'Bonkers': Maddow producer lays out 'biggest flaw' in Trump’s 'scripted defense' of classified docs case
Steve Benen, a producer for MSNBC’s "The Rachel Maddow Show,” on Monday pointed out the “biggest flaw” in former President Donald Trump’s “scripted defense” in the
Department of Justice’s classified documents case against him.
Benen pointed to comments Trump made Saturday at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual conference, during which he claimed “Whatever documents a president decides to take with him, he has the absolute right to take them, he has the absolute right to keep them, or he can give them back to NARA [the National Archives and Records Administration] if he wants.”
“That’s the law and it couldn’t be more clear,” Trump claimed, according to a transcript of his remarks.
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“There is no such law,” Benen wrote, later noting it’s “relevant” that Trump read the defense from “his trusted teleprompter.”
“It suggests this was a scripted defense,” Benen wrote. "The former president routinely makes up all kinds of nonsense, but in this instance, he and his team, ahead of Saturday’s remarks, prepared specific comments.”
The Maddow producer also highlighted “the rest of Trump’s pitch,” which included a reference to a New York Times article that Trump claimed, “said when it comes to asking for documents from former presidents, the only power that NARA has is to say, ‘pretty please.’”
“They don’t even have the right ask — and if they do ask, they have to be very nice, and I don’t have to give it,” Trump told the crowd on Saturday.
Referencing this January article from TheNew York Times, Benen dispelled Trump’s argument, nothing the claim is “not only … at odds with how law enforcement works, it’s largely the opposite of what the newspaper actually reported."
It’s true that in the second paragraph of the piece, the Times explained to readers that officials at the Archives have limited powers: “Asking nicely is about all they can do.”
But Team Trump probably should’ve read the third and fourth paragraphs, too, because they explained that while NARA doesn’t have an ability to enforce its requests, after “asking nicely,” Archives officials can turn to the Justice Department to ensure that laws are properly enforced. NARA can’t require people to follow the law, but prosecutors can.
“In other words, Trump told the public that under existing federal law, according to
The New York Times, the Archives can merely request that former presidents please follow the law — and if they refuse, NARA simply has to accept and tolerate the intransigence, slinking away in disappointment,” Benen wrote. “But that’s bonkers.”
Benen then warned the president and his defense attorney against using such a defense in court.
“They will have to hope the jury is made up of Republican donors wearing red caps and reading right-wing blogs on their phones during the trial,” the producer wrote.
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