2022.08.14

Donald Trump FBI raid Mar a Lago warrant

It's been a busy week for F5 keys across the country. Monday morning greeted me with this:

Donald Trump FBI raid Twitter Marjorie Talyor Greene
Wake up babe, the new MTG just dropped.

Fearing that the space lasers had been turned on California once again, I checked the news.

In case you were at a yoga retreat all week

Donald Trump FBI raid Mar a Lago inventory documents

Monday morning the FBI raided the former president's Florida residence to recover classified documents missing from the National Archives. In the few days subsequent, the nation has deepened its understanding of how the government handles secrets and how the Department of Justice conducts investigations. Just kidding, on Monday the country erupted into an unplanned food fight.

This has been a week for the scrapbook, so I shall proceed to regurgitate some of the political lowlights.

Blindsided

Donald Trump FBI raid Twitter Abby Johnson
That's kind of how it works, Abby.

A lot of the commentary has been, well, undercooked. Both sides have had well-prepared, well-coordinated responses to the January 6th stuff and the NY fraud stuff, but this one caught everyone off guard.

Twitter has been entertaining, I also stopped by Reddit's /r/conservative since they're a good source for distilled talking points.

"Nuclear is so powerful"

Donald Trump FBI raid Truth Social nuclear weapons

Shortly after the raid was announced, WaPo reported that (per a source) the documents included nuclear secrets. So what did /r/conservative have to say?

I'm pretty sure they change the [nuclear] codes when the new CiC is sworn in.

Ah, yes, the only nuclear secrets are launch codes.

Did they think Trump was building his own nuclear bomb in the basement or something? He probably had sharks with laser beams attached to their heads too./s

The comment inadverently hits the nail on the head: he's not going to build a bomb in his basement, so why would he take these documents? While the severity of nuclear secrets could range from "Cold War hysteria" to "available on your phone", there's no innocent explanation for having them. If the former president manages to escape legal liability, it'd require a new level mental gymanstics for voters to give him a pass on it in 2024.

The leak is coming from inside the house?

I strongly suspect that the FBI got played by an "anonymous tip."

One of the early talking points was that the FBI left Mar-a-Lago emptyhanded. That didn't last long.

Former inner-circler Mick Mulvaney speculated that the Trump must have been betrayed by someone with knowledge of the materials retained in the Mar-a-Lago safe (and pool shed, apparently). So this saga even has human drama, with people pointing fingers at everyone in his family. In my mind it's more likely to be a lawyer or legal aide using one of the few exceptions to attorney-client confidentiality. Or perhaps the National Archives was able to locate the documents because of something as mundane as an inventory with chain of custody information.

"The charges will never stick"

The kneejerk Trumptown response has been some variation on this familiar refrain:

Smoking gun #28, we finally have him!

The skepticism isn't unwarranted but it's typically used to imply innocence/persecution. While the former president indeed escaped any significant legal reprecussions while in office, things have changed. To illustrate:
Regardless of where you fall on the question of if these are examples of persecution, "smoking guns #1-27" have fizzled simply because sitting presidents are tried by their allies. This is no longer the case.

Mar-a-Lago SCIF

Just wonder how many are aware or remembering that Mara Lago was outfitted with a SCIF (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility). From what I read Trump could store & review classified information in a secure environment while he was there during his Presidency. Classified presidential records very well could have been kept legally as they were in a secure environment

My recollection is that the Mar-a-Lago SCIF was temporary. If it still exists, that fact probably would have come up in the past week.

"He had permission because of the FBI lock"

According to an earlier article by the dailywire, Trump said he had classified documents and the FBI asked him two months ago to put a lock on the door. So since he had classified documents there, what exactly could it have been. Another question is why were there classified documents in his home. And why didn't the government take them away back two months ago.

This comment is an excellent illustration of how details matter and headlines/tweets/soundbites are often misleading. It also shows how a bad faith argument can be largely true but used to draw a false conclusion.

Per the National Archives and NYT article quoted below, the DoJ did meet with Trump and team to recover classfied documents taken from the White House. And they left amiably. So clearly they were happy with the security of the remaining documents?

Some moments of sanity made it through the /r/conservative content filter:

If they thought there were classified documents, they were obligated to secure them. Unless that storage room was an approved closed area, a pad lock would not have done that. Asking to secure the storage like that means there may have been sensitive documents, which doesn't mean classified, although I wouldn't be surprised if there were some in there.

Simply, at the earlier Mar-a-Lago meeting, Trump lawyers falsely claimed to have relinquished all classified material:

New York Times At least one lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump signed a written statement in June asserting that all material marked as classified and held in boxes in a storage area at Mr. Trumpís Mar-a-Lago residence and club had been returned to the government, four people with knowledge of the document said.

The written declaration was made after a visit on June 3 to Mar-a-Lago by Jay I. Bratt, the top counterintelligence official in the Justice Departmentís national security division.

Where things have settled

The president has total authority to declassify whatever he wants. The left once had a week long fit about Trump leaking classified info during a rally speech, which then died down after they learned the law lets the president say anything, no matter how classified, and it is simply considered him declassifying it.

Having backpedaled throughout the week, the Trump defense has come to rest on "the items had been declassified". The apparent lack of a paper trail means, at best, the information was downgraded without letting anyone else know of their new handling procedures. Leaving this door to innocence cracked open seems to be enough to convince his supporters/congressional allies that nothing illegal was done.

Looking beyond the narrow goal of simply trying to survive the scandal, one /r/conservative commenter stepped back for a moment to consider one hypothetical implication:

If Trump can just declassify docs with no paper trail or process, then Obama could say he declassified the docs Hillary had on her server. And Biden can just say he reclassified the docs Trump had. There's a reason we have procedure for declassification.

Should I put on another pot of popcorn?

Donald Trump FBI raid Twitter Marc Elias

If the DoJ pursues this, we could be looking at the trial of the century (sorry Johnny Depp and Amber Heard). But with stakes this high, I'd expect the sides to settle on Trump pleading to a procedural infraction that would make him ineligible for public office.

Donald Trump FBI raid Eric Trump ever in recent history
"I'm told" and "ever before in recent history" read: "this is made up".

With midterms coming up and no indication of timeline from the AG, the GOP may need to decide who's going to be running the show.

Donald Trump FBI raid Twitter Washington Post Cincinnati

The wildest scenario I can image: the legal battle ends with SCOTUS ruling that Trump legitimately declassified a bunch of nuclear secrets that are now fair game for FOIA requests.

If only we hadn't killed that gorilla.

Postscript

The Independent [Trump] claimed that the FBI "break in and take whatever they want to take" and that federal agents told his aides at Mar-a-Lago to "turn off the camera" and that "no one can go through the rooms".

The more flattering of two alternatives is that he doesn't think listeners can imagine why having cameras and randos around unsecured classified material isn't a good idea.
AMTD, BBBY, and the IRS

AMTD digital pump and dump stock

Earlier this month a 30-employee "strategic investment management" company out of Hong Kong rocketed to a position in the top fifty companies by market cap. They're back to *only* 850M now, but it was quite the pump and dump. WSB spectated and a few speculated so CNBC blammed Redditors.


/u/JayRoo83
I'm pretty excited for the future Bed Bath And Beyond NFT marketplace

Conversely, WSB apes are (partially) behind the Bed Bath and Beyond pump.

Compromise back better

Donald Trump FBI raid Twitter Marco Rubio IRS
Let's dispel once and for all with this fiction that Dark Brandon doesn't know what he's doing. He knows exactly what he's doing. Dark Brandon is undertaking an effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world.

Unrelatedly, I found myself looking up the "87,000 new IRS agents" claim circulating punditland. Search results were mostly poor-quality publications, the best of the lot was the Washington Examiner:

Inflation reduction act IRS 87000

TLDR: seems like that figure is legit but came from the original multi-trillion dollar Build Back Better legislation (that has been trimmed to a few hundred billion). And, naturally, it's hiring over a decade for positions that are probably(?) close to budget-neutral. So while it's a scary number, it's not a real number and even if it were there's no cause for concern as long as you're not breaking the law.