Trump’s Secret Document, with the Post-Administration Pollster Communication, in His Desk Drawer

In Trump’s stolen document case, the two sides have submitted disputes to Special Master Raymond Dearie. Because some earlier documents remain sealed (because of the hurricane, DOJ says), the most descriptive document included is this one, laying out disputes.

The two sides are fighting over whether Trump’s notes on clippings and briefing books are presidential documents (both are squarely within the Presidential Records Act definition).

The most interesting description in the document pertains to one particular item over which the two sides are fighting: a “compilation” of two classified documents, with three communications that post-date when he left the White House.

This document is a compilation that includes three documents that post-date Plaintiff’s term in office and two classified cover sheets, one SECRET and the other CONFIDENTIAL. Because Plaintiff can only have received the documents bearing classification markings in his capacity as President, the entire mixed document is a Presidential record.

Besides the classified cover sheets, which were inserted by the FBI in lieu of the actual documents, none of the remaining communications in the document are confidential presidential communications that might be subject to a claim of executive privilege. Three communications are from a book author, a religious leader, and a pollster. The first two cannot be characterized as presidential advisers and all three are either dated or by content occurred after Plaintiff’s administration ended.

This passage explains something I was wondering from the inventory: how DOJ accounted for the classified documents in the Bates numbers. The answer is that FBI included cover sheets to mark where the classified documents were, so they count in the running Bates count.

This particular document (or “compilation”) was in a desk drawer in Trump’s office. (We know that because the Bates number appears in Item 4, the box of stuff from the desk drawer, in the main inventory. Aside from the Roger Stone clemency, this was the only document outside of the leatherbound box with classified documents in Trump’s office.

The compilation, as found in the desk drawer, includes:

  • A Secret document
  • A Confidential document
  • A communication that post-dates Trump’s administration, from a book author
  • A communication that post-dates Trump’s administration, from a religious leader
  • A communication that post-dates Trump’s administration, from a pollster

The secrets involved here are nowhere near as sensitive as the stuff in Trump’s leatherbound box, which stored the most sensitive documents. Confidential documents like the one in this compilation are often State Department cables.

But in some ways this document is more damning: because it shows he was commingling stolen classified documents with his ongoing affairs after leaving the White House. It gets far closer to showing that Trump was using government secrets for his own personal affairs even after he left the White House.

18 replies
  1. P J Evans says:

    I do hope they nail him on having docs that should have been turned over to NARA in January last year. With a strong reminder that he stopped being president since then, and executive privilege stopped then, too.

  2. Arteberry says:

    You helpfully provided a link to the government’s letter to Judge Dearie (ECF 176-1) laying out the parties’ respective positions on the categorization and privilege status of certain documents. An intriguing surprise, more of literary than legal interest, appears at p.7 of the letter. The government states that dicta in the Judicial Watch case (upon which Trump relies for his personal property claims) “provide no authority to automagically recharacterize documents….” I guess I was struck by the portmanteau, “automagically.” I see from some quick research that it is a bit of slang from the tech world. I wonder if Team Garland employed the term by accident or as deliberate whimsy, if only to get Judge Dearie to keep reading. To me, the term sort of fits the point being made and it’s not really that flamboyant—except by comparison with the super buttoned-up prose in every other sentence the DOJ has written for this case.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Thank you, arteberry, for that catch. My brain skimmed right over it, and it’s truly wonderful as a sign that even legal language can evolve with the times and the circumstances. I now plan to use it ten times ASAP to make it part of my own vocabulary.

  3. Tom-1812 says:

    So as with an archaeological dig, the documentary artefacts found together in Trump’s desk drawer provide evidence of their importance to the user and how he used them in his daily life.

  4. Leu2500 says:

    Didn’t DoJ also argue in court that commingling of personal documents post dating his presidency with classified documents shows that he accessed the classified docs after his presidency, when he had no need to know, etc

  5. Savage Librarian says:

    An author, a minister, and a pollster walk into a Barr…

    Author = Dinesh D’Souza? Or, technically, it could be Roger Stone?

    Minister = Franklin Graham or Jerry Falwell, Jr.?

    Pollster = Tony Fabrizio?

  6. e. a. foster says:

    “trump using government….. for his own personal use, that sounds about right. Its always about him and what he can get to further his own interests even at the expensive of his own country. We can only hope he is convicted on something regarding his taking government documents when he left his position as President.

    When the news first came out about his taking documents, it blew my mind on one hand. Like who does that kind of stuff and then of course I thought, yes that is the sort of thing he’d do to advance his own interests.

  7. says:

    If revenge plotting was included in the desk drawer: author Mary Trump and minister Russell Moore would be my guess.

    Falwell Jr is not a minister, but I could see him being characterized as such. And easy to let your mind wander if J. Edgar Hoover types in Trumps’s Gov’t got interested in Falwell’s “pool boy” matters (that Trump in 2016 had tapped Michael Cohen to make disappear). Investigate, get a report written up, and keep it around in case you can use it later.

    I could also see the minister being Russell Moore, as much as Trump hated him. The Southern Baptist convention was really in the news a lot from Jan. 2021 thru early 2022 too, so top of mind, perhaps.

    I definitely agree the pollster has to be Fabrizio. Perhaps Trump scrawled on Fabrizio’s autopsy of the 2020 loss, a 20+ page powerpoint, obtained by Politico in Feb. 2021. Politico’s exclusive also includes a link to the 70+ page summer 2020 “you must right the ship” report where Fabrizio tells Trump he’s losing.

  8. L. A. Green says:

    Thanks for always being the voice of reason while the world screams about an indictment. It is so short-sighted and dangerous, and bonus learned automagically!

  9. pseudonymous in nc says:

    From time to time I think about how Biden must receive intel briefings on secrets that are no longer secret where the most plausible explanation is that the former guy “declassified” them to someone. And I think about how he has never said a word about it.

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