NARA Asked for 24 Boxes … Trump Gave Them 15

The Archives (NARA) has released several sets of documents pertaining to the documents Trump stole, including the email that kicked off the entire hunt for documents on May 6, 2021. In it, NARA General Counsel Gary Stern emailed Pat Philbin, Mike Purpura, and Scott Gast talking about known missing items (including the love letters from Kim Jong Un).

Of those love letters, Stern described that Trump had a binder of them made right before he left office, just like he had a binder of the records pertaining to the Russian investigation.

[I]n January 2021, just prior to the end of the Administration, the originals were put in a binder for the President, but were never returned to the Office of Records Management for transfer to NARA.

More hilariously, Stern told the Trump lawyers that he knew of around 24 boxes of records that had been kept in Trump’s residence that weren’t returned. Stern told Trump’s lawyers that he knew that Pat Cipollone had told Trump to give them back — all 24 boxes of Presidential Records!

It is also our understanding that roughly two dozen boxes of original Presidential records were kept in the Residence of the White House over the course of President Trump’s last year in office and have not been transferred to NARA, despite a determination by Pat Cipollone in the final days of the Administration that they need to be. I had also raised this concern with Scott during the final weeks.

NARA emailed Trump’s lawyers and told them he knew that there were roughly 24 boxes that Trump’s own White House Counsel had determined belonged to NARA.

And after an extended fight, Trump returned just 15.

Trump apparently thought a building full of archivists would just round up from 15.

102 replies
    • Cosmo Le Cat says:

      Trump is suing personally, mostly for hosts and guests comparing him to Hitler (not for saying he actually is Hitller incarnate or other provably false facts) and for using the expression the “Big Lie.” IANAL, but the claimed offenses are laughable. Surely, it will be withdrawn before discovery commences.

      The attorneys who signed are Trusty and Halligan. I was disappointed not to see Habba’s name.

      • Leu2500 says:

        Well, Habba’s “Hillary & everybody who said bad things about me” Rico lawsuit was dismissed.

        Since she’s a Loser! Guess he wanted to go with other lawyers who haven’t lost. Yet.

        Besides. The judge in the Hillary lawsuit reserved the right to impose sanctions. So Habba is safer being Trump’s spokesmodel lawyer.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Desperate distraction. Trusty and Halligan must think they have nothing to do anymore, either before Cannon or the 11th Cir. And here, Trusty was just complaining he couldn’t possibly manage to deal with an expedited 11th Cir. appeal and Cannon’s discovery schedule at the same time.

      Trump must still think he’s a local property developer, who’s bigger than anyone he sues across town, and can be paid to go away. Improbable, at best. I don’t think Trump’s tantrums even function any longer as a signal for media to tighten self-censorship. The reverse is now more likely to be true.

      • Operandi says:

        Obviously CNN’s attorneys are going to lodge (and almost certainly win) a Motion to Dismiss as early as practicably possible. But boy would it be fun to get into discovery against Trump on questions like “Was it accurate to refer to the Big Lie as a lie?”

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      CNN should be thrilled–the suit refers to their “massive influence” on page one. And we all thought CNN was losing audience share because of its boring new both-sides programming. Silly us!

      CNN got notified of all these (very repetitive, cut and paste) complaints as early as July. I’m now wonder if Chris Licht has gotten caught in an already reactive management strategy. If Stelter got fired because they were afraid *this* would happen, CNN is well and truly doomed.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The suit says $475 million punitive damages, in excess of $75 thousand “compensatory” damages, the amount to be determined at trial.

      • sand says:

        The $75k figure appears to be simply to meet the federal jurisdiction requirement.

        The $475M is presumably to punish the media for saying mean things about him. It would likely take far more to repair his reputation. Grimace won’t even do McDonalds commercials with him at this point. “I’m sorry sir, Mr. Grimace is in a meeting, but if you’d like to leave a message I’ll make sure he gets it.”

  1. Cosmo Le Cat says:

    “Stern told Trump’s lawyers that he knew that Pat Cipollone had told Trump to give them back.”

    Q: If Cipollone spoke to third parties about his discussion with Trump, are executive and attorney/client privileges waived?

    It seems to me that this Trump/Cipollone conversation would be crucial to getting an indictment and conviction.

      • David F. Snyder says:

        Right. Cipollone made a determination. As far as TFG goes, in one ear out the other? “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” (Paul Simon)

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      All the latter-day Trump lawyers are scrambling to launder their own reputations, mostly via the Washington Post, with Alex Cannon being the latest to draw a line between his own conduct and Trump’s. If we read between the lines, the picture of the fall-guy is resolving: Mark Meadows “couldn’t say no to Trump,” and failed to impose any discipline on the WH after Derek Lyons left in December 2020.

      Those jumping ship seem to be conforming their stories so as to isolate Meadows as mal- or non-feasant. I haven’t seen recent reporting from inside Trump world, which appeared to be adopting that same strategy–blame Meadows–months ago. If they’re still on that track it might allow for a MAGA realignment with Cipollone, Philbin, Cannon (Alex), and others in the future.

  2. ergo says:

    Math is hard. I mean, what’s 9 boxes of evidence between friends, err…activists? (didn’t Trump call NARA terrorists or activists or something?)

  3. jhinx says:

    “Trump apparently thought a building full of archivists would just round up from 15.”

    Ok, that was fucking funny!

  4. Cosmo Le Cat says:

    Two consecutive Emptywheel tweets made me LOL:

    Jim Trusty, AM: We definitely can’t accelerate the appeal because Lindsey Halligan, Evan Corocran, and I are too busy making privilege designations.

    Jim Trusty PM: But Lindsey and I have all the time in the world to file frivolous lawsuits against CNN.

    • Raven Eye says:

      O.K. So this is the same legal team — Right?

      If that’s the case, is the CNN suit (1) an add-on to the first contract, or is it (2) a separate line of effort.

      If (2), is this being funded by new retainer and contract, or are they aiming for a contingency fee?

      • Hika says:

        I guess Trump always has his attorneys on No-Win-No-Fee contracts because that’s the way it works out just about every time. No win for Trump. No fee for the attorneys.

        • Knox Bronson says:

          What kind of idiot lawyer would work on this stupid of a case on contingency?
          This is something I can never wrap my head around: where does Trump find these people to do his bidding? Don’t they look at the brobdingnagian expanse of wreckage in his wake?
          Is there an unlimited supply of them?

          • Hika says:

            I wrote above in jest, but sincerely, there might be some who see the fame or notoriety of working for Trump as something they might to spin to their benefit down the road regardless of remuneration from Trump. Just look at Judge Cannon who is busy burning any semblance of judicial reputation she may have hoped to cultivate utterly to ashes in the hope of some return from political fellow-travellers down the road somewhere sometime. We can all hope that such plans also turn to ashes.
            As to your query about where these fools come from, there does indeed seem to be a limitless supply of people who think they will somehow be smarter at ‘managing’ Trump as their client than the long list of people who have played and lost at that game. [Caveat: not a lawyer, but do have some friends who are indeed lawyers, but not in USA.]

            • Leoghann says:

              That “now I’ll be famous” rationale was pretty clear for Alina Habba. But the rest of these guys–it’s hard to say. Some may have signed on to garner favor with other GQP businessmen with actual deep pockets. But normally one has to win for that to work.

  5. WilliamOckham says:

    This also means that there were boxes (with classified documents) at Mar-a-Lago that Cipollone did not know about when he talked to the Archives.

    • emptywheel says:

      It’s not clear any of the WHCO knew there were classified docs in there.

      But yes, 42 boxes total (15 + 27), and Cip knew of 24.

  6. Nick P says:

    “We know things were very chaotic, as they always are in the course of a one-term transition. This is why the transfer of the Trump electronic records is still ongoing and won’t be complete for several more months. But it is absolutely necessary that we obtain and account for all original Presidential records.”

    Ouch, that “one-term transition” hurt poor Donald!

  7. StevenL says:

    Little typo, Marcy, in teaser blurb-

    Consider replacing first word ‘NARA’ with ‘NARA General Counsel’ – the better to agree with ‘he’ later in sentence

    • Scott Rose says:

      Cannon’s drama may “seem small” but her acts are still impeding the progress of a criminal investigation founded on probable cause.

      • Hika says:

        While also impeding the FBI’s counter-intelligence investigation too, since the materials without classification markings are essential to understanding the context of the materials with classification markings that were at Mar-a-Lago, and may include material that is national defense information and/or classified regardless of not having markings.

  8. bbleh says:

    “Trump apparently thought a building full of archivists would just round up from 15.”

    Wadda you KIDDIN’ me? He met ’em MORE THAN HALFWAY! How generous is THAT? I mean, someone makes an opening offer and you just spot ’em HALF without even arguing? (Much, anyway.)

    I don’t think those people know a damn THING about the Art of the Deal.

  9. punaise says:

    Little boxes by the seaside
    Little boxes filled with tricky taxes
    Little boxes by the seaside
    Little boxes all insane

    There’s a pink one and a green one
    And a blue one and a yellow one
    And they’re all made out of tricky tacky
    And they all look just the same

    And the cartons full of docs’s
    All went to get declassified
    Where they were put in boxes
    And they came out all the same

    And there’s judges and lawyers
    And document custodians
    And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
    And they all look just the same

    • Hika says:

      I come here to read Dr. Wheeler’s articles and learn extra things from commenters who have expertise germain to the topic but your expert contributions are a large and sweet cherry on top.

      • punaise says:

        You’re too kind for indulging this sort of thing. Luckily for me, when one of the “comic relief” positions opened up here, nobody did a background check…

        • Former AFPD says:

          Haha punaise. Thanks for your contributions. I drove through Daly City yesterday on my way to a hike on San Bruno Mountain.

          • punaise says:

            I’ve often wondered if that was an interesting hike. Seems a bit barren and often foggy, but I hear it’s great in wildflower season.

    • Sue 'em Queequeg says:

      Priceless. Thank you. Still laughing at docs’s/boxes. This item not available in rhyming dictionaries!

    • Hika says:

      That was certainly a worthwhile and entertaining read. I was left with the uncomfortable question: Can this argument be sufficient as a defense for Fox against Dominion’s defamation suit? Is there some change in responsibility of the writer/broadcaster when they know that a substantial (how to judge that term, I don’t know) number of their readers/viewers are demonstrably not reasonable readers/viewers with the humor and discernment to ‘get the joke’?

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      Thank you. At once it is funny, brilliant, and pointed. I learned some things about parody.

      The Onion’s motto is central to this brief for two important reasons. First, it’s Latin. And The Onion knows that the federal judiciary is staffed entirely by total Latin dorks: They quote Catullus in the original Latin in chambers. They sweetly whisper “stare decisis” into their spouses’ ears. They mutter “cui bono” under their breath while picking up after their neighbors’ dogs. So The Onion knew that, unless it pointed to a suitably Latin rallying cry, its brief would be operating far outside the Court’s vernacular.

      • Tom-1812 says:

        “… while picking up after our neighbors’ dogs.” Yes, our descendants will marvel at us and say, “Hard to believe. They poisoned the atmosphere, burned down the Amazon, and dumped tons and tons of plastic garbage into the oceans. But they picked up dog poop.”

    • harpie says:

      What this is about:

      Novak v. City of Parma, Ohio, No. 21-3290 (6th Cir. 2022) Argued: April 8, 2022 // Decided and Filed: April 29, 2022

      Justicia: […] Indicted for disrupting police functions, Novak was acquitted. In Novak’s subsequent suit, 42 U.S.C. 1983, the Sixth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants. The officers reasonably believed they were acting within the law. The officers could reasonably believe that some of Novak’s Facebook activity was not parody, not protected, and fair grounds for probable cause.

      2] Ohio Man Arrested and Prosecuted for Facebook Joke Appeals to Supreme Court Novak v. Parma Filed: September 26, 2022

      If the First Amendment means anything, it surely means that an individual can mock the government without fear of being arrested. But that’s exactly what happened to Anthony Novak when he created a parody Facebook page poking fun at his local police department in Parma, Ohio. […]

      • harpie says:

        wrt the 6th Circuit’s: The officers reasonably believed they were acting within the law. The officers could reasonably believe that some of Novak’s Facebook activity was not parody, not protected, and fair grounds for probable cause.

        From The Onion‘s Amicus:

        [pdf15/23] III. A Reasonable Reader Does Not Need A Disclaimer To Know That Parody Is Parody.

        At bottom, parody functions by catering to a reasonable reader—one who can tell (even after being tricked at first) that the parody is not real. If most readers of parody didn’t live up to this robust standard, then there would be nothing funny about the Chinese government believing that a pudgy dictator like Kim Jong-un was the sexiest man on Earth. Everyone would just agree that it was perfectly reasonable for them to be taken in by the headline. […]

  10. fubar jack says:

    I don’t know what to think anymore!! What a legal gong show…450 million dollar tab for CNN for stating the obvious, that tfg is a facist and last week he published a death threat toward Mitch. This is really getting stranger than fiction.
    It’s as if we are reading the screenplay to Idiocracy but written by John Grisham while having a bad acid trip…

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      If only Hunter Thompson were alive to give us his take on the endless, cascading shit show that is Donald Trump…

        • Michael says:

          I’d love to hear Molly Ivins!

          Yes, I remember that Rayne asked me a year or two ago to change my name something rare, butt I am just passing through.

        • Leoghann says:

          Poor Molly would have written her fingers to the bone over the past six years. Consider her reaction to Shrub and multiply ×100.

      • OldTulsaDude says:

        We were a thousand miles out of D.C., on the edge of Mar-a-Lago, when the Adderall kicked in.
        [Too funny. The security algorithm blocked the word “Adderall”; I had to fish this out of the Trash bin. LOL /~Rayne]

        • 4Emilias says:

          Thank you, Rayne, for saving this little gem; and thank you, Old Tulsa Dude, for the cackle that scared the cats. Thompson, Ivins and Richards would be a trifecta; but many of the folks here are great substitutes.

          • Rayne says:

            “Then it was quiet again. My attorney had taken his shirt off and was pouring beer on his chest, to facilitate the tanning process. ‘What the hell are you yelling about?’ he muttered, staring up at the sun with his eyes closed and covered with wraparound Spanish sunglasses.”

            Bloody hell, bmaz, put your damned shirt back on. Nobody needs to see that sharkbait. LOL

      • gharlane says:

        Hunter Thompson would be great… but I’d still rather have Molly Ivins. For our sake, I wish she were alive now to get us all through this. For her sake… well, I hope she’s having a better time now.

      • gmoke says:

        Carl Hiaasen’s novel Squeeze Me parodies Trmp and the missus and their winter White House at “Casa Bellicosa.” Not Hunter S but Hiaasen is no slouch in the humor or political commentary stuff his own self.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    I’m continually impressed with how little knowledge of the law and practice Trump’s lawyers display in their work for Trump. It’s as if the pleadings are drafted by people who’ve just taken the bar exam, not all of whom passed it, or by Donald Trump.

    They discuss, for example, the “Big Lie,” as if Trump never heard of it. I bet a dollar that Trump folds after CNN is granted discovery and pursues the hundreds of ways he has used the Big Lie, as a defense to Trump’s claim that its use regarding him is “false and defamatory per se.” Yeah, and good luck computing actual damages.

    This is how Trump has always used civil litigation. Make outrageous claims, get headlines for the amount he thinks he’s owed, then drop the suit when it comes to piss or get off the pot. I think he’s in the process of learning that that time has passed. The bigger question is what really bad shit is coming down the pike that they feel the need for this dog’s breakfast to distract from it.

    • Rugger9 says:

      I’d like to see how Individual-1 documents the exemplary / punitive damages, since in most courts it can’t be pulled out of thin air. FWIW the 475 M$ seems oddly…specific as well, why not 500 million?

      • whocansay says:

        Doesn’t he still have a loan outstanding around that amount that Deutsche Bank may be tiring of?

        • whocansay says:

          PS – Marcy, meant to comment on your comment here:

          “I don’t really want to get into the weeds (though I do think often she was used to report limited hangouts).”

          I split my sides laughing here- I’ve always thought of this site as “into the weeds”, but in the best possible way, and with the best possible guides. Think I’ve been reading since FDL and Scooter Libby days.

          An hour (or five) spent here is much more informative (and entertaining!) than anywhere on these topics. I think some days I spend the bigger half of my news/ doom scrolling here. Don’t like to skim, like to read seriously to absorb all the info and wit.

          Kudos to all the gang. Would hat tip, but don’t want to leave anyone out. But consider: concise analysis and reporting, some international perspectives, smart legal info for non- lawyers, incredible no nonsense moderation of comments, historical/ social/ politics asides, wit, jokes, and puns, OT comments are always interesting, etc. You all know who you are.

          Sending a long overdue donation, many thanks.

          [can’t find my strikethrough function here, but payment seems more appropriate]

          • Rayne says:

            Thanks very much for your long-time readership and your contribution. Glad this site continues to be entertaining as well as edifying. :-)

    • Arteberry says:

      I strongly suspect CNN will get this case dismissed at the pleading stage. Though, as you point out, with Trump’s history of bogus lawsuits, it’s kind of delicious to consider what the fallout would be if the case were to make it to discovery. It must be frustrating for the defense team to win (or have Trump drop) the case early and thus be denied the sport of deposing Trump.

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      There have been plenty of these lawsuits filed now for us to see the system. By their very form they exhibit scorn for the law and even rules in general. (My guess is that Trump is terrified of rules in any sphere, no matter how inconsequential, and avoids following rules as compulsively as he avoids telling the truth.) At this point, I’m not sure it’s bad lawyering. It seems a way to say, I’m not trying to win legally but I’m the big boss and I’ll get what I want anyway. Give it to me now.

      Or sometimes I think of it as a chaos tactic, or a general tactic to corrupt or attack the institution. It also serves the purpose of thumbing the nose, the main party trick of the likes of Bannon. The nearly illiterate, OFTEN ill-spelled documents, now seen many times over, seem a perfect analog to the illogical, unfocused insurrectionists.

      But it is still so weird that I keep thinking about it. Disrespecting margins, ignoring basic requirements of the law. One thing they still try to avoid is putting outright provable lies into writing. If I read Marcy correctly, Judge Cannon in fact has lies in her rulings. It seems the next logical step. Cannon is the perfect judge to receive these insulting submissions to the court. She speaks their language.

    • Leoghann says:

      I believe you won the jackpot with the last phrase of your first paragraph. He has a long history of dictating reports to professionals and having them sign it.

  12. Klaatu Something says:

    NARA obviously lost those boxes, not Trump. Any assertion otherwise will fail to motivate the sheep

  13. Peterr says:

    And after an extended fight, Trump returned just 15.

    Trump apparently thought a building full of archivists would just round up from 15.

    I can hear Trump now . . . “Hey – it works with all those pesky bankers! They want a bajillion to pay off my loan, I offer a couple of million, and threaten to walk away if they hold out for all of it and they end up with nothing. After some haggling, we meet a lot closer to me than to the bankers. We shake hands, and all walk away happy. What’s wrong with these NARA people?!”

  14. Christenson says:

    Just a quick note: There’s a certain geriatric “but Hillary Clinton doesn’t actually know how to operate a PC — she’s been too busy leading to learn how” vibe to all this — I mean, the DOJ vendor is gonna run a copier/scanner with a good sheet feeder for a week, boom it’s all digital and you can hand the paper (or a digitized copy) to the archivist. However, that seems to have been much too simple for team Trump, who seems to need boxes and boxes of paper files.

  15. Tom-1812 says:

    For Trump, it’s all about “winning”. He’d steal from the collection plate at church and call it “winning”.

    • gmoke says:

      Trmp cashed a check for 13¢ from Spy magazine (which was researching an article* to find the cheapest rich person) and evidently used his “charity” to pay his son’s Boy Scout dues, $7, in 1989.

      *Only Trmp and arms dealer Adnan Kashoggi cashed that 13¢ check from Spy from among all the rich people they sent checks to.

    • Rayne says:

      LOL Are you thinking what I’m thinking, that it might have been one of the first sacrifices to the porcelain throne closest to the Oval Office?

      • harpie says:

        Heh! That’s one of the possibilities!
        I wonder if he sharpied something incriminating on it…and then liked to take it out to look at to make himself feel better in moments of sadness/anger.

  16. Savage Librarian says:

    And then there’s this, too. Dueling Cannons (or canons?):

    “Trump lawyer [Alex Cannon] refused to report all Mar-a-Lago records had been turned in […out of concern that the claim was a lie.]” – Coral Murphy Marcos, The Guardian, 10/4/22

    “Nice and Games — Dueling Cannons [Atari 8bit]”

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