Retired general blasts 'moronic' defenders of Trump’s alleged theft of classified documents
Editor's note: The title of this story was updated to more accurately portray Hertling's status.
Shortly after former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday afternoon to the thirty-seven-count criminal indictment filed against him by special counsel Jack Smith, CNN analyst and retired Commanding General of the United States Army Europe and the Seventh Army Mark Hertling blasted Trump's defenders in a scathing Twitter thread.
Hertling's commentary was directed at Republicans who continue to echo Trump's claims that he "did nothing wrong" when he allegedly unlawfully retained and transferred classified documents to his Palm Beach, Florida Mar-a-Lago golf compound after he left the White House in 2021.
Hertling, who served thirty-seven years as an armed forces officer, stressed the grave nature of Trump's accused acts.
"A former President is being indicted - for the 2d time - & there's non-stop coverage. Some good analysis, some not so good. Many keep bringing up how 'those in the military are likely the most upset about Trump absconding with intel secrets.' Yes, but there's more. Having read the indictment (4x's now), the amount & type of classified information Trump took, hid, did not secure, and refused to give back is, IMHO, gobsmacking. Many analysts have called them 'war plans.' I doubt any documents fit into that specific contingency category," Hertling began.
"The documents were likely extremely detailed intelligence assessments, w/ potential foe (& friendly) capabilities & weaknesses & US capabilities we would not want anyone - especially foes - to know. Many have said, this isn't a document issue it's a national security issue. I have seen intel agencies, military units, foreign service officers put sweat & blood into providing these documents, making sure they are accurate. All those individuals KNOW they must get it right, because their work, their assessments, are provided to key decision-makers," Hertling wrote.
"Those who view these docs - the President, high-level military leaders, State Dept officials & others - use these assessments for critical decision making. FOR our citizens, FOR our country. One phrase in the indictment struck me like a bullet. Trump saying: 'my boxes.' None of these are 'personal papers.' These documents provide information/intelligence - gathered through the use of US capabilities, put together by really smart, dedicated, patriotic individuals - to be used by US officials to defend against all enemies, foreign & domestic," Hertling continued.
"Strategic leaders see and use these documents when they are in a position to serve the American people. They don't get to keep them, or review them, or show them around, or not keep them secure, when they are no longer in the position. As a military leader in command of different organizations, I 'used' each kind of the type of documents found in the trove at MAL. Each kind: Secret, Top Secret, TS-SCI, TS-HCI, NOFORM, TK, even the kinds of ones that were 'redactted' [sic] (mostly likely various code word)," Hertling recalled.
"I was ONLY allowed to see them because they helped me make better decisions, plans, or conduct more effective operations. When I left the military or a specific job, I was 'read out' of the clearance. That's what happens to everyone, including the President. Yes, the President has declassification authority. But that requires a process that then protects a LOT of people. Anyone who says otherwise is a moron. And anyone who says someone can do it after leaving their leadership role is even more moronic," Hertling noted.
"There's a reason I reacted viscerally to the 'my papers' statement. To claim they are 'his' - as if they've been given to him for personal use or vanity just like the WWE belt, the NY Post clippings, or any other trinket or memento found in these boxes - is horrid," Hertling added.
"Yes, military & intel officials are pissed. They know the power of these documents that were treated cavalierly. All Americans should be equally pissed. But it seems many are not because of how some in government are treating this case," Hertling concluded. "We need to treat this seriously."
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