How Donald Trump set himself up to be 'raided' by the FBI: report
Did Ex-President Donald Trump bring upon himself the Federal Bureau of Investigation's execution of a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida on August 8th?
A Thursday report in The Wall Street Journal strongly suggests that it was, and it all stemmed from Trump's negotiations with the National Archives to hand over the trove of top secret documents that he took from the White House which did not belong to him.
Trump wanted "the agency to explicitly say that there had been no raid on his Florida estate, according to people familiar with the matter," the Journal recalled. "The next day, the Archives issued another statement saying it had 'obtained the cooperation of Trump representatives' and that its officials 'did not visit or ‘raid'’ the Mar-a-Lago property."
But Trump's cooperation with the National Archives quickly waned after it started to become clear that the government was going to aggressively pursue the return of the clandestine files. That, the Journal explained, set Trump on a collision course with federal law enforcement.
"Trump’s transition early this year from fitful and often delayed cooperation to outright confrontation set up the battle still under way with the government," wrote correspondents Alex Leary, Aruna Viswanatha, and Sadie Gurman, adding that "the outcome could complicate his newly launched campaign for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination."
Trump used his candidacy announcement on Tuesday night as a platform to declare himself a "victim" of a political system that is out to get him, which he has told his advisers is a tactic to intimidate the United States Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland away from criminally indicting him.
Garland has repeatedly stated that the pursuit of justice is not subject to politics and that nobody is above the law.
Yet Trump could have prevented the ongoing mess if he had simply returned the materials that he brought with him to Florida. Instead, however, Trump and his team of attorneys drummed up a laundry list of excuses as to why they supposedly belong to Trump. But that strategy backfired. Trump – though he maintains that he did nothing wrong – now finds himself in a legal quagmire that could cost him dearly.
"Rather than providing a way for Mr. Trump to justify keeping the documents, the theories he embraced—that the material was personal, privileged, declassified or some combination of all three—only heightened the confusion among Justice Department officials about the former president’s motivations, according to people familiar with the matter," the Journal pointed out. "Other evidence they had amassed prompted them to ask a court to allow them to send in agents to seize the remaining records. By May, the department was pursuing a criminal investigation that came to focus on the former president and his aides and include potential charges of obstruction."
Arguments from Trump's lawyers have ranged from dubious assertions of executive privilege (which was rejected), to Trump proclaiming that he mentally declassified documents outside of official protocols (which is not a thing), to unambiguously declaring that the sensitive contents inside the hundreds of boxes are "mine."
Additional trouble ensued in June after Trump's then-newly-hired counselor Evan Corcoran met with DOJ lawyer Jay Bratt, who was dispatched from Washington "to Mar-a-Lago along with three FBI agents to discuss how to deal with the remaining documents."
Corcoran "conducted a search, handed a packet of documents marked classified to the officials, and asked a custodian of the records, Christina Bobb, to certify that all of the remaining classified government documents in Mr. Trump’s possession had been turned over. Ms. Bobb signed that document only after insisting that it include language stating she was doing so 'based upon the information that has been provided to me,' and 'to the best of my knowledge,' according to people familiar with the matter" who spoke with the Journal.
"The certification failed to account for the roughly 100 documents with classified markings the FBI later found in its August search," the Journal continued. "Mr. Corcoran is now a central figure in the government’s investigation, according to people familiar with the matter. People close to Mr. Corcoran, who didn’t respond to requests for comment, have said he thinks he has done nothing wrong."
Nonetheless, Trump World is standing firm that Trump had every right to abscond with the hyper-sensitive items that included materials relating to a foreign power's nuclear capabilities.
Meanwhile, the courtroom battles between Team Trump and the federal government will continue to play out in the coming weeks.
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