      • BobCon says:

        Journalists have noted for years that they got copies of their articles sent back to them with handwritten annotations from him.

        He’s very sloppy but he pays close attention when he feels like it.

      • Drew says:

        Dealing with people donating papers to a library, it’s common for some to be terribly jealous and possessive and insist on going through them themselves. Typically they get bogged down and the process takes forever until something forces the issue and then most of it shows up not having been gone through.

        Trump is indolent and obsessive, so it doesn’t surprise me that he would insist on being the one to review every scrap. I kind of think he must also have something else motivating him to hold out so long with the FBI breathing down his neck -& talking about espionage, etc. It seems like he was trying to manipulate what was being handed over and what was hidden.

      • joel fisher says:

        I’d bet my eyeteeth he has a service to print, verbally summarize, and hand over anything about him. Little or no reading required. Then he either writes something on it and sends it to somewhere, throws it away, or puts it in the box with the stuff that belongs to the archives, the intelligence community, or the unpaid bills.

    • wetzel says:

      There’s a profound indolence and a kind of poverty of humanity, but lazy doesn’t describe Donald Trump I am thinking. This is just my perspective, I guess, but I see Trump as high energy. To my mind he has incredible focus and attention to a game plan. It’s incredible, how he can stick to a script and his understanding of fascist ritual. He reshaped the GOP in how he manages discipline. He transformed it into a conical or vertical organization around himself with Trump as the absolute leader. He’s a real spider.

    • Hopeful says:

      If listening to Tom Fitton gets TFG indicted, convicted, and subsequently disqualified from future running for President, he would deserve a Presidential Medal of Freedom for helping to save our democracy.

      • Legonaut says:

        If listening to Tom Fitton exposed NDI and got people killed as a result, he would deserve time in prison as an abettor.

        • CarolynB says:

          Fitton sure seems like he’s got close to zero legal knowledge. He was also involved in the fake elector scheme. I think he sent some emails to the fraudulent electors. I was hoping he would have legal exposure from that scheme, and now it appears he’s effed around again. I hope he finds out real soon!!!

  2. harpie says:

    On 8/29/22, Anthony ORNATO retired from the Secret Service
    “to pursue a career in the private sector”:

    Secret Service official at center of Jan. 6 committee probe retires
    Tony Ornato, who also served as a top aide in Donald Trump’s White House, is the latest high-level official in the Secret Service to announce his departure recently.
    Kyle Cheney 08/29/2022 06:54 PM EDT // Updated: 08/29/2022 07:57 PM EDT

    ORNATO would have been nearby when TRUMP was packing up boxes in the dining room.

      • DaveV says:

        I remember an episode of Columbo where the subject setup a search for a body on a construction site, after which he then buries the body. Trump partially emptied the store room, FBI did their cursory search. Trump then moved the documents back into it. After all, the room was previously searched and secured. Checkmate.

      • BobCon says:

        They may have been the only people around Trump trusted who had clearance to witness what was going on. I doubt Bobb does and he may not have full faith in Corcoran.At least some secret Service agents on an ex president’s detail probably have top level clearance.

    • Leu2500 says:

      The really odd thing to a federal worker is that he retired on Mon, 29 Aug.

      Not Fri or Sat, which for some is the end of the pay period

      not Wed, 8/31, which is the end of the month & 2 more days pay.

      Mon. & according to reporting he was eligible to retire earlier, so it’s not the 1st day he could retire

      • SMF88011 says:

        It depends on how much personal leave that they have left. They could have “retired” as in stop showing up but be using up personal time off until the actual retirement date.

        • DC_20AUG2022-1252 says:

          Working with state employees – this happens all the time. They set their leave date for retirement purposes and then use their remaining personal time to hit that target and leave much earlier. My co-worker just did this 4 weeks ago – she still has her PCN (position control number) occupied until November so nobody can be hired before that unless the department wants to briefly double-fill/pay for a specific position which usually does not happen as that isn’t budgeted for.

          [Welcome to emptywheel. Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have at least one other community member named “DC”; your username here has been temporarily changed to distinguish you from the other “DC.” Thanks. /~Rayne]

        • Raven Eye says:

          Federal civilian employees don’t get what is called “terminal leave” in the military. For GS types “…terminal annual or vacation leave may not be granted immediately prior to separation from the service in any case where it is known in advance that the employee is to be separated from the service.”

          (Military personnel on terminal leave accrue leave time whilst on leave.)

      • fly by night says:

        A few days ago Biden announced his pick as new head of the Secret Service. I think Ornato believed his new boss would compel him to appear before the J6 committee (though I don’t know if she would have the power to do that). Spill the beans, lie under oath or take the Fifth – none of those are very good options for him. I think he quit to short circuit that possibility.

        Of course, it could also be as simple as him hitting a career-ending brick wall.

        I’m most curious to see if he gets a job somewhere in the MAGA world.

      • Overshire says:

        Not at all odd when you find out, per TPM, https: //talkingpointsmemo.com/news/top-secret-service-official-leaves-agency-two-days-before-a-jan-6-committee-interview , that he’s been avoiding an interrogation by the DHS IG for months, and a compulsory interview was scheduled for tomorrow. Now that he’s not a federal employee, they can’t make him show.
        (the headline at the link varies from the body of the story.)

        • Legonaut says:

          I’d agree it’s probably the proximate cause of the timing of Ornato’s “retirement”, but can’t the J6 Committee (or DOJ, for that matter) still subpoena him for testimony? As a private citizen, he’ll be on the hook for his own legal defense (as opposed to SS/DHS footing the bill).

          Retirement might buy him a few weeks, but he’s far from scot-free.

    • Rayne says:

      Wondering if the whinefest Chuck Grassley indulged in about an FBI agent exiting, one whom Grassley had received complaints about wrt the Hunter Biden fabulous laptop investigation.

      The timing is perfect, cluttering up coverage of a federal employee leaving at a weird time.

      • BruceF says:

        I keep wondering who told drooling dotard Chuck Grassley he would preside over January 6th electoral vote count in place of Mike Pence? Chuckie texted out this information the morning of January 15 before deleting. Grassley also made clear he was open to hearing argument from those states who had submitted fake electoral votes over which set of electors to recognize!

        This was a strange occurrence related to January 6 that has not been addressed adequately in my mind. Have I missed something?

        • JohnR says:

          I’ve wondered about that as well. It was odd that Grassley blurted that out. Combine that with the report that Onarto (hastily retiring SS agent for Trump) told Keith Kellogg on Jan 6th that Pence was going to be removed to Joint Base Andrews. Kellogg (and Pence) refused to leave the Capitol. Perhaps the plan, after Pence told Trump he was determined to certify the vote, was to incite a riot, have SS remove Pence from the Capitol, and have Grassley fill in for Pence and declare the election illegitimate. It fits everything we know, and it explains why the Secret Service was illegally scrubbing phones and retiring suddenly before they have to testify.

        • Molly Pitcher says:

          That ‘blurt’ had echoes of Al Haig’s “I’m in control here” when Reagan was shot.

        • Tracy Lynn says:

          Funny, when I heard about Grassley’s comment about Pence, I was reminded of Al Haig’s comment, as well.

    • harpie says:

      ORNATO’s office can be seen in relation to the dining room in this screenshot Marcy took while live tweeting the 6/28/22 J6 Committee Hearing where Cassidy HUTCHINSON was the witness:

      1:14 PM · Jun 28, 2022

      12/7/19 Anthony ORNATO is moved from TRUMP’s Secret Service detail to the White House as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations

      [Was he still being paid by SS?]

      • Raven Eye says:

        “[Was he still being paid by SS?]”

        Done all the time in federal service. I guess you could say he was detailed from the detail.

    • HW3 says:

      But Tony O was in such a hurry to testify under oath that Cassidy Hutchinson was misremembering everything!

  3. flounder says:

    We are going to find out that Trump asked one of the mailroom people to show him how the printer works. Then we are going to find out that Trump hid a bunch of classified materials in with ketchup stained photocopies of his face and butt, as well as some booby copies of unknown provenance.

  4. Tom-1812 says:

    I wonder if Trump, or anyone else, ever proofreads his stuff. If they did, they might catch constructions such as, “The Fake News is making it seem like me … was working in a filing room.” Me was working. Me was President. Me is going to be indicted.

  5. jeco says:

    When I read that papers were loose and cover sheets were removed my mind says copies were made (illegally) and individual damning pages were destroyed.

    How can copiers and other MAL electronics not have been seized and reviewed for evidence of illegal copies? Is there another unspoken search warrant for these things?

    PS trumps posts on “Truth” are ramblings of a sick man, not functioning at an adult level.

    • rip says:

      Most of the world has been saying that “of a sick man, not functioning at an adult level” for many years – seems like an eternity of a toddler running the executive branch. And yet we were told, “He’ll grow into the job – he’ll become presidential.”

  6. L. Eslinger says:

    At this point it’s probably much too late to protect the contents of any sensitive documents that Trump squirreled away since any of them could have been photographed by third parties. However, recovering the documents may be helpful in assessing damage to national security if an assumption is made that some, if not all, of the documents are in the hands of foreign intelligence (or persons putting the information on the market).

    So many of Trump’s claims and accusations are nonsensical and seem to depend upon the ridiculous notion that whatever documents he had (or has) are the only copies, and that he kept them to protect against fake, Fake, FAKE investigations. But as one wades though this gibberish it’s notable that he doesn’t deny having taken possession of sensitive documents, including those containing national defense information.

    • KM Williams says:

      I’d think that the moment the Fed Gov realized a lot of secret information was in Trump’s possession, they assumed that info was already disseminated. Of course they still needed to know exactly what he had stolen.

  7. Rwood says:

    My mind keeps going to the end goal.

    Why take these items to begin with? We’ve covered the basics, (blackmail material, it was on Putin’s wish list, plain old narcissism) but I have to wonder how they pertain to what Trump has shared on purpose, and what he has allowed to leak due to his gross negligence when it comes to securing…anything.

    If the end-goal was just blackmailing he would want to keep it secure until needed. If it leaked beforehand it would lose its leverage/value.

    If it was just because it was on Putin’s wish list then it would have been sent immediately and then destroyed.

    If it was just narcissism I would think there would be an order for gold-plated picture frames on his desk.

    It’s that last item that throws the big wrench in the works. If you add his narcissism to items one and two the whole thing becomes a cluster with no predictable behavior or outcome.

    Despite this, I take some comfort in the fact that trump is grossly incompetent at just about everything he does, so when that is added to the equation the end result is inevitable. All that’s needed are the indictments.

    I said back in 2016 that he was on his way to prison the second he won the election. Simply because no criminal enterprise can survive the 24/7 microscope aimed at the president and everything he has ever said or done.

    I still believe that, but man am I tired of waiting.

    • BruceF says:

      Trump may have had one additional motive…to secure any document that mentioned criminal, or corrupt acts.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The possible motivations are as boundless as Trump’s narcissism and vindictiveness. Monetizing them, and punishing and embarrassing his enemies come chiefly to mind. He also seems to be a jealous voyeur, hence his interest in Macron’s sex life. Ad nauseum.

      But the issue is what does the DoJ need to prove to establish the criminal intent required by applicable statutes. That’s what I’d focus on.

        • Arteberry says:

          Yes. So many of our favorite tv lawyers trot out “mens rea,” or similar terms, perhaps for viewers at home who are thinking about dusting off their volumes of Justinian, Blackstone, and Holmes. The tv lawyers and journalists ought to try reading the specific criminal statute in question. In particular, the Espionage Act (§793(e)) only requires that Trump was aware he had non-public documents (classified or not); that Trump was aware an officer of the United States had requested the return of such documents; and that Trump was aware he had not fully complied with the request. The government must also prove the unreturned documents contained NDI, as that term is defined in the statute. But Trump’s subjective state of mind on that point is irrelevant. The question of whether a document contains NDI is for the jury, applying an objective standard based on whether a reasonable person would consider NDI to be present. And the government certainly does not have to prove Trump was aware of and understood §793(e).

    • John Paul Jones says:

      I think the narcissism is the key, and I would speculate that a good number of the documents he wanted were (at least in his mind) related to the original Mueller investigation (which meant that he was not a legitimately elected President). Believing that he was unfairly cheated of legitimacy is what led him to try and seize power on 6 Jan, so a second class of documents would be about the supposed “legal” basis of his claims of election fraud and, secondarily, planning docs for 6 January.

      Plausible, to my mind at least, but it fails to explain why he would need SCIF-type documents, unless they are all related to the Mueller investigation and its offshoots.

    • SMF88011 says:

      The funny thing about the “acid watch” or “bleach bit” is that it is part of the standard classified email contamination cleanup checklist. The checklists that document the process start on page 118 on the linked manual:


      I used to do classified contamination cleanups as documented above. I did them so often that I had the checklists memorized.

      • GWPDA says:

        Along with, as I recall, the deal about breaking up any cd/dvd or thumb drives. That one presumed that most folks didn’t have a heavy duty magnet available.

        • Ralf Maximus says:

          Alas, magnets only work on magnetic media. Thumb drives and optical discs are immune to magnets, so you either use a hammer (thumb drives) or a document shredder (optical discs) to render them unreadable.

        • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

          Back when I was doing this the ONLY acceptable way to decommission a Classified hard drive was by grinding off the surface mechanically. Hours of working with a dremel…good times!

  8. nord dakota says:

    I always wondered where Trump kept his mess of papers (contrast between Oval Office and his Trump Tower office in pictures). All piling up in the dining room makes sense.

    edit for spelling although contract between Oval and his own office makes sense too/

  9. Chuffy says:

    I wonder if the documents are limited to MAL, or if he has a separate stash elsewhere – seems likely.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Did anyone witness the burial? Or did the groundskeepers scratch off the grass and plop a plaque down?

        • posaune says:

          Read somewhere that the Ivana grave is sited within 15′ of a stream bed, and not compliant with NEPA. ok, laugh. it’s the least of his worries. but . . with flooding, then what?

        • Rugger9 says:

          I’ve been skeptical of the grave claim since it was made, noting for example that there was no mound typical of a freshly closed grave. Also noted was the fact that Individual-1 wasn’t Ivana’s last hubby, who would normally be the one to bury her, perhaps near him (but we don’t know the detailed arrangements, maybe a quid pro quo is involved). We’ll see if the monument to come is worthy of Ivana with a sufficient level of crass to remind everyone who built it.

          It is also convenient for tax purposes, TFG knowing full well that the state digging Ivana up to prove ‘cemetery declaration’ fraud is extremely unlikely so that grift will continue (a ‘cemetery’ is exempt from property taxes, no matter how many graves are there).

        • Rayne says:

          There wasn’t going to be a mound there given the location on the course; TFG wouldn’t want to lose a stroke because Ivana screwed up his lie in the rough. The declaration of Bedminster as a cemetery was more likely to prevent seizure than change tax status. And the other factor most folks forget is that Bedminster is like the family’s second home — Ivanka and Jared were married there, for example. The family may have wanted her there in a place that might be their last shared asset after everything is sorted out.

        • Rugger9 says:

          Fair enough, but then dirt has to be added as the ground settles in. As for GPR, that would be a search under the 4th Amendment (it would certainly be challenged as such by Individual-1) which would require a warrant that I think would be pretty hard to get since it would involve disturbing a resting place.

        • SMF88011 says:

          Trump is well known to throw and kick balls to better lies for him. He is a BIG cheater at golf.

        • punaise says:

          her last hubby predeceased her, according to this piece.

          Most thought she was really undone by the death in 2021 of her last ex-husband: Rossano Rubicondi, the rakish Italian adventurer and former model, 23 years her junior, whom she’d started dating around 2002, married (at Mar-a-Lago, no less) in 2008, divorced a year later, and could never quite rid herself of.

          He was, maybe even more than her second ex-husband — the one who became president — the tragic love affair of her life, a romantic error she couldn’t help but make.

          can’t believe I spent time reading this stuff.

        • pdaly says:

          ‘I want to say just one acronym to you. Just one acronym: GPR’

          From wikipedia for ground-penetrating radar:
          “GPR is used by criminologists, historians, and archaeologists to search burial sites.” [snip]
          “Advancements in GPR technology integrated with various 3D software modelling platforms, generate three-dimensional reconstructions of subsurface “shapes and their spatial relationships”. By 2021, this has been “emerging as the new standard”

        • Legonaut says:

          “Paging Jimmy Hoffa… Would Mr. Hoffa please report to the nearest Giants Stadium end zone…”

        • Obansgirl says:

          Ha! I’ve been far too embarrased and meek to post about Ivanas crypt. But lo and behold I am in good company!

  10. Jon says:

    Trump is doing a wonderful job of proving that his theft of government property (including highly classified material) was premeditated, organized and with specific objectives in mind, likely pursuant to criminal ends, and included confederates, perhaps rising to the level of conspiracy. Trump has lied about this many times, has tried to distract and obscure, has threatened and ginned up public attacks, has done his best to extend the timeline before materials have been reclaimed, and has ignored legal orders pursuant to this. He has to be treated as if there is an ongoing criminal enterprise in progress.

    All of Trump’s properties should be thoroughly searched, not only for original government documents but also for copies and digital devices and media. Everyone who ever handled documents for Trump should be interviewed, to determine if they abetted these thefts or are currently in possession of government property. They should also be queried about any transfer of materials to third parties that they may have participated in.

    All crimes uncovered should be indicted and charged. The yardstick should be: what would the process be if any other government employee engaged in similar actions? What would Republicans demand if Hilary Clinton had done anything similar? It’s time for the DoJ to demonstrate that no one is above the law.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel. THIRD REQUEST: Please use a more differentiated username when you comment next as we have several community members named “Jon” or “Jonathan.” (See first request.) Thanks. /~Rayne]

    • MT Reedør says:

      No doubt. You think they would only search Schulte’s storage room? And if they found secret things there they would not do any more searching? That’s reckless. It was already reckless letting him take and keep the documents so long.

  11. Owlmirror says:

    Can anyone explain all this stuff by T.E. R*a*j*K.*P*a*t*e*l (asterisks added because I suspect he’s an autogoogler, and will consider anything less than glowing praise to be defamatory) that keeps being added to the docket? Where “T.E.” appears to stand for “The Excellent”?

  12. Jenny says:

    Thank you Dr. Marcy. Last two paragraphs are spot on.
    Again, Trump is an exploiter of humanity to nth degree.

  13. The Old Redneck says:

    I think the reason Trump’s flunkies are quieting down is because they don’t want NARA, FBI, etc., to explain publicly and in detail how much special treatment he received. They bent over backward to negotiate an end to this before throwing in the towel and getting a warrant. No one else in the world would have been given so much latitude.
    Despite that, Trump still did himself in. He tried to pull a bait and switch with people who had the ability to figure out what was still missing.

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      His “bait-and-switch” shows all of the cleverness of a middle-school student cheating on a test by writing the answers on the back of the neck of the student sitting in front of him “it’s foolproof!”

      • punaise says:

        I guess this is where I need to confess that in junior high I helped a friend “ace” a test for which he had not prepared. It was multiple choice, and he was sitting in the desk in front of me. A simple code of sequential toe-taps communicated the answers.

        • rosalind says:

          and now i’ve flashed back to junior high french class. private girl’s school. all forced to take a national standardized test. me, quickly realizing it was hopeless, simply filled in the bubbles in random order and patterns. french teacher not amused.

          cut to school assembly few weeks later where various prizes were given out. and suddently my name is called – i scored the highest on the exam. cue classmates breaking out in laughter, led by me. french teacher even less amused. still have that certificate around here somewhere…

        • Legonaut says:

          Only sophomore in high school chemistry class, a third of which were large senior football players. During a test, a 16EEEE sneaker plops onto my desk seat support with a note in the laces (from one row over & back), with three question numbers on it…

        • punaise says:

          I got expelled from HS chemistry for stupidly lighting a piece of magnesium on fire in the lab. Classmates were amused, but the teacher was not pleased.

        • punaise says:

          Yep, they kicked me out of France too (not really). I’d be glad to elide football season and go straight to hoops!

  14. Savage Librarian says:

    Trump has a long history of saving information to later use against people. So he must have an established filing system to suit his needs. Maybe this is one of the skill sets Roy Cohn taught him. Maybe Roger Stone (and his old friend, Susie Wiles) also gave him a tip or two.

    I remember hearing Michael Cohen answer when asked about Trump’s safe at MAL, that he was aware of the locked files at Trump Tower. He said he was not aware of any safe. But the files were certainly on his mind.

    Biographer and journalist, Vicky Ward, also said that Trump kept thank-you notes that she’d sent him after luncheons and interviews. Then later, when she wrote a book he didn’t like, he published them.

    • MattyG says:

      And it’s always possible – I’d say even likely – that the recovered documents aren’t even the “good stuff” or at least all of it. The real repository must still be out there – where his “filing system” ensures efficient access to actionable gear.

  15. Tim L. says:

    So many questions. Like, how did Drumpf first get his hands on these docs? Did he seek them out, or did he come upon them as part of intel briefings? If they originated in the CIA or NSA, e.g., why would they become part of the Archives rather than back to the producing agency? If they came from a closed access SCIF, how did they get them out of there? Does any piece of paper that touches POTUS hands automatically go to the Archives? I’m not sure anyone reporting on this even knows how this works, or how he came to possess them. But it is completely germane to the story.

    –and this judge who has no jurisdiction is just going to hear the case on Thursday? HTF is this happening?

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      I have the same question. Along the same lines, why was there no clear record of exactly what Secret, and especially more highly classified, documents had been taken to Trump and never returned? This all seems rather impossible if procedure was followed by those responsible for getting the documents to Trump. From what I’m hearing, it seems unlikely that some filing clerk was looking around a strewn work table wondering, “Now where did I put that TS document?” In short, why was the archives surprised to find classified documents when there should have been a clear record of what documents had been given to Trump and never returned.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Archives staff may have been more concerned and distressed, rather than surprised. Everything was so chaotic for months (if not years.) Then there was Covid-19 and the aftermath of J6. Standard protocols and procedures most likely suffered as well. There may have been significant staff shortages. But there probably was and is a record, just not available to us.

      • Yorkville Kangaroo says:

        According to Bolton he said that, often, Trump would express interest in some piece of highly classified material and would say to the person presenting it, “Can I hold on to that for a while?” The person would usually say, “We’d prefer that you didn’t.” Bolton then said that sometimes they’d “forget” to get it back at the end of the meeting.

    • Legonaut says:

      I think an industrious reporter (!) could find out how it was *supposed* to work, or at least how it worked in previous administrations. Pretty sure that went out with the rest of the bathwater Trump tossed.

      I’m hopeful the right questions about Trump administration “procedures” are being asked of the right people (in the WH, the SS, the IC, etc.) and we just don’t see it. There seems to be plenty of blame to go around, from Trump to the briefers to the box-packers to the cleaners.

      Yet another test for Garland — if no one is above the law, will all of these agencies/institutions be allowed to cover-up/whitewash their complicity?

    • fm says:

      I read somewhere that Trump would pocket security briefings. That so worried people that they started giving him the briefings on large poster size format so he couldn’t pocket parts and take them with him.

  16. teri mccomb says:

    Rayne: I wish to go by my real name. I was Ollie. Will that be alright? I won’t change it again. thank you

    Marcy? Every time on twitter I come upon you taunting or just ‘redirecting’ a journalist for lazy or inaccurate reporting……I cheer. I was getting so sick at all the misinformation out there on twitter. keep it up. SHAME THEM why, it’s only our fucking democracy that’s on the line. thank you so much for your hard work. teri.

    [Welcome back to emptywheel, community member formerly known as Ollie. :-) No problem at all, thanks for letting us know. /~Rayne]

  17. Buleriando says:

    A thing I don’t understand about all this whole debacle:

    1. MAL is likely riddled with spies. If not, the foreign ICs aren’t doing their job

    2. security at MAL is laughable

    3. presumably at least some of the NDI and classified documents at MAL are now compromised

    4. if I understand correctly this means the IC has to assume *all* documents and related assets are compromised

    Which means Trump likely caused immense damage. Why isn’t the media all over this?

  18. John Paul Jones says:

    A little earlier Kash Patel also filed for intervenor status (and then had to refile because he forgot to sign the original). I tried reading it but couldn’t make much sense of all its references to old world kings and so forth, unless he’s secretly a Sovereign Citizen follower. Not clear to me exactly what he wants to do, but he’s using the same lawyers as Trump, so I assume it’s a delaying tactic of some sort. But — iANAL.

    • Owlmirror says:

      Read again. Best as I can tell, the Patel who is trying to intervene is not named Kash, and has no connection to Kash.

      • John Paul Jones says:

        I should have realized. Patel is a common Indian name. And this guy appears to be deeply strange. If you check his website, he claims to have “ongoing federal cases” but when you click to see the complaint, and begin reading through, it seems kind of schizoid, i.e., “bio-tech depression weapons” are being used on him. Apologies to all for failing to read clearly (and to Kash).

        But what are the odds?

        • skua says:

          A very common name.
          The operations of a surgeon Patel at Bundaberg Hospital in Australia had nursing staff hiding his patients when they knew he was in the hospital. The medical and legal systems both shone and Patel was eventually found not guilty.

  19. WilliamOckham says:

    Slightly off-topic. Or maybe not. I’d like to know how twelve boxes in Dec 2021 became FIFTEEN BOXES in Jan 2022. From the affidavit, paragraph 1:

    The NARA Referral stated that on January 18, 2022, in accordance with the Presidential Records Act (PRA), NARA received from the office of former President DONALD J. TRUMP, hereinafter “FPOTUS,” via representatives, fifteen (15) boxes of records, hereinafter, the “FIFTEEN BOXES.”

    However, in paragraph 39

    On or about May 6, 2021, NARA made a request for the missing PRA records and continued to make requests until approximately late December 2021 when NARA was informed twelve boxes were found and ready for retrieval at the PREMISES.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      I’ve been wondering about that discrepancy between 12 and 15 boxes, too. Sometimes I misremember or misread things. But I have a nagging sense that I read something about 12 boxes today that might be relevant. But danged if I can find it again.

      It was an article that mentioned how Trump had boxes in the WH where he put various things. I think it was in the dining room. And I thought it said there were 12 boxes. I thought it said that some of the WH staff were aware of them. It might have been close to moving time.

      If that is correct, maybe some WH staff said there should be 12 boxes. Maybe Philbin and Cipollone thought there were 12. But maybe somebody repacked them at MAL into 15.

  20. Doctor My Eyes says:

    From the beginning of this nightmare, I have had a basic question: why didn’t Trump just copy the materials then return them? Or give them to mortal enemies of the US and be done with it. From the way the story has been reported, it seems that the FBI was not aware of exactly what documents were at MAL (also a prefix meaning BAD). Only Trump could imagine such treasonous behavior, and only Trump could fuck it up so royally. Along the same lines, how is Trump so lame at destroying documents? Has he never seen a fireplace work? Once Trump left the WH with boxes containing material that no one seems to have known were missing, it should have been as easy as pie to do with them what he wanted and never get caught. This aspect of the story keeps seeming extremely weird to me, giving me the feeling that some aspect is missing.

    It is one of the tragedies of world history that so much time and energy has been devoted to trying to figure out why Trump does the things he does. When it comes to schemes and crimes, I don’t buy merely psychological explanations as sufficient. There was something in it for Trump and his behavior should be a guide to what that something is, but mainly it just seems ridiculous and stunningly inept. Sadly, the ineptitude is likely insufficient to have prevented grave damage to national security.

    • Setlisthief says:

      Speaking of motive…a couple weeks back I was listening to NYT’s podcast, The Daily, where there was some talk about trump wanting to keep the stolen documents as “chachkis.” I found this completely absurd, despite his narcissism. trump is transactional about everything, absolutely everything. It seems there can be no doubt that he was planning to use the documents as a type of currency (if he hasn’t already), and definitely not as keepsakes.

      (I think that was the username I used last time I posted many moons ago. If not, apologies).

      • Owlmirror says:

        While there are many many ways to transliterate Yiddish words,
        “tchotchke” is common enough that that is what the Wiktionary entry (with multiple alternate spellings, including one close to what you used) for the term is under.

    • skua says:

      Then you’ve heard Michael Cohen’s take on why Trump kept the documents at MAL?
      (AIU Cohen: DJT is a crime boss and is blackmailing the Feds, having set up inteligence/NDI data to be released if he gets indicted/killed/goes missing.)
      And you reject this take?
      Care to share why?

      I’d like rational grounds to reject it – I would sleep better.

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        Sleep better, indeed. It’s all speculation. What Cohen says makes sense. I would be surprised if Trump could get organized enough to pull something like that off, but Cohen would know. Having papers sloppily hanging around his unsecured dwelling doesn’t bode well for the airtight nature of his extortion scheme. Maybe he’s trying to be like Putin and the Russian mob. I’m betting he lacks the chops. We’re still in a hell of a mess.

        • skua says:

          I take the view that if DJT can successfully get to be POTUS then he has the ability to be organized.
          Recent post here has Trump digging out and publishing personal “Thank you” notes from a journo for interviews after she published a book on DJT.
          DJT looks to me well able to organize an archive of blackmail material.

          AIU Cohen those papers lying round are implicit threats by DJT to trigger pre-arranged releases of intel /NDI data. “See this one? Pity if Ping found out.”
          Though if that is what’s happening then why not add, “The country needs me to be President 47. You guys are patriots right?”

          I need to do more exercise in the evenings.

        • skua says:

          Being POTUS 47 could be another win for DJT.
          But would he want to do the work?
          Maybe delegate authority to VP and pardon planned releasers of all (except top five most destructive secrets) in return for say 5 trillion? Thats 20 x Musk’s hoard. DJT gets to be “the richest and most powerful man in the world and POTUS”. Does whatever he wants. Mary Trump may have views on what he wants.
          It’s a dire doorway that Cohen points at.

  21. hollywood says:

    So now Trump has hired Christopher Kise, formerly solicitor general of Florida. I would expect this means further filings will comport with Federal Rules and local court rules. But how can Kise change the facts of what Trump has done? I don’t see it.

      • hollywood says:

        Kise has reportedly won 4 SCOTUS cases. That indicates to be me that he knows how to make a federal filing.

  22. Molly Pitcher says:

    Nicole Wallace just had Ben Collins on. He covers disinformation and extremism for NBC and he has been monitoring the far right fringes of Trump’s supporters. They are now referring to him, without any irony, as GEOTUS, which stands for “God Emperor of the United States”.

    He thinks it is likely that roughly 5% of the population view Trump this way.

    He may be nuts, but he is not alone.

    • Tom-1812 says:

      If Trump is now GEOPLATYPOTUS, maybe he can perform a miracle, like tell the truth for once.

      When the Founders ditched George III, I don’t think they intended replacing him with a God Emperor.

    • P J Evans says:

      Some of them seem to believe that the former guy was literally sent by a deity and they do seem to worship him, while also claiming to be Christians.

      • The Baffled King says:

        Some of the justification offered by Christians for supporting Trump was that he fit the biblical doctrine/precedent of god using impious or flawed vessels to facilitate a divine goal – Cyrus II of Persia is one such example. I’ve also seen Trump described as a messianic figure analogous to the biblical King David of Israel. So, there is biblical material that some Christians draw upon to put Trump on a pedestal. It’s still crazy, but it’s less crazy – and probably distinct from – the “God Emperor” nonsense cited by Molly Pitcher.

    • person1597 says:

      “I just think everyone, including the mainstream press, needs to take seriously the growing culmination between Trump’s operation, the extremist 4chan/Q crowd and the monarchist new right.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT)

      • The Baffled King says:

        Yes. To give him his due (having dunked on him a bit in my comment below), Ben Collins also pointed out how militias such as the Proud Boys successfully targetted the Q crowd for recruitment.

    • The Baffled King says:

      Some context that might be relevant: there is a company named Games Workshop that makes miniature-based tabletop wargames. Its primary product is Warhammer 40,000, which is a sci-fi game that has been around in one form or another since the late ’80s. The central figure in the fictional universe of Warhammer 40,000 is “The God Emperor of Mankind”.

      I strongly suspect that this “GEOTUS” crap originated within an online community focused on Games Workshop games, as a meme mashing-up POTUS and God Emperor of Mankind. I’d guess it was a complimentary but non-serious epithet created by Trump supporters, but it could potentially have been an ironically mocking epithet coined by detractors of Trump.

      This wouldn’t preclude GEOTUS subsequently being used non-ironically, although it seems possible that Ben Collins mistook non-serious memes for genuine belief in Trump as GEOTUS. I couldn’t find a clip of Collins referring to GEOTUS, but I did find him breathlessly reporting that the top post on Q-Anon forums today was “Nuke them from orbit” (in reference to the so-called deep state). I mean… that is a quote from Aliens; if it was meant literally, I’d eat my hat.

      None of the above is meant to argue that Q-Anon are not crazies who fetishise Trump using the military to overthrow the government, or that some of the crazier religious Trumpists don’t claim that Trump has some divine purpose. I just think that the media loses credibility if it gives serious coverage to non-serious film quotes or memes.

        • The Baffled King says:

          Yeah, Ripley is awesome, and so is Aliens (an action film that’s easy to love even for those – like me – who aren’t really fans of that genre).

      • Owlmirror says:

        Prior to Warhammer 40,000, Frank Herbert wrote and published God Emperor of Dune (1981), and the WikiP page for Warhammer 40,000 cites Herbert’s book, as well as the larger milieu of the Dune series, as an explicit influence.

        • The Baffled King says:

          Interesting. I played Warhammer 40,000 in the ’90s, so I’m aware of some of its influences, but I haven’t read Dune, and I didn’t realise it was among said influences.

      • pH unbalanced says:

        OK, 40k makes more sense as a reference than Dune, which is what I was thinking first. For those who are not aware, in the lore, that particular government is hardcore fascist, but it was meant “ironically”. (Fairly typical ’80s grognard sensibilities.)

        Wouldn’t say that 40k is Games Workshop’s “primary” product — mainline fantasy Warhammer is quite a bit more popular.

  23. Green Eagle says:

    Tom Fitton! Judicial Watch! If there is one group on earth that has a longer record of getting lawsuits laughed out of court that Trump himself, it is Judicial Watch. You go, Donnie- straight for the worst legal advice on the face of the earth.

  24. Cheryl Rofer says:

    On being “unfoldered.” I agree that it could indicate that the cover sheets were removed. But another way to handle classified documents is to keep them in a literal folder, with a signature sheet on top for everyone who reads the document.

    While this may remove the most obvious indication of classification, every page of a classified document must be marked with the proper classification, and sometimes every paragraph, so removing cover sheets and folders doesn’t make a whole lot of difference in obvious classification, at least in my mind.

    • Raven Eye says:

      In DOJ’s opposition, I like their clarification of Trump’s claim of Executive Privilege:

      “But even if the former President had actually asserted executive privilege with regard to any of the seized documents (which he has not), and even if he had statutory authority to do so (which is not established), such an assertion would fail here because this case involves the recovery and review of executive records by executive officials performing core executive functions.”

  25. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Per Marcy’s twtr feed, here’s the DoJ’s public filing:


    Summary of Government’s Argument:

    1. Trump lacks standing to seek judicial relief regarding possession and access to Presidential Records because they do not belong to him. “Complete ownership, possession, and control” of them belongs to the United States. Further, this court lacks jurisdiction to challenge the validity of the search warrant. Therefore, there is no basis for this court to grant injunctive relief, he is not likely to succeed on the merits, and, since the documents are not his, he can suffer no harm, let alone irreparable harm.

    2. If the court were to have jurisdiction, the appointment of a SM would significantly harm the government’s interests. In any case, the government has already completed its review. Moreover, there is no ability for the executive branch to shield executive branch materials from itself under a claim of EP. Delays owing to the appointment of a SM would hinder the intelligence community’s ability to examine materials whose dissemination might significantly harm US national interests.

  26. earlofhuntingdon says:

    The factual summary laid out “corrects” the inaccuracies of Trump’s submission, which Cannon might not be aware of, because hers is not the court that approved the search. A nice bit of polite trolling of both Trump and Cannon.

    Other commentators will fill in more tomorrow, but it’s a nice 36-page response from the government. A good example of professional lawyering, which stands in marked contrast to the sloppy lies, fantasies, and material omissions provided by team Trump.

  27. hollywood says:

    Given the facts and DOJ’s filing, it seems to my naive eyes that:
    1) either Trump is toast; or
    2) he has some folks to throw under the bus to try to save himself (but they may not agree).
    3) Regardless, the case should move forward and Trump should be indicted.
    4) Lindsey is full of shit.

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