Fed Up.

            Once upon a time, Martin Short asked Mel Brooks “So, what’s your big beef with the Nazis?”[1]  He could ask Andrew Weissmann the same thing about Donald Trump.[2]  In a recent op-ed Weissmann makes several important points about the “raid on Mar-a-Lago.” 

            First, state secrets are STATE secrets and thus government property, not the personal property of any government employee or private citizen.  The government has the duty to defend the security of that information.  That went for the Pentagon Papers and the Edward Snowden revelations,[3] so it has to apply to the stuff that Donald Trump took with him into “a sunny place for shady people.”[4] 

            Second, the government had been trying to get the stuff back for quite a while.  Trump had returned some stuff, but not everything.  (In contrast, at the end of Bill Clinton’s second term, he and Hilary Clinton took home some furniture and other odds and ends that had been meant for the White House.  When they got called on it, they sent them right back.[5])  Meanwhile, the material in question was being stored in a room in Trump’s home.  Eventually, the Feds got fed up.  Nothing short of breaking down Trump’s front door with a battering ram and a warrant would work.  Feds shouldn’t have to get fed up in a situation like this. 

            It seems to me impossible to believe that whatever lawyers Donald Trump had representing him couldn’t figure out all of this, even if they had to refer to WestLaw on-line.  It seems impossible to me to believe that the lawyers didn’t tell him as much.[6]  So, in Weissmann’s words, the “redacted affidavit is further proof that Mr. Trump’s flouting of criminal statutes persisted for a long time and gives every appearance of being intentional.” 

            Third, “Mr. Trump’s penchant for hyperbole and spin to his base will be ineffective in a forum where the rule of law governs.”  That may be true if the intelligence community decides that Trump’s retaining the documents actually compromised American security or if Attorney General Merrick Garland decides that Trump retained them from a demonstrable corrupt purpose.  Either of those cases would likely trigger a prosecution.  Probably lawyers could cite many other legitimate charges.   One real question would be if Garland wants to prosecute the likely Republican presidential nominee in 2024.  Trump himself is shameless, so being charged with something isn’t likely to deter him from running for office.  Trial, verdict, appeals if not acquitted or if there isn’t a hung jury: all this could string out the proceedings for a long time. 

            Finally, an American election isn’t a “forum where the rule of law governs.”  Rather, it is a place where—too often—”hyperbole and spin” are the common currency on both sides.  If Trump loses, that’s one thing.  If Trump wins, it could mean a third impeachment trial.  Or not.  What if there really is a Republican wave in 2022 and 2024? 


[1] Mel Brooks & Jiminy Glick – YouTube Start at 4:41 for the line, but the whole routine is worth a watch. 

[2]  On Weissmann, see Andrew Weissmann – Wikipedia  and on his account of the Mueller investigation, Where Law Ends – Wikipedia

[3] In both of those cases, it seems to me that the revelations served the larger public interest. 

[4] As someone once described Monaco. 

[5] See: Clintons Began Taking White House Property a Year Ago – Los Angeles Times (latimes.com) 

[6] OK, he didn’t pay no never mind to Bill Barr or Pat Cipollone.  Perhaps his current lawyers are sitting around with their heads in their hands going “What was I thinking?” 

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