“Lock Him Up!” Trump Calls on Congress to Halt the Criminal Investigation into Joe Biden

Yesterday, four Trump lawyers sent House Intelligence Chair Mike Turner a really risky letter. CNN first reported on the letter.

Boris Epshteyn, who had allegedly been leading Trump’s defense in that investigation, did not sign the letter.

The letter responds to the news that Turner and other Gang of 8 members have recently been given access to the documents found at Donald Trump, Joe Biden, and Mike Pence’s properties.

We understand that DOJ is making the documents marked classified available for your review, and this letter provides the Committee with information that we suspect DOJ has not disclosed to it.

It doesn’t cite its source of information about those reviews, which is one way to obscure that the Gang of 8 actually began to get such access by April 11, two weeks ago.

Since Mike Turner and other Gang of 8 members started reviewing the documents, two things have happened.

First, Joe Biden announced his reelection campaign, without waiting on Special Counsel Robert Hur to report the results of his investigation into Biden for mishandling classified information.

And, about a month after Evan Corcoran testified in a crime-fraud excepted appearance before the grand jury, Boris Epshteyn spent two days last week chatting with Jack Smith’s prosecutors. (Like Epshteyn, Corcoran did not sign this letter, but that’s because his partners forced him to recuse from the investigation after he testified.) Even though Epshteyn has been a likely source for a lot of the press reports on the various investigations into which he has or had visibility, I’m not aware of any report describing his testimony, much less why he testified without any report of a subpoena.

Contemplate the significance of the first item — Biden’s reelection announcement — as you consider the purported point of the letter. Donald Trump — the guy who won the presidency with non-stop chants of “Lock her up!” in 2016 — claims to think that an investigation analogous to the one that targeted Hillary Clinton in 2015 to 2016 is improper.

A legislative solution by Congress is required to prevent the DOJ from continuing to conduct ham-handed criminal investigations of matters that are inherently not criminal.


What is consistent in all three of these cases is that the document handling procedures in the White House are flawed and DOJ is not the appropriate agency to conduct investigations pertaining to the mishandling or spillage of classified material.


The solution to these issues is not a misguided, politically infected, and severely botched criminal investigation, but rather a legislative solution. DOJ should be ordered to stand down, and the intelligence community should instead conduct an appropriate investigation and provide a full report to this Committee, as well as your counterparts in the Senate. Armed with the appropriate knowledge, we respectfully suggest that your Committee hold hearings and make legislative changes to:

1. Correct classified document handling procedures in the White House;

2. Standardize document handling and storage procedures for Presidents and Vice Presidents when they leave office; and

3. Formalize procedures for investigations into the mishandling or spillage of classified material, to prevent future situations where DOJ is inappropriately assigned to conduct an investigation.

President Trump’s legal team would be happy to meet with you or your staff to assist in any way necessary to address these issues. Please know that despite the differences in the cases, we do not believe that any of these three matters should be handled by DOJ as a criminal case. Rather, the stakeholders to these matters should set aside political differences and work together to remediate this issue and help to enhance our national security in the process. [my emphasis]

Donald Trump is asking Congress to intervene to halt not just into the investigation into him — and make no mistake, that is what he’s doing. But he’s also asking Congress to halt the investigation into his opponent!

Having won the presidency in 2016 by demanding the investigation into Hillary be more punitive, he’s now asking Congress to halt the investigation into Joe Biden.

Having won the presidency in 2016 by succeeding in highlighting Hillary’s negligence for mishandling classified information, Trump now wants to forego the opportunity to pursue the same approach in 2024.

At the very least, that’s a pretty good sign that he and his lawyers don’t believe their own claims that the known facts about Biden’s mishandling of classified information are worse than the known facts about Trump’s.

4 Of course, we also recently learned from media reports that President Biden possessed
marked documents in a “personal” folder at the Penn-Biden Center – strong evidence
that he intentionally possessed then after he or someone else secretly removed them,
from the Senate SCIF at least 14 years earlier when he was the Senator from Delaware.
We also now know that after DOJ learned about President Biden’s possession of
classified documents at the Penn-Biden Center, it allowed his personal attorneys to
search for and collect documents from his residence in Delaware making the specific
locations of the documents in the residence difficult, and perhaps impossible, to
determine. And, it has since been publicly reported that there could be even more
classified documents in the 1,850 boxes that Mr. Biden shipped to the University of
Delaware in 2012. https://www.cnn.com/2-23/02/15/politics/biden-delawaresearch/index.html. DOJ’s reaction to all of this is stunningly different from how it
responded to President Trump’s offer of cooperation regarding the boxes stored at Mara-Largo. [sic: Trump’s lawyers misspell Mar-a-Lago in several different ways in the letter]


When documents were found in President Joseph Biden’s Penn-Biden Center office, despite clear indicators that his violations were more likely the result of willful misconduct, DOJ treated him very differently by forgoing any attempts at manufacturing conflict, while implicitly approving the spoliation of evidence.

The applicable criminal statute prohibits “willful retention” of national defense information, not mere possession. See 18 U.S. § 793 (e). To prove willful retention, a prosecutor must first establish that the possession was knowing. Despite media spin to the contrary, this is the key element that distinguishes President Trump’s retention of documents from that by President Biden. Evidence of knowing possession can be readily inferred from the length of time that President Biden possessed the marked documents since leaving office and the fact that they were moved and stored at multiple locations. In comparison, the materials found at Mar-a-Lago were still stored in the same GSA boxes in which they left the White House, untouched in the relatively short time since the end of President Trump’s term. Perhaps the most damning fact for President Biden is that he possessed marked documents from his time in the Senate—a body that maintains all marked documents in a SCIF, unlike the White House. Further, as you are no doubt aware and as mentioned earlier in this letter, media reports have indicated that classified documents were contained in a folder labeled “personal,”8 which is much more powerful evidence of knowing retention than documents being randomly dispersed into boxes by moving teams.

8 See, e.g., Jamie Gangel et al., “Exclusive: U.S. intelligence materials related to Ukraine, Iran and UK found in Biden’s private office, source tells CNN,” CNN (Jan. 10, 2023), https://www.cnn.com/2023/01/10/politics/biden-classified-documents-iran-ukraineunited-kingdom-beau-funeral/index.html.

There is not a chance in hell that Trump would forgo an opportunity to make this race about Biden’s mishandling of classified information if he really believed that Biden’s “violations were more likely the result of willful misconduct.”

Not a chance in hell!

But then, there’s abundant reason to believe that the four lawyers know they’re blowing smoke (to Congress). Heck, I’m so sure of it I think Mark Warner should invite all four of them to give sworn testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

There are the claims this letter makes that conflict with known testimony, such as that Trump didn’t review any of the documents in the boxes ultimately returned to the Archives.

However, due to other demands on his time, President Trump subsequently directed his staff to ship the boxes to NARA without any review by him or his staff.

There are the claims this letter makes that conflict with known details about the case, such as that, because Trump was too busy starting an insurrection, he didn’t have the ability to send his documents to a GSA-leased facility.

When President Trump left office, there was little time to prepare for the outgoing transition from the presidency. Unlike his three predecessors, each of whom had over four years to prepare for their departure upon completion of their second term, President Trump had a much shorter time to wind up his administration. White House staffers and General Service Administration (“GSA”) employees quickly packed everything into boxes and shipped them to Florida. This was a stark change from the standard preparations made by GSA and National Archives and Records Administration (“NARA”) for prior administrations. As NARA acknowledged in a Press Statement it issued on October 11, 2022:

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in accordance with the Presidential Records Act, assumed physical and legal custody of the Presidential records from the administrations of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, when those Presidents left office. NARA securely moved these records to temporary facilities that NARA leased from the General Services Administration (GSA), near the locations of the future Presidential Libraries that former Presidents built for NARA. All such temporary facilities met strict archival and security standards, and have been managed and staffed exclusively by NARA employees.2

Investigators paid by the lead writer of this letter, Tim Parlatore, found two additional documents with classification marks in what is reportedly a GSA-leased facility in Florida.

Lawyers for Donald Trump found at least two items marked classified after an outside team hired by Trump searched a storage unit in West Palm Beach, Fla., used by the former president, according to people familiar with the matter.


Emails released by the General Services Administration, which assists former presidents during their transition to private life, show that the government agency helped rent the storage unit at a private facility in West Palm Beach on July 21, 2021. The unit was needed to store items that had been held at an office in Northern Virginia used by Trump staffers in the months just after he left office.

There’s the claim that DOJ dictated the timing of the June 3 document pick-up, when the record shows Evan Corcoran called FBI and told them to come down the next day.

Ultimately, President Trump’s legal team complied with DOJ’s demands, performing as diligent a search as they could by Mr. Bratt’s arbitrary deadline, and submitted a certification that affirmed the same.

And this letter repeats a bullshit claim that Trump’s lawyers have chanted from the start of his attempts to sucker the press: that the only thing Jay Bratt requested after he had seen the storage room at Mar-a-Lago was to put a lock on the facility.

Although Mr. Corcoran told the DOJ representatives that they were not going to go through boxes together that day, he fully expected DOJ to ask to return to Mar-a-Largo and examine all the boxes. Mr. Bratt reinforced this belief when, five days later, he wrote to Mr. Corcoran requesting that an additional lock be placed on the door. The lock was soon installed, and the boxes kept under lock and key in a facility guarded by armed Secret Service agents.

It’s like Tim Parlatore thinks Mike Turner’s staffers are too stupid to review the unsealed affidavit, which reveals that Bratt’s letter says something else entirely: that the storage facility is not a secure facility authorized to store classified documents.

As I previously indicated to you, Mar-a-Lago does not include a secure location authorized for the storage of classified information. As such, it appears that since the time classified documents (the ones recently provided and any and all others) were removed from the secure facilities at the White House and moved to Mar-a-Lago on or around January 20, 202 1, they have not been handled in an appropriate manner or stored in an approptiate location. Accordingly, we ask that the room at Mar-a-Lago where the documents had been stored be secured and that all of 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.

Because the staffers that deal with this document have security clearance they surely want to keep, they’ll undoubtedly know that this is a reference to CFR standards for storage, not a request to add an almost certainly non-compliant lock.

And that’s why I think this letter was ill-advised.

These are just the obvious, affirmatively false things in the letter. There’s a whole bunch more that Trump’s lawyers simply ignore, such as the surveillance video showing Trump’s staffers moving boxes out of the storage facility in advance of the search they’re claiming here was a diligent search or the fact that FBI found 70-some classified documents in the storage facility of which Corcoran had claimed to have done a diligent search.

The only way this document could have the desired effect is if Mike Turner likes being lied to, or is so in the tank that — like Richard Burr before him — he’s willing to risk his own legal exposure to obstruct a criminal investigation.

And that’s assuming Warner didn’t subpoena any or all of these lawyers to repeat these farcical claims to Congress under oath.

All that’s before you consider the asymmetry. Trump’s lawyers — just one of whom (they admit) actually has clearance — acknowledge they have no fucking clue what FBI caught Trump hoarding.

Despite our requests to DOJ, it has refused to tell us whether in its judgment any of the documents remain classified. Similarly, DOJ has refused to allow for inspection of the documents at any time during the last eight months despite the fact that one of our attorneys has sufficient clearance to view the majority of the documents marked as classified.

Mike Turner does know.

Trump’s lawyers claim — or rather confess — that among the files he originally had in his beach resort were call briefings with foreign officials, just like the ones hidden from Congress in the first impeachment.

The vast majority of the placeholder inserts refer to briefings for phone calls with foreign leaders that were located near the schedule for those calls.

Again, I can only imagine how stupid Parlatore thinks Turner’s staffers are to confess this.

But even I know that many of the things Trump kept after DOJ subpoenaed them are not similar. Even I know that Trump compiled two classified documents with messages from a pollster, a book author, and a faith leader. And Mike Turner has reviewed these documents and he knows it too. And I know that he knows it.

So unless Mike Turner is totally in the tank for Trump — worse even than Burr was! — this letter risks pissing Turner off.

Last month, before Evan Corcoran was forced to give crime-fraud excepted testimony against Trump and before Boris Epshteyn spent two days chatting with Jack Smith’s prosecutors, Tim Parlatore — lead author of this insulting letter — said the following about Epshteyn’s role in the stolen documents case.

Mr. Epshteyn’s legal role with Mr. Trump, while less often focused on gritty legal details, has been to try to serve as a gatekeeper between the lawyers on the front lines and the former president, who is said to sometimes roll his eyes at the frequency of Mr. Epshteyn’s calls but picks up the phone.

“Boris has access to information and a network that is useful to us,” said one of the team’s lawyers, Timothy Parlatore, whom Mr. Epshteyn hired. “It’s good to have someone who’s a lawyer who is also inside the palace gates.”

Mr. Parlatore suggested that he was not worried that Mr. Epshteyn, like a substantial number of other Trump lawyers, had become at least tangentially embroiled in some of the same investigations on which he was helping to defend Mr. Trump.

“Absent any solid indication that Boris is a target here, I don’t think it affects us,” Mr. Parlatore said.

Neither Corcoran nor Epshteyn signed this letter. It’s not yet clear why Epshteyn didn’t.

And that’s as telling as the embarrassing false claims that it makes.

35 replies
  1. Derek_27APR2023_1841h says:

    Masterful analysis per usual Ms. Wheeler. Thank you for helping us layfolk follow along.

    [Welcome to emptywheel. Please choose and use a unique username with a minimum of 8 letters. We are moving to a new minimum standard to support community security. Because your username is far too short and/or common it will be temporarily changed to match the date/time of your first know comment until you have a new compliant username. Thanks. /~Rayne]

  2. Clare Kelly says:

    Thank you for the analysis and…the many stress relieving snort laugh opportunities contained herein.

    I particularly enjoyed the exclamation mark after the second “not a chance in hell”.

    • Seashell says:

      So I snorted at “DOJ should be ordered to stand down…” as if Mike Turner has magic fairy power to do that.

      And I spell it Mag-a-Loco.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      My favorite was EW drily noting the many different ways Trump’s lawyers spelled Mar-a-Lago. Different spelling attempts: the last refuge of a scoundrel, or a fifth-grader, but in this case I think we have to go with the former. Geeze Louise, guys, don’t you have someone to proofread your junk?

  3. tje.esq@23 says:

    “Again, I can only imagine how stupid Parlatore thinks Turner’s staffers are to confess this.”

    … the authors are out of touch with the intelligence and industriousness of Turner’s staff (and Congressional staff in general), and clearly have never watched just how exasperated Turner has been in his on screen interviews (Sunday shows, CNN, and even on Fox News) when discussing the loosy-goosy doc handling of two or more former administrations’ top officials. He’s already 10 steps ahead of their suggestion to consider legislatively trying to establish doc handling rules for the executive branch (another thing that might irritate him about the letter).

    Which to me implies this letter, while addressed to Turner and CCed to gang of eight, is actually not being written for Congress’ benefit. It is being written to placate and appease an audience of one….. who does not read himself, so he will not know that “he” has said a Hillary-like investigation is illegitimate.

    • Greg Hunter says:

      So are you saying that Mike Turner was already pushing document oversight reform?

      I have not watched his appearances on these shows, as he is and always has been vacuous.

      Cheney is gone and he represents the “best” messenger they have left that appears to be rational.

  4. dark winter says:

    oh the tangled web we weave when at first we don’t succeed…
    I’m so utterly sick of this shit. clicking heels and chanting.

    thank you for helping me understand it all…I think? lol

  5. Peterr says:

    From the letter:

    The lock was soon installed, and the boxes kept under lock and key in a facility guarded by armed Secret Service agents.

    Uh, no. The US Secret Service guards Donald J. Trump, not storage rooms and other parts of Mar-a-Lago (save when it impacts their ability to guard their protectee).

    • Shadowalker says:

      Indeed. They are treasury agents after all, and the only paper they would protect comes from the Fed presses. The bureau was originally created in 1865 to combat the rampant counterfeiting at the time. After the assassination of President McKinley in 1901 they were also tasked with protecting the President.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Indeed, the USSS is no longer part of the Treasury Dept. It is part of Homeland Security. (Or, as I used to say, der Heimatsicherheitsdienst.) Dick Cheney was a key figure behind the reorganization in 2002, in part, in an attempt to gut federal employee unions.)

      • Peterr says:

        Probably a skeleton crew, working with the ordinary Mar-a-Lago security to see that no one comes in and, for example, plants a bomb in his bedroom for when he returns.

  6. Molly Pitcher says:

    For Rayne, I know you have had a great interest in Trumps gold courses. I think this article addresses them, plus a LOT of other foreign money.

    It is from CREW: Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

    “Trump made up to $160 M from Foreign Countries while President”


    • Rayne says:

      Thanks for that, Molly. I think that number is on the light side but I don’t know if we’ll ever have a chance to crack open the golf resorts to find out just how off $160M is from Trump’s real take.

  7. pdaly says:

    OT: I saw the video footage of former VP Pence’s 2 person motorcade going through a red-light after his 5+ hours testimony before the grand jury.

    I noticed Pence’s motorcade headed into the 3rd St. NW tunnel at the Frances Perkins Building fountain entrance/visitors entrance of the Dept of Labor. It is the same tunnel used on Jan 6 by the “Grand Theft Auto GolfCart” Oath Keeper insurrectionists, albeit in reverse direction.


  8. David F. Snyder says:

    7 years of this type of malarkey. I’m hoping Warner turns up the heat for this ridiculous shit.

  9. Franktoo says:

    Does this tactic mean that Trump and his attorneys have run out of other legal strategies to prevent Jack Smith from indicting him?

    • David F. Snyder says:

      It would seem so. Now that the inner circle is testifying without privilege, we can see that the RICO strategy is working. The rat is cornered. The submitted “testimony” is not under oath (as of yet); they’re still trying to spin alternative facts for the base.

      • bmaz says:

        RICO is not doing jack shit. And talk about it is beyond lame. Why in the world do people keep going to that lunacy?

        • CoolXenu says:

          Because it sounds so suavé?


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      • Rugger_9 says:

        Conspiracy sends someone to jail long enough. It’s not RICO until Popehat says it is as an independent arbiter.

        Most of the time it’s tossed around like clickbait for gangsta references.

  10. Rugger_9 says:

    Warner will have to dig, because Turner will not for a couple of reasons. There’s Reagan’s 11th Commandment (‘Thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Republican’), the swirling of Desantis’ campaign giving the GOP no viable alternative to Defendant-1 holding the MAGA base for them, and the example of the purging of Liz Cheney (as well as other GOP types) for not voting against the impeachments in blind lockstep. Turner might slow-walk this but he will not pursue it.

  11. Wheely Curious says:

    Can anyone explain why asking the legislature to intervene in a grand jury investigation isn’t obstruction of justice? Four lawyers conspired in writing a letter. A conspiracy’s failure shouldn’t exonerate.

    Is it just not a crime?

    Maybe, but weaksauce?

    Not worth some potential delay?

    Looks bad politically?

    Please give me a clue here.

    • Rugger_9 says:

      It’s stupid and tips Defendant-1’s hand about how worried he really is here. It’s also premature, since nothing has been charged yet by SC Smith.

      Whether it’s obstruction is going to be debated, since what we’d see as obstruction would be seen as ‘preventing a miscarriage of justice’ by the RWNM. It’s similar to the SEAL CPO pardon by Def’t-1 or more recently TX Governor Abbott’s potential pardon of the guy who killed a BLM protestor in cold blood before he’d been sentenced. In the latter case Abbott said the ‘stand your ground’ law overruled the jury finding (12-0) for murder. However, the BLM protestor also had a right to open carry in TX.

  12. Bugboy321 says:

    “And that’s why I think this letter was ill-advised.”
    The entire letter reads as if it was dictated by Trump himself, and is totally in character for him to assume he knows better than his attorneys about who is stupid enough to buy the magic beans, and who is not. Additionally, the letter’s intended audience very likely wasn’t even Congress, but Trump himself. What’s he trying to do? What he’s always done to evade the consequences of his actions…

  13. Buzzkill Stickinthemud says:

    I did not know this, but Trump was forced to accidentally take secret documents because it was NARA’s fault:

    Whether NARA’s departure from routine pack-out procedures for President Trump was intentional or a product of the compressed timeline, it did not take custody of the documents and this made necessary the transfer of boxes of documents to President Trump’s heavily secured home at Mara-a-Largo. To be clear, had NARA offered President Trump the same assistance that it had provided to all previous Presidents, he would have accepted the offer and there would have been no reason to transfer the documents to Mar-a-Lago.

    So you see, Trump is innocent and this is all a big misunderstanding.

    • P J Evans says:

      That’s a disingenuous argument. The custody passed legally, automatically, when he left office. NARA couldn’t get physical custody because he ignored the requests and lied to them and to DOJ.

      • bmaz says:

        This is why the documents case always belonged in DC. The crime spree started the second the docs rolled off the WH grounds on a truck. Trump was responsible for that. Full stop.

      • Buzzkill Stickinthemud says:

        Hope folks are not taking my comment seriously. Blaming NARA is just another whiny-ass made up excuse from the “I’m being treated unfairly” former president.

    • Rayne says:

      This is the Brock “I fell into her drunken vagina” Turner of excuses.

      The presidential records and classified documents fell into Mar-a-Lago.

      The classified documents revealing other quid pro quos with foreign leaders just happened to get shuffled off the POTUS’ desk.

      And now the defense team just happened to hit on a method of obstruction by way of the GOP-led House among which are possible co-conspirators.

      • Rugger_9 says:

        I think that first excuse is also what Arnold Schwarzenegger used to explain how he got his housekeeper pregnant. Still bullshit.

        Also, there are unconfirmed reports that non-public DoJ information was ‘inadvertently’ revealed. Depending on what it is (i.e. GJ topics might qualify) that by itself could be a crime, but there is never anything ‘inadvertent’ in a release like this. Someone is engaged in graymail.

  14. timbozone says:

    Truly telling is their attempting to argue that other Presidents recently have had two terms to figure out how to handle classified documents when they leave. Pretty sure Federal laws and rules having to do with classified documents have zero to do with whether you get another term as President or not. The whole thing points to the growing incompetence of the GOP generally and specifically about national security issues and the magical thinking of some on the right that feel that they don’t need to hold them or the people they support responsible to the rule-of-law, take due diligence and care, etc.

  15. e.a. foster says:

    All of this is serious business and thank you for explaining and outlining the events.

    On the other hand when I read Trump’s lawyers had written the letter, it caused me to laugh hysterically. O.K. Trump is desperate and if he can get them to back off of the others, they’d have to roll him into the carpet also, he hopes.

    Some day some one is going to make a movie about all of this or a limited t.v. series. If I hadn’t watched all of this happen, I would not believe this all happened in the U.S.A.

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