Trump’s Nuclear Documents Were Mixed with Post-Presidential Press Clippings

Some of the most interesting documents from the exhibits released with Trump’s motion to compel discovery yesterday pertain to the review of the original 15 documents returned in January 2022. This email thread within NARA describes an initial review of the documents. And these tables describe what the FBI found on initial review.

Together, they go a long way to describing why FBI had to pursue a criminal, rather than just a countrintelligence, investigation.

The initial review was written on January 18, the same day the 15 boxes arrived in DC. That initial review and a follow-up confirmed that NARA had received the things they had originally asked for: the weather map that Trump had altered, plus an accordian folder including the other documents they were seeking.

There was one accordian folder in the mess so it stood out. It contained, among other things, the Obama letter and North Korea correspondence. We need to verify that all of the correspondence is in there. But I think we are in good shape.

But even before discovering that, the person who wrote the memo described how an initial glance revealed classified documents, and a closer look after moving the boxes to a SCIF revealed news clippings that post-dated Trump’s presidency.

My plan was to glance into each box before I shelved it so I could give y’all a high level overview. As I fanned through the pile of newspapers at the top of the first box, I found several unfoldered classified docs in between some of the newspapers. So I took all the boxes to the SCIF. The first box I picked up in the SCIF had a newspaper on top that was post 1/20/2021. At that point I decided to take a closer look in each box to see if there are other issues that you three, David, and Deb might want to know about sooner than later.

From the start then, NARA knew that someone else at Mar-a-Lago had been accessing classified information after the end of his presidency.

For comparison, the FBI found that there were post-VP folders in a box with the Afghan documents at the core of Robert Hur’s investigation into Biden’s classified documents, but those were separate folders.

The person described that most of those classified documents — as claimed by Trump’s lawyers — were “state briefing papers and briefing cards” prepping Trump to talk to foreign leaders. But they “saw several docs that I think are PDBs” and “also found an incredibly sensitive SAP [Special Access Program] document.”

The person also found several things that Congress had requested.

I did see some material related to 1/6 and COVID. And at close glance I believe one of the classified docs is responsive to a third Congressional request. So we will need to review all of these boxes.

In other words, from the start there were two reasons for NARA to look more closely: the classified documents, but also the documents that Congress had already requested.

The FBI report, done a month later, provides three tables categorizing the classified documents found in those boxes. The single SAP document found by the NARA person, for example, is a 6-page memo dated to 2019.

In box 3, the FBI found three FRD (Formerly Restricted, an Atomic Energy Act designation that Presidents cannot override by themselves) documents totalling 57 pages.

All the FRD documents date to November 12, 2019, so they may pertain to Iran’s decision to resume enrichment at their Fordow facility announced on November 6.

Behrouz Kamalvandi, spokesman for the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, said on Nov. 6 that 696 of the centrifuges allowed at Fordow would be used for enriching uranium up to 4.5 percent uranium-235, slightly above the 3.67 percent U-235 limit set by the deal. The remaining 348 machines will be used for medical isotope production, he said.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed in its Nov. 11 report that Iran began enrichment at the site on Nov. 9.

This is the fourth step Tehran has taken in breach of its JCPOA commitments over the past six months. In May 2019, Rouhani said Iran would “reduce compliance” with its nuclear obligations under the deal in response to the Trump administration’s withdrawal from the deal in May 2018 and its reimposition of sanctions in violation of the accord. (See ACT, June 2019.)

The other parties to the deal (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the European Union) criticized Iran’s decision, but said they remain committed to preserving the nuclear deal.

In a Nov. 11 joint statement, the foreign ministers of France, Germany, the UK and the EU foreign chief said the Fordow decision “represents a regrettable acceleration of Iran’s disengagement” from its commitments under the nuclear deal.

The FBI noted that the single NATO document, a slide dated two days after the FRD ones, would trigger treaty obligations.

I argued in October 2022 that Trump’s strategy with these 15 boxes curated personally by Trump appear to mirror Trump’s disinformation strategy generally: to bury his crimes behind literal and figurative press clippings. It sounds like these initial documents actually had a higher proportion of press clippings than the documents ultimately seized in the Mar-a-Lago search.

But he tripped up: By including post-presidential clippings amid his nuclear documents, Trump gave investigators more reason to look, rather than less.

128 replies
  1. BRUCE F COLE says:

    Stupid question: can fingerprints be retrieved from paper items? It seems to me that knowing if anyone other than Trump had handled the docs would be important to know, even if such info isn’t reflected in the charging documents, especially if there were unknown actors involved.

      • wetzel-rhymes-with says:

        Some of these materials include items certain to become historical artifacts such as Trump’s sharpie weather map, which is likely the single most absurd moment in the history of the American Presidency. Wouldn’t any competent archivist wear gloved hands to handle Presidential materials? If not, if another form of evidence shows an individual definitely handled the documents, such as another individual’s testimony, could the absence of their fingerprints on any documents have admissible grounds of evidence of gloved hands as a pattern of concealment and a clue to conspiracy? People like Nauta don’t have any training, but probably not, I think, because any competent person handling Presidential materials would put gloves on their hands and absence of evidence is not usually a form of evidence, I think, because the absence of traces is always hard to attribute.

        • wetzel-rhymes-with says:

          That wasn’t very clear. I’m not sure how to frame the issue properly in legal terms, but suppose video taped evidence provides direct evidence a person handled the materials from a particular box, but their fingerprints are not found on the materials. Depending on the anticipated likelihood of finding fingerprints, which depends on state-of-the-art in forensics, could the absence of fingerprints be used as evidence they were wearing gloves? The question occurred to me because, if so, there may be certain contexts in which wearing gloves would be evidence of a pattern of concealment, such as if that person person never wore gloves for similar jobs or it’s not normal for the job. Why did they choose to wear gloves today? Did anybody ask them to make sure they wore gloves? That kind of thing.

          It’s the kind of structure of evidence that wouldn’t, on its face, prove anything but would give rise to a logical inference that an intention to conceal did exist, such as you would have in a conspiracy to conceal the mishandling of classified documents. The defense could counter this is normal for any archivist handling Presidential records. That’s true, but it’s preposterous anybody at Mar-a-Lago ever gave half a shit what a finger print does over 1000 years on normal paper. You’re supposed to wear gloves handling historically significant documents, so in that sense we shouldn’t expect there to be fingerprints, but if there aren’t fingerprints, because they are all dopes about curation technique, the absence of fingerprints would be evidence of intention to conceal their activities. I believe this type of structure of circumstantial evidence can be used to premise lines of questioning in criminal prosecutions and certainly is used in investigations to premise lines of questioning, so I was trying to draw this out in the previous comment, but it was written too much with the thoughts and not properly edited after I had them.

        • Rayne says:

          I’m letting this through but I’m cautioning you, wetzel, because I know you know better that this kind of overlong comment will trigger problems.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      If Trump’s fingerprints were found on post-presidency clippings, it only means he handled the clippings. It doesn’t establish when, or that he, rather than someone else, interleaved them with classified documents.

      But it does provide an investigative lead that might produce evidence that he did interleave them, which means he handled classified documents when he was no longer authorized to do so. That would go to his knowledge and intent, mishandling, and unauthorized use.

      • David F. Snyder says:

        Well, we have audio evidence that he touched one in Bedminster during the interview with Meadows’ writing team.

    • Martin Cooper says:

      Fingerprints are only useful if they can be compared with those on record in a database such as the FBI maintains, or if you have the person whose fingerprints you want to match against in custody, or perhaps collected a suspect’s fingerprints surreptitiously, say from something they handled. Hence, fingerprints of a hypothetical unknown actor, especially a foreign actor, might be impossible to match and identify. I think I recall that Trump was fingerprinted in the Georgia case but I’m not certain.

      actor, especially a foreign actir I think I recall that Trump was fingerprinted in the Georgia case but I’m not sure,

      • BRUCE F COLE says:

        Still and all, an unknown set of prints adds a level of harm that Trump would be liable for, assuming that anyone with clearance to view, say, a top secret document would have their prints on file. Therefore, an unknown fingerprint indicates a further security breach beyond just “insecure storage facility” with respect to a given document.

        Of course we might assume that a foreign spy at the “MAL top secrets flea market” would use gloves while taking photos of a doc, but there is a whole universe of other scenarios that could result in further harm to US security interests which unattributed prints would point toward — including spies realizing that that level of insecurity makes some aspects of typical spycraft almost irrelevant.

  2. BryanInWNC says:

    “ All the FRD documents date to November 12, 2019, so they may pertain to Iran’s decision to resume enrichment at their Fordow facility announced on November 6.”

    I believe that foreign development of nuclear weapons would be a subclass of RD known as Transclassified Foreign Nuclear Information (TFNI) where the DOE and the IC are jointly responsible for the information. FRD is military use — the things that the military needs to know in order to use nuclear weapons. FRD and TFNI were created so that military personnel and the IC did not need DOE Q clearances. Since Iran does not (?) currently have an operational weapon, documents about Iran would likely be about the details of their program to develop one and would be TFNI. S/FRD would probably be military planning since secret is likely too low of a classification for IC data. All of this is very much under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended….

    • Lit_eray says:

      Minor nit: It is not a subclass of RD. TFNI is data that has been removed from RD classification, or otherwise determined as TFNI, for use by the intelligence community. For military use RD is transclassified to FRD.

      From: Atomic Energy Act Chap 12 Sec 142e(1) “e.(1) The Commission shall remove from the Restricted Data category such information concerning the atomic energy programs of other nations as the Commission and the Director of National Intelligence jointly determine to be necessary to carry out the provisions of section 102(d) of the National Security Act of 1947, as amended, and can be adequately safeguarded as defense information.” It is interesting to note that I had to go to the original text of the National Security Act of 1947 to find a section 102(d).

      According to TFNI is for use by DOE and the intelligence community: “Classified information concerning the nuclear energy programs of other nations (including subnational entities) removed from the RD category under section 142(e) of the Atomic Energy Act after the DOE and the Director of National Intelligence jointly determine that it is necessary to carry out intelligence-related activities under the provisions of the National Security Act of 1947, as amended, and that it can be adequately safeguarded as National Security Information. This includes information removed from the RD category by past joint determinations between DOE and the CIA. TFNI does not include information transferred to the United States under an Agreement for Cooperation under the Atomic Energy Act or any other agreement or treaty in which the United States agrees to protect classified information.”

      So confusing. Executive Order 13526, , says: “Part 1 – Original Classification; Section 1.1. Classification Standards. (a) Information may be originally classified under the terms of this order only if all of the following conditions are met:
      … (2) the information is owned by, produced by or for, or is under the control of the United States Government; … “
      EO 13526 applies to Top Secret, Secret, & Confidential information, not RD, FRD or TFNI. It is all “classified” but with different flavors.

      • David F. Snyder says:

        Thanks for these details.

        It’ll be interesting to see what flavor(s) were the basis of the indictment.

  3. Ginevra diBenci says:

    So smart he’s stupid, or so stupid he’s smart? After all these years, I still can’t tell.

    Thanks, EW, for keeping our eyes on the other real prizes in play now, besides the much-ballyhoo’d trial. I just wish you had your own sketch artist to supply visuals for these actions, a la Christine Cornell and Jane Rosenberg. I prefer Cornell’s unflinching eye and use of chalks, but both provide excellent visuals in the evocative sense.

    I wonder if they do speculative scenes?

  4. freebird says:

    Copying the documents and scanning them onto a thumb drive would have obviated this mess. There is something odd about keeping documents that could put you in jail. I think that the information in the document is more important than the paper it was printed on.

    • P J Evans says:

      DJT famously doesn’t use computers. (He does use a smartphone.) I think if anyone scanned to files, it would be a lower-down.

        • RipNoLonger says:

          But these apps (and platforms and communications) are controlled by big corporations who might be persuaded to divulge what was scanned, etc. For the paranoid psychopath, nothing beats paper. You can flush it, chew it, burn it, flaunt it, sell it.

        • David F. Snyder says:

          There are command line tools for OCR etc. that aren’t traceable. You can filter taking input from a camera card to a flash drive with no fingerprint. Even better, store it on a microSD, very small not easy to locate in a search.

          Not that the dope has the skills for this, but he has connections who would have such skills and be willing to serve. I wouldn’t doubt at least one PB would know this stuff.

        • Susan D. Einbinder says:

          Even after Smith’s office showed them how to view the (VHS?) surveillance tapes, they claimed they still couldn’t figure out how to review them, so their tech skills seem less developed than those of my cat’s (who managed to sit on my keyboard and reset my screen upside down…).

    • Bob Werner says:

      One reason I don’t think Trump was stealing classified docs to steal them so he could sell them is that if he was, the best way to do it would be to take a doc – say a PDB – up to the WH residence, sit on the can, snap pics with his personal iPhone and send them via an encrypted app to an accomplice… then bring the doc back and hand it to the person responsible for it.

      Trump is a hoarder, plain and simple.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Not much about Trump is as plain and simple as it appears. And what seems obvious to you or me may not be at all obvious to Trump.

        • BobBobCon says:

          It’s not like hoarding needs to be an exclusive condition anyway.

          It’s typically seen in combination with other tendencies, and a lot of hoarders are able to sell or give away some things in limited circumstances. It’s just that they keep accumulating far more than they get rid of.

      • freebird says:

        You are describing psychotic behavior. Hoarding to the extent where it becomes criminal is bizarre.

      • Robot-seventeen says:

        Just how secure do you think encrypted apps are? Or VPNs? According to Snowden the NSA has the ability to crack at least 1024 bit if not more. They don’t sleep on that stuff.

        • freebird says:

          I don’t think they can scan anything that is not online or not stored in a computer. At least not yet.

        • Bob Werner says:

          OK, fine, instead of transmitting them right then, he stores them on his phone until his accomplice – oh, maybe someone with the initials JK – visits him and they do a direct transfer to his phone… and off it goes.
          The point is that the most valuable stuff is the stuff that the IC doesn’t know is gone.

        • Bob Werner says:

          If I steal a highly-classified document and they don’t know it’s gone, they won’t know they need to mitigate the damage.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Circular reasoning is a contradiction in terms. In this case, it’s also question begging.

      • Tech Support says:

        The biggest problem with “hindsight optimizations” like the method you are describing is that they assume both a level of rationality and a degree of premeditation that are rarely true in the moment.

        If the point of being elected President was for the express purpose of stealing and fencing highly classified US secrets, then concocting some sort of method like this in advance makes sense. If you’ve been turned by foreign intelligence, you might be instructed to follow a procedure like this. OTOH if you decide to exploit your access opportunistically, or in response to some sort of leverage being used against you then I doubt anything so formal would be concocted.

        Also I think we’ve seen with the Biden and Pence documents that it is incredibly easy for POTUS and VPOTUS to exfiltrate material as an unintended consequence of their normal activities. Knowing as much as we do about Trump’s exfiltration is a testament to both his hubris and his limitations in conceiving and executing rational processes.

      • RipNoLonger says:

        This doesn’t jive with all of the attempts he made to hide his theft.

        This doesn’t jive with the fact that after he obtained a list of foreign assets a whole bunch of them went silent.

        This also doesn’t jive with his on-going attempts to pollute and delay the proceedings. If he was just a “hoarder” as you suggest, he could just say that as his defense and be done with this particular charge.

        Given his baseline of cheating, stealing, deflecting, denying, etc., I think it is far more likely that he’s just doing his (ab)normal shit.

        • dopefish says:

          This is just a guess, but given what we know about Trump’s personality and observed behavior over the years (DARVO, always attacking, never following rules others try to impose on him, etc.) I could totally believe this version of events:

          Suppose Trump is President, and ignores anything his flunkies tell him that he doesn’t want to hear. He keeps documents in his boxes because he thinks they are interesting, or have sentimental value, and because he might want to look at them again later and/or maybe he imagines they might have some value later for blackmail/leverage etc. over individuals he deals with. (Never even imagining selling them to foreign adversaries; this would just be keeping them around to use in typical alpha-male dickwaving contests with his lessers).

          He exits the presidency in a big hurry, takes all the boxes, ignores anyone telling him he has to give back gov’t docs because he has had impunity all his life and doesn’t believe there will be any actual consequences.

          Then NARA starts bugging him about returning docs. He blows them off for a while until their requests become more annoying. Eventually he decides to give them something and convinces himself it will make them go away. So he curates his boxes, picks out a fraction of the stuff he feels emotionally able to part with (but keeps a bunch of his favorite documents for himself). 15 boxes are returned to NARA.

          But the hounding continues, and now there is a grand jury subpoena and a criminal referral to the FBI. By this point Trump is probably realizing he should have paid a little more weight to the warnings from his lawyers, but he still imagines he can bull his way through it, and is not about to confess or admit weakness or let these deep state fuckers “win” over him. If he had just given all the stuff back at that point, I doubt he would have even been charged. But instead he orchestrates the box-moving and other obstruction stuff, and basically leaves the DOJ no choice but to charge him with a ton of felonies because his conduct is just so egregious and obviously willful.

          I’m not saying it happened this way, but given everything I’ve observed of Trump over the last decade it does seem totally plausible to me. No plan for selling of secrets is required; this could all just be the product of Trump being himself, and digging himself into a giant criminal hole because he has no respect for the laws and norms that restrain the behavior of everyone else.

        • Rayne says:

          Keep an eye on comment length, dopefish. Doesn’t really take 433 words to say a lifetime of habitual criminality combined with innate hoarding led to this trial.

    • Rayne says:

      We don’t know much that I’m aware of about the device which looked like a copier in the storage room with all the documents behind Mar-a-Lago’s pool. Some copiers are dual purpose and scan documents before printing. I wonder if there are other dual purpose devices on MaL premise.

      • boatgeek says:

        Every copier I’ve used in the last 15+ years was also a scanner. I’m not 100% sure how many of them could scan directly to a connected thumb drive (vs. sending a PDF to email or a server file folder), but my current ~$300 printer/copier can certainly do that.

        • Rayne says:

          Some commercial devices have hard drives in them. I know of a scandal in local government which died for the inability to access a copier hard drive which contained evidence of abuse office. I’m skeptical about any business-grade copier until model/make rule out hard drive on board.

        • boatgeek says:

          And add that a lot of printer/copiers are network-connected so the contents of any on-board hard drives could plausibly be pulled remotely.

    • Bob Werner says:

      He’s a hoarder, and the only difference between him and the sad people they show on TV is that he was born rich so he has people to clean up after him.
      I don’t believe he stole those docs with the express intent to sell them. He took them for the same reason a hoarder would: they made him feel better.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Just a hoarder is an improbable assessment. Trump didn’t have to intend to sell classified documents to have nefarious reasons to retain them. He didn’t have to sell them, for example, to exchange the information in them.

        • Bob Werner says:

          Look at pics of his office in Trump Tower. Piles of useless crap and paper all over the place – it’s where he felt most comfortable. It’s his stuff… listen to him yammer on about ‘my boxes’ and how others describe his possessiveness about boxes full of useless junk and newspaper clippings. He can’t fill up AF1 or his own plane, so he makes them carry his boxes onto the plane each time he travels.

          My dad was sort of like that – his office was similar, and his basement….. every cancelled check from 50 years, and every piece of paper he ever wrote or got dealing with his business. My wife would be like that if I let her….. it’s not deliberate with her, she just doesn’t like to throw things away.

          You have to be around people like that to understand it. If you know, you know, and you can spot it easily.

        • ExRacerX says:

          I’m well-trained and experienced in this area, esp. in animal hoarding—and yet, I’d never accuse anyone of suffering from hoarding disorder without compelling evidence. Your dad anecdote comes up far short of that standard.

      • originalK says:

        Since I work under the assumption that Trumps’s a malignant narcissist with dementia that primarily affects his frontal cortex – for what those terms are worth – I think hoarder goes along for the ride. The only reason he is doing anything rather than having that diagnosed (and getting out of his criminal charges) is because 1) denial (anosognosia) is a big part of the dementia 2) he has a source of income to play legal games 3) he has many, many enablers 4) his wife and daughter are choosing distance over taking away the proverbial car keys.

        Because he is a malignant narcissist, though, his hoarding is different than others – He won’t accept losing (the presidency) and feels entitled to the documents. He is willing to go to whatever lengths to “win” against NARA and the Special Counsel – no matter the contortion or harm. He may very well have intended to sell secrets (his mind has well-worn criminal grooves) but lacks the capacity to do so alone, and the only help he had was from his MAL crew.

        In reading the Nauta transcript, I noted that he was described like many elderly with dementia, spending his time alone, with his hoard, all the show of past presidential importance gone. (Tho’ he’s always ready to put one on with his members and supporters including – again, frontal-lobe FUBAR – talking about classified info.)

        • bloopie2 says:

          “… like many elderly with dementia, spending his time alone, with his hoard, all the show of past … importance gone.”

          Thank you for writing that. It describes well my 94 year old father-in-law when we visited a year ago (he died soon thereafter): still trying to be important. It was sad to see that, in an otherwise nice (or at least mostly mellowed out by then) man.

        • LaMissy! says:

          I think an error frequently made with regard to Trump is we expect him to behave in ways that are normative. He isn’t like that. We’d be better off not trying to parse his actions by regular standards.

  5. Alan_OrbitalMechanic says:

    I recall seeing news clips about additional boxes that were not obtained by the FBI but instead being put aboard Trump’s plane headed to Bedminster. Has that ever been followed up on?

    Also there were a number of empty folders marked as containing classified/secret material. Were the missing contents ever accounted for?

    I am curious as to the position a prosecutor such as Smith might take on this. I would like to assume that he knows more than what has been revealed, but from the outside it seems his position is “I got what I got and that is more than enough to get a guilty verdict. The rest would be a distraction.” Would he actually, in the name of expediency, intentionally self-limit his scope like that?

    • coalesced says:

      From page 228 and 231 of exhibit attached to Trump’s motion to compel: these pages appear to be from an email chain being updated as FBI/DOJ traveled to Mar-A-Lago to met with Corcoran to retrieve the redweld folder on June 3rd 2022:

      -“WFO has requested MM conduct loose surveillance on FPOTUS’s plane to determine if boxes are loaded onto the plane.”

      -“Separately, the FISUR conducted by FBI MM this afternoon did not yield any evidence of large scale box movement at or around the aircraft headed to Bedminster, NJ.”

      This appears to be in direct conflict with statements made by Trump Employee #5 (Brian Butler) who assisted in the transfer and loading of said boxes onto the plane itself. Sadly, Jack Smith would not learn of this until some time later. That was the probable cause needed to search Bedminster. I try not to be too conspiratorial but we know that certain individuals in the FBI at the time were openly opposed to this and other investigations of Trump.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        “Large scale” is doing a lot of work there, as is the qualifier that the aircraft watched was only the one headed to Bedminster.

    • Zirczirc says:

      I don’t know what a Special Prosecutor would limit him/herself to, but DoJ certainly has criminal and counterintelligence tasks. Even if Jack Smith limited himself to the criminal, I have to think someone else is VERY interested in the documents they haven’t found.


      • ToldainDarkwater says:

        And since counterintelligence can embrace very different methods than regular law enforcement, they might well have done … things. Or not. There’s no way to know for us regular folk.

  6. Bob Werner says:

    Here’s the most puzzling part of all of this:

    If Trump had just pulled all the classified docs out of the 15 boxes before he sent them back to NARA, nobody would know that classified docs were missing and at MAL. No FBI, no criminal investigation, no search warrant, no indictment, no nothing.

    Why did Trump send ANY classified docs back to NARA?


    • Shadowalker says:

      Most likely because he was done with those documents, or more precisely the information they contained. He doesn’t appear to understand the reasons for why some info is classified and others are not.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Trump is ignorant stupid and hates to learn, because it implies there’s something he doesn’t already know, which he regards as an impermissible vulnerability.

        But I would not confuse Trump’s failure to understand the applicable rules with his not caring about whether there are applicable rules. For one thing, the first might be a lack of intent. The second is reckless disregard, which is a common legal substitute for intent.

        • Shadowalker says:

          It’s difficult to say exactly how much Trump was aware of applicable rules (procedures). We know he knew of their existence when he issued a memorandum beginning the declassification process for the Crossfire Hurricane material as he was in the process of leaving office. Which would only be valid for that particular episode since his whole presidency was founded on irrationality. But intent was apparent, since he knew those documents were there, and he obviously didn’t think it was that big a deal since he willingly returned them without anyone asking for them first. NARA was requesting return of other material they knew he had (Obama’s letter, the love letters from Kim, NOAA sharpie map, etc.) in his possession.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Probably not a good assumption. The National Archivist or applicable agencies might well have known certain documents were missing and were last seen in Trump’s hands, even had he not finally returned some of them.

      • Bob Werner says:

        NARA demonstrably did not expect classified docs were to be returned. They sent a common carrier – Nauta described it as a large truck that couldn’t fit into the MAL driveway so they had to ferry the boxes out by car. The boxes were loaded in the truck and off they went. NARA never would have authorized that mode of transport if classified docs were even suspected to be involved.
        If NARA suspected classified docs were missing, they would have asked for them, arranged for a classified docs courier, and retrieved them properly (ref. Pence and Biden docs). They knew presidential records had been taken, and could identify some of them – lil’ Kim love letters, Sharpie hurricane map, etc. – that were publicly known.
        Classified docs? Not in the picture.
        I am still astounded that there is not better inventory control of highly-classified docs, and that there wasn’t a SCIF custodian in the WH screaming to the Biden people on 1/20/21 when they arrived ‘There are TS/SCI docs missing!’

        But there wasn’t – and it appears the IC still doesn’t know everything that is still missing.


        • Peterr says:

          The person responsible for every document that goes in and out of the Oval Office, or in and out of the President’s hands, is the Staff Secretary. Under Trump, Rob Porter filled that role at the beginning of the administration, and Derek Lyons took over in Feb 2018. He served until December 18, 2020, at which point he resigned and no one was even put in the role as an acting Staff Secretary.

          To put that date in perspective, Bill Barr resigned on Dec 14 and was replaced by Jeff Rosen as acting AG. Two days later, the Electoral College voters met in their state capitols cast their ballots to elect Joe Biden president. Two days after that, Trump is meeting with Sidney Powell and Mike Flynn to plan next steps, including such possibilities as declaring martial law and seizing voting machines.

          Let’s just say that this was not a happy time in the WH.

          Once Lyons left, standard procedures for document handling went out the window until noon on Jan 20, 2021.

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Convenient way for Trump to reject a document process he hated, and to have no one looking over his shoulder at a critical time, as he was leaving the White House with a few goodies he stole from someone else’s Trick or Treat bag.

        • Bob Werner says:

          Trump’s habit of carrying stuff up to the WH residence and tossing it in his ‘boxes’ happened throughout his tenure in the WH, and IIRC, there were classified documents dating back to at least 2018. So whatever policies and procedures that should have been in place regarding securing and accounting for classified docs were either non-existent or not followed.
          Whether anyone in the WH could have stopped Trump from wandering off with classified docs, someone – a SCIF custodian somewhere? – should have been aware they were disappearing.
          I read somewhere that CIA started presenting the PDB on a tablet so that Trump wouldn’t feel like he could just keep it – CIA knew docs were disappearing.

        • Just Some Guy says:

          Trump’s White House couldn’t issue a standard press release without at least one glaring typo. It’s not a stretch to say that “standard procedures” weren’t remotely followed for just about anything during those four years. I mean, remember Infrastructure Week?

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Yes, Trump hates procedure. Restrictions on Trump the Almighty are inherently abhorrent. More importantly, they document his conduct, something he learned from Roy Cohn to avoid like the plague. His priorities affected all White House business.

          But not all procedures are equal, and not all compliance is controlled by the White House. The defense and intelligence communities have, for example, different mechanisms to protect secrets than, say, the PRA has procedures to document presidential business.

        • Just Some Guy says:

          Not really sure why a rebuttal is warranted but hey whatever floats your boat. My greater point was that nothing was “normal” in the Trump administration and White House, and continuing to compare that to previous administrations is not only folly, it normalizes how much damage TFG and his lackeys did while simultaneously minimizing their culpability.

        • Shadowalker says:

          The PRA has language on the handling of classified material in the archives. Including appropriately changing the status (either up/down classification) of any material should the current or future administration deem appropriate. I suspect NARA works very closely with the agencies in dealing with all the classified material under their control.

        • misnomer bjet says:

          And there is documentation on the other end, from which materials traveled; at agencies & other entities from which originated or received.

          Anywhere along the line, Trump would have required help in ascertaining, acquiring & assessing what ‘he’ wanted -or landed in his lap. Inane to assume that nothing nesting in what he took could have been placed ‘to go’ & be fetched later without his knowledge -or objection, by anyone more aware of & interested in their value to themselves than him. To say nothing of what might have left with him but never made it to his ‘study.’

          In this vein, I always wonder what all people like Mike Ellis were up to on the other end, between the State Dept, DoD, and NSA in his case, during those last flurious weeks of the transition after J6. Nakosone’s hair was certainly on fire. Marcy on that here:

    • Harry Eagar says:

      The target of most government secrets is US citizens, not Boris and Natasha.

      I don’t know what ‘secrets’ were on those pages, but even the highest classification does not make them merchantable.

      (Anyone old enough to have lived during the McCarthy era or Vietnam War knows this. Younger people seem not to understand.)

      • Zirczirc says:

        “I don’t know what ‘secrets’ were on those pages, but even the highest classification does not make them merchantable.”

        I have to disagree. The basic levels of classification are:
        Confidential, the disclosure of which would result in damage to the US.
        Secret, the disclosure of which would result in serious damage to the US.
        Top Secret, the disclosure of which would result in exceptionally grave damage to the US.

        I believe that if any bad actors in the world felt they could damage the US, they’d be willing to pay for the information that would enable that damage. We can argue that much that is classified is overclassified, but the official determination is that damage can incur, and adversaries would be interested in what could cause damage.


      • BRUCE F COLE says:

        LOL, just because Ellsberg didn’t go shopping the Pentagon Papers around, and instead distrubuted them free of charge to 17 US publications without remuneration and with the certain prospect of incarceration, doesn’t mean the Soviets wouldn’t have been happy to pony up massive piles of cash and to secret him away (as if Ellsberg would have been so stupidly venal).

        When the FBI interviewed Nauta, they prefaced their questioning, and interspersed it, with multiple references to the NatSec damage control that was underway as a result of just the first modified-limited-hangout tranche of MAL docs, damage that included compromises of our clandestine operations across the board. How can you even contemplate that such damage isn’t worth untold boatloads of cash to any number of US adversaries, especially when the source (Trump) is as venal as any human can possibly be, and desperately so — and genuinely considered himself beyond the constrictions of US law, while also considered Putin his personal ally?

  7. dopefish says:

    Trump apologists complain that Biden wasn’t charged for having classified documents in his garage. But when those documents were discovered Biden promptly gave them back to the gov’t and fully cooperated with its investigation.

    Trump, while giving NARA the runaround for many months, was sorting through the contents of “his” boxes, curating what he would give back and what he would keep for himself, sometimes by having them flown back and forth to him at Bedminster. In Jan 2022 he gave NARA 15 boxes, including perhaps half of the classified documents he had taken. But he was later served with a grand jury subpoena requiring that he turn over ALL documents with classification markings, and didn’t want to comply (perhaps because the content of the remaining documents would highlight his bad faith so far). So he had many boxes moved out of the storeroom right before his lawyer came to search for them, and then tried to get his lawyers to falsely certify that he had fully complied, tried to get them to destroy or ‘disappear’ the worst documents from that folder of 38 classified documents they did find in their search, and ultimately the FBI raid in Aug 2022 still recovered over 100 additional classified documents that Trump had withheld.

    Trump’s alleged conduct was so much worse than any other former President or Vice President or congresscritter caught with classified info they were supposed to return. I wonder if Judge Cannon will let him stand trial for it.

    • Frank Anon says:

      Good question. My personal theory is that we will find a newfound zeal to pursue a Trump trial in the Cannon court in the event of a presidential election loss by her favorite candidate. Donald Trump dies, or close to, in jail if he loses the election, where I believe if he had gone through a trial before the election, jail was probably off the table. If Trump thinks this as well, there is absolutely nothing he won’t do between now and November (and perhaps beyond) to avoid a loss

  8. BRUCE F COLE says:

    OT, Manhattan DA case-related, from over an hour ago, before Pecker retakes the stand and toward the end of the gag-order violation discussions, there’s this:

    “New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan said at the end of the 75-minute hearing that he would reserve his ruling, and did not say when he expected to issue one. He did sharply criticize a defense by Trump attorney Todd Blanche of Trump’s recent social media posts referencing people connected to the case.

    Blanche argued that Trump’s posts were permissible responses to political attacks, but failed to specify a single one.

    ‘Mr. Blanche, you are losing all credibility,’ Merchan told attorney Todd Blanche at one point. ‘You’re losing all credibility with the court.’ ”

    After yesterday’s mere 30 minute opening statement during which Blanche took several sustained objections, I gotta believe Trump’s odds are on the rim of the shitter right now.

    • NYsportsfanSufferer says:

      I’d think the judge telling any lawyer ‘you’re losing credibility’ on day 2 of any trial is probably not a good thing.

      This isn’t even one of his stooge lawyers, Blanche actually is a serious attorney with a fine reputation amongst those who have worked with him.

      • BRUCE F COLE says:

        The “all” modifier kind of cinches the deal. I wonder if Blanche actually blanched at that?

  9. sleutherone says:

    Apparently Trump’s assistant at the time, Molly Michael, told the Feds that Trump used classified documents to write her to-do lists. She also made copies of some things in the boxes at his direction. Then she discovered there were classified documents inside. He told her to say she knew nothing about the documents or boxes.

    The NYT also has this but Newsweek’s is not behind a paywall.

  10. Bob Roundhead says:

    All this makes Judge Cannons actions to date look pretty bad, yet she released this information. I don’t get it.

    • BRUCE F COLE says:

      I had the same thought about Nauta’s FBI interview that he asked her to release. He was evasive, deflective, contradictory and came off as carrying Trump’s water. I couldn’t figure out why he was advised to seek the transcript’s release, let alone why Cannon ok’d it.

      Similarly, it was Trump who wanted this bit released and nothing about it makes sense to me from a defense perspective. Maybe someone here can cast some illumination…was it just Trump pushing for it because he mistakenly thinks Biden’s declined document case was strikingly comparable to his?

      • fatvegan000 says:

        Maybe the release of the information is a communication tool, as in letting others with knowledge/participation in the crimes know what the story is? Or to contribute to some fake storyline the rw media wants to push?

        Seems like this is what Trump world does overall, like getting their connections to write op eds or certain reporters in the MSM to shape the story the way they want it to be seen.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    David Pecker’s testimony makes the National Enquirer of his time look like an arm of Trump’s campaign. Was his testimony the cost of not pursuing election fraud crimes against it? Because it looks like he made an awful lot of illegal in-kind contributions to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

    • P J Evans says:

      He certainly seems to be aware of what he was doing. Maybe he got immunity in return for telling everything about those in-kind contributions.

        • Ithaqua0 says:

          AMI, the parent company, signed a non-prosecution agreement. This was all back in 2018, when Michael Cohen was the target.

        • BRUCE F COLE says:

          I thought it might be analogous to Presidential pardons not being applicable to State convictions.

          Whatever the case, it’s undeniable that Pecker is testifying as if he’s immune.

        • Tarrforme says:

          Pecker did get immunity for his testimony.

          I still don’t see how Bragg is going to convince the jury, that paying for negative stories and getting NDA’s is a
          conspiracy to influence an election charge? Doesn’t this happen every election?

        • Ithaqua0 says:

          It’s not if you record the expenditures properly—as a campaign-related expense, for example. The issue isn’t that this happened (or the inverse—paying to quash a negative story—in this case) but that it was fraudulently recorded (“falsifying business records”) in a manner that would usually be a misdemeanor except for the link to campaign finance reporting requirements (and limits.) Michael Cohen went to jail for that.

          Analogously, paying your CEO a million dollars is legal; only reporting half of that to the IRS is not.

        • Tarrforme says:

          Cohen went to jail on tax evasion charges and lying to a fed insured bank. Campaign finance charged too, but if it was just that, not sure he would of gone to jail?

          Wish Bragg luck , but gonna be gonna be tough to put it all together.

        • BRUCE F COLE says:

          WRT Cohen’s election fraud conviction, he was an accomplice to Trump. Trump cheated in the process of barely winning the 2016 election, a crime in which Cohen assisted him.

          Seems to me like a judge and jury can be convinced that jail time is deserved for feloniously cheating the entire American electorate, and Merchan certainly doesn’t seem to be willing to brook the boneheaded bullshit that Trump’s legal team is pitching in this case.

        • bmaz says:

          Even if the jury bites off on the bogus concept of enhancement to felony level because of an unconnected federal offense, it is a presumptively probation sentence. Trump is not going to prison over this nonsense.

        • SteveBev says:

          Is it unconnected?

          The catch and kill re Stormy Daniels was a sub-scheme within the larger Trump Pecker Cohen conspiratorial media strategy to promote Trump, protect Trump’s reputation and denigrate the reputation of Trump’s opponents.
          Wasn’t that larger scheme unlawful from the outset because it was always a breach of campaign finance laws, both as to the value of in kind contributions and the intention to not declare them?
          Wasn’t the Cohen/Daniels element a campaign contribution by him, which was circuitously reimbursed and involved specific breaches on NY business law? And those breaches were necessary as part and parcel of the execution of the broader scheme?

        • BRUCE F COLE says:

          Can’t argue with your probation point, but as to the “unconnected federal offense,” the indictment quotes NY Penal Law §175.10 which states: “…with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof, made and caused a false entry in the business records of an enterprise…”

          The statute does not specify nor limit the definition of “another crime” that constitutes the relevant enhancement. And certainly the State of New York is the controlling authority for the election of presidential electors for that state.

          In that respect, I probably should have written, “…feloniously cheating the entire New York electorate.”

        • bmaz says:

          You mean a case that was investigated and never charged? And that is outside the statute of limitations (though not as far out of the SOL as these underlying charges should have been)?

          This case is garbage, and it has been from the start. Don’t know about Blanche, but if Trump was controllable and would shut up, pretty sure I would walk him on said garbage.

        • BRUCE F COLE says:

          If you’re able to ignore the sidelong misogyny, your last sentence brings to mind a North Carolinian retort that I heard from a good ol’ tar heel boy back in ’67:

          “And if your aunt had balls, she’d be your uncle.”

        • SteveBev says:

          SOL felonies in NY is 5 years
          But the tolling during COVID adds 288 days

          Trump indicted by NY Grand Jury March 30 2023

          5 years ( including leap year ) + 288 days before that, is Thu 15 June 2017.

          Which date is just shy of 1 month after Mueller appointed 17 May 2017.
          Cohen’s offences came to light during that investigation

          Cohen pleaded guilty to the information containing the election violation charges 21 August 2018

          So his offences, and Trump’s, 1st became known in latter part of 2017, which is when the SOL runs from.

          Trump indictment not outside SOL

        • bmaz says:

          HI SteveBev, but these are misdemeanors, being tried to be elevated to felonies by non-existent prior crimes.

        • SteveBev says:

          I appreciate that falsifying business records simpliciter are misdemeanours
          But NY Penal Law s 175.10 falsifying business records in the first degree are felonies, and charged as such.
          Of course the misdemeanour offence is a lesser included offence within such a charge.
          But, there is evidence which justifies the felony charge.
          No doubt Trump will avail himself of the opportunity, again, at the close of the prosecution case to argue that the evidence is insufficient to support a conviction on the felony, and that the case as a whole should be dismissed.
          But the Court has hitherto been unpersuaded that the indictment is wrongly brought and that there are SOL issues.
          And Pecker’s evidence seems to lay a clear foundation for conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws with respect to unlawful in kind contributions and intent to conceal the contributions from being properly recorded and disclosed.

          I appreciate that many many practitioners have criticised this indictment, and they surely are in a better position than me to argue the matter, but it doesn’t seem obvious to me, and the arguments I have seen, seem to me to miss essential points.

        • SteveBev says:

          I think you are going to have to tighten up your argument a bit— at the moment it sounds a bit like Trumpian wishcasting, as if intoning 1A is enough to magic away the problem.
          Pecker and AMI were given immunity because their actions in •Co-ordinating and conspiring with• Trump and Cohen was not 1A protected but breached the law

        • IainUlysses says:

          Let me rephrase. One of the theories being put forth for the enhancement from misdemeanor to felony is that it constituted illegal election interference. Burying, downplaying, spinning, or hiding stories about a candidate seems like protected speech to me. Mind you, I’m just an ignorant lay person. I’m thinking if the jury convicts on the felony there could be an appeal that the law, applied this way, runs into first amendment challenges. Concealing a campaign finance violation seems clear cut. I can think of hypotheticals which wouldn’t have a 1A problem. But concealing a story from voters?

        • SteveBev says:

          Protected speech by whom?

          1. Trump could engage and pay an organisation to conduct these activities, but it is campaign expenditure.

          2 An independent ‘news’ organisation can conduct such activities as trashing opponents and promoting Trump, or indeed catching and killing stories, as an exercise of journalism; but if they coordinate with the candidate to do so then it is in kind contribution to the campaign.

          Free speech is not chilled by prosecuting actions undertaken by unlawful methods; that such actions would be constitutionally protected had they been undertaken by lawful means is not a defense to a prosecution for doing them in an unlawful manner.

        • IainUlysses says:

          I understand. However, as far as I am aware, illegal campaign contributions have not been set out as a theory of the crime. The felony floated was, “election interference.” Unless illegal campaign contributions is going to fall under that somehow.

        • SteveBev says:

          To take actions which promote the candidacy of a person, or undermine the candidacy of another by unlawful means (eg in breach of electoral law, which includes electoral finance law) IS unlawful interference with an election

        • NYsportsfanSufferer says:

          I agree with this. I was watching before and am confused how this is illegal. It’s sleazy as hell but I’m not sure about the legality. It’s still really early though. I’m most curious about the Hope Hicks testimony.

          The John Edwards case had more bite than this one seems to have and he walked. Edwards had one of the best lawyers in the country though.

        • Rayne says:

          Trump conspired with Pecker and Cohen to structure payments to avoid disclosure to the public and to state tax authorities.

          It’s like money laundering and Pecker was part of that conspiracy.

        • SteveBev says:

          Yes indeed.

          Pecker’s evidence is of a multi-prong media operation involving catch-and-kill and denigrating Trump political opponents. The agreement is to keep all of this secret, in particular any payments and reimbursements for hush monies.
          The entire media scheme amounted to in kind campaign contributions which were almost certainly known to be unlawful from the start because of the $ value of all the work and resources was open ended, and was definitely unlawful because the agreement intended that such contributions would never be disclosed.

          The actual monies involved in the catch and kill was always intended to be concealed, both as to payments and reimbursement. So all unlawful from the outset, even though the particular sub-scheme involving Cohen paying Daniels was a variation on the earlier version of the arrangement because Trump stiffed Pecker re repayment of the McDougal hush money.

    • harpie says:

      One thing about the trial yesterday that I just want to get in writing here is this from the NYTimes Jonah Bromwich on the Live Blog:

      David Pecker is done testifying for the day. The judge gives jurors customary warnings, as well as one we haven’t heard before, about reporting anyone who seeks to violate jury integrity — making it sound almost as if someone has approached a juror inappropriately. Then they leave the courtroom.

      https:[]//www.[]nytimes.[]com/live/2024/04/23/nyregion/trump-hush-money-trial-news []?smid=url-share#959a056e-5d1a-55b6-8fda-af741dc76988

      • dopefish says:

        On day one, the Judge did instruct the Jury about reporting such things, its possible that reporter Bromwich just missed it. See the bottom of page 853:

        You must promptly report directly to me any incident within your knowledge involving any attempt by any person to improperly influence you or any members of the jury.

        The transcript from Tuesday (day 2), page 1090 shows he gave pretty much the same instruction at the end of that day just before releasing the jury:

        Report to me any incident within your knowledge by any person to improperly influence you or any member of the jury.

  12. SelaSela says:

    With so much evidence against Trump, the stolen document case again him should’ve been almost a slam dunk. It’s sad it won’t be, because of one certain Aileen Cannon.

  13. Henry the Horse says:

    We have an electoral system that now makes every Presidential race a coin toss, so we may never know the motivation for all of this.

    There are a couple of Trump statements that I think give insight beyond him just being a world class hoarder.

    Talking to Meadows ghost writer he was implying that because DOD drew up a plan to attack Iran (that he requested) it was THEIR idea, not his. Exonerated in his mind.

    He also occasionally refers to Nixon getting 18 million dollars for his documents so same rules for everybody, right?

    And let’s not forget the evergreen “the Clintons did it”. Bill wrote about Socks the cat something something something..

    Ultimately, no matter how many times you throw the puzzle pieces up in the air they always land the same way. TFG works with, or for, entities whose interests are contrary to The United States of America.
    I wish we had a Phillip Nolan law.

  14. EuroTark says:

    Some of the most interesting documents from the exhibits released with Trump’s motion to compel discovery yesterday pertain to the review of the original 15 documents returned in January 2022. This email thread within NARA describes an initial review of the documents.

    I’ve read through most of the linked exhibits, and I must admit to being baffled as to why Trump wants them released. To say that these documents make him look bad is an understatement. As Marcy says, it’s very clear why NARA had to take action here, but there are also some very hefty redactions. Exhibit 18 is an email chain between NARA OIG and Public Integrity at DOJ:

    NARA OIG is in receipt of three referrals from NARA’s General Counsel (NGC), and seek prosecutorial guidance from your office. Specifically, the matters alleged the following:
    1: President Donald Trump/Trump Administration failed to transfer presidential records to NARA as required by the Presidential Records Act (PRA), NARA subsequentially retrieved 15 boxes of recods from Mar-a-Lago that contained highly classified information that were not properly handled [and] stored (potential classified information spillage and violation of additional laws), and NARA remained concerned that additional presidential records may be in Mar-a-Lago.

    Then there’s a redaction about the same size as item 1 which given the lede is probably a summary of the other 2 referrals. Further down there’s about a page and half of redactions which is likely the details for the other two referrals. Do we have any idea of what these are?

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