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Donald Trump's evolving tales, alibies, attacks and blame detail his panic over FBI's documents search
Former President Donald Trump possessed a lot of concerning government information in his home that he shouldn't have had. What has become obvious over the weekend is that Trump's behavior appears defensive enough to indicate he understands what he did was serious.
At first, he indicated he did nothing wrong and was working with the FBI and that they went rogue. The story then changed as he accused the FBI of planting evidence. The FBI indicated that the information that was found was top secret, the kind of information that isn't even available to the everyday FBI agent. Merrick Garland wasn't in Mar-a-Lago himself with the information, nor was an upper-level government official that would have had access to the information.
He then attacked the FBI, saying that he wasn't in Florida to keep an eye on them during the execution of the search warrant. When it was revealed his lawyers were there, their stories changed that they suddenly were in the parking lot and not watching what the FBI agents did. Americans then found out that Trump was watching the whole search on a closed circuit camera network.
Once it was reported that Trump was in possession of nuclear weapons information the conversation around the incident became even more serious and Trump's alibi changed again. The Atomic Energy Act prevents a president from unilaterally declassifying nuclear information, as historian Alex Wellerstein explained on Friday.
\u201cNow, to get back to the original question\u00a0\u2014 could POTUS remove things from the RD category unilaterally (and without telling anyone ahead of time)? The Atomic Energy Act certainly makes zero provisions for this. It is pretty clear on the procedures and agencies involved.\u201d— Alex Wellerstein (@Alex Wellerstein) 1660307797
So, Trump offered yet another excuse: the nuclear information he took from the government was already public anyway. The information that was taken by the FBI this week isn't even available to the public yet, and Trump hasn't described what it was. So, it's unknown the level of seriousness, and of classification. If it was information that could have been found on the internet, it begs the question of why Trump felt the need to steal it when he could go home and print it off.
The defense evolved another time when Trump and his allies perpetuated the false understanding that a president can simply wave a magic wand over documents and they're suddenly declassified. There's a process for declassification, that would involve others and likely a paper trail. If Trump wanted to declassify nuclear secrets, someone else would absolutely have been involved. If the documents could be found on the internet, why would Trump need to declassify them at all?
While it isn't likely that Trump would pack his own boxes, it has already been made clear that an informant revealed to the FBI that Trump had the documents and was destroying them or there was a concern he would destroy them. Things got even worse over the weekend when Trump started to look at other options for who he could blame.
Some have speculated that Jared Kushner would have a reason to strike back at Trump so he could break off further from the ex-president. While Kushner has been among those Trump is allegedly blaming, Trump is now also blaming his wife.
Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen agreed that Trump is panicking, evident in the fact that he doesn't even trust his own partner. It could just as easily have been a secret service agent, which is a member of law enforcement obligated to tell the FBI about possible crimes they've observed. It could also have been a National Archives staffer who saw the classified information when picking up the 15 boxes of documents Trump took.
By Sunday, Trump's justification changed again, and he began claiming "attorney/client privilege."
Regardless of the pretext, Trump appears so panicked he is pointing to his own family members, changing his stories, and trotting out allies on cable news and trying to change the story.
Supporters of Donald Trump showed up at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey on Sunday to support the former president after his Mar-a-Lago estate was searched by the FBI.
Photojournalist Karla Coté shared scenes from the rally on Twitter.
Video clips showed a party-like atmosphere, with most of the demonstrators holding signs and flags.
"May Pres. Trump, family, be surrounded by the full armor of God," one sign read. "May no weapon formed against them prosper, but boomerang against the offenders. In Jesus name. Amen."
Other signs hinted at pedophilia conspiracy theories that have been promoted by QAnon.
As Cote filmed, one man chanted for the return of the Aunt Jemima character for branding syrup.
"Bring back Aunt Jemima! Bring back Aunt Jemima!" he shouted.
An editorial published Saturday in Missouri’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch called out former President Donald Trump’s well-documented distaste for reading, posing the question: “Why would an ex-president who doesn't read want boxes of documents at his home?”
The Post-Dispatch referenced a series of stunning reports published over the past week detailing the FBI’s seizure of nearly “two-dozen boxes of documents that belonged to the federal government and reportedly contained top secret material.” Those documents were found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last Monday.
Noting the former president’s proclivity towards boredom, general lack of interest in reading and abject love of TV, the editorial board writes:
“Against that backdrop, the existence of perhaps 25 boxes full of government documents, reportedly including top secret material, in a Mar-a-Lago basement seems particularly curious. Why would Trump want them at his private residence when he didn’t like to read and had no legal right to possess them?”
Referencing Trump’s relentless 2016 campaign against Hillary Clinton over her private email sever, the editorial board insists, “Trump certainly had to grasp how serious it is to unlawfully retain classified documents”
The editorial board goes on to slam Republicans who are “apoplectic” over the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago but mum on Trump’s decision to take documents that “were never his.”
“Regardless of the justification, the documents were never his, and Republicans who are apoplectic over the FBI search should first be asking why it was ever O.K. for him to break the law in the first place,” the board writes.