The week that began Monday, August 8, provided such a neat encapsulation of the Trump Scandal Defense Cycle that we should not allow it to drift into summer-dog-day oblivion without comment. Each day brought a new development almost divinely crafted to expose the knee-jerk nihilist sycophancy of Trump's defenders, as they repeatedly threw themselves in front of the Reality Bus only to be shocked—SHOCKED!—to find themselves under the wheels by the following lunchtime.
The only difference from the good ol' days of the reality-show presidency was that the protagonist's efforts to throw out new outrage bait to drag the watching world away from the previous outrage did not succeed. He was stuck on one issue, continually spouting new excuses but unable to upend the game board. Let's review.
Late in the day, we learned that the FBI had executed a search warrant approved by a federal magistrate judge to search Trump's club and residence at Mar-a-Lago. The immediate question for many creatures who've been sentient for the last half-decade was, Which investigation was the raid in relation to? Soon enough, we learned it had to do with classified documents Trump took down to Florida from the White House. The immediate reaction from Trump was to suggest, without evidence, that President Joe Biden was behind the raid. The reaction from many of his fans, who all seemed to get a memo that was copypasta'd across a wide variety of MAGA bootlicker accounts, was some version of:
If they can do this to a former president, imagine what they can do to you.
Well, if I was under investigation for federal crimes, I might expect a visit from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That a former president could also face investigation on suspicion he broke the law is not some profound disturbance in the Force, it's an indication that, per our lofty credo, no one is above the law. By that evening, though, the same people who rail against defunding the police were calling for the FBI to be defunded and/or abolished. The major takeaway in MAGAland was that there was nothing there and no legitimate reason for the search.
January 6 pep rally MC-slash-Olympic sprinter Josh Hawley called for Attorney General Merrick Garland to resign or be impeached. He insisted the FBI Director, Christopher Wray—appointed by a certain D. Trump—must be removed from office. This was because the FBI serving a search warrant constituted "an unprecedented assault on democratic norms and the rule of law." And Hawley would know.
His Senate colleague, Ted Cruz, helped to kick off the calls to "RELEASE THE WARRANT," though he did grant that the search would only constitute political persecution if the Feds failed to produce evidence Trump was hoarding documents with serious national security implications. (For what it's worth, I also was saying they better produce the goods at the time, and that's still the case.) Also for what it's worth, Trump could have immediately released his copy of the warrant—and the inventory of items taken, of which he also had a copy—at any point after the search.
There was also the debut of "the president can declassify anything," which isn't strictly true and also does not speak to whether Trump actually declassified these documents. We were also treated to the line that the FBI had mostly recovered boxes of knick-knacks like cocktail napkins and golf balls.
We arrived, fitfully, at the new talking point: The evidence was planted. Trump started saying that he and his lawyers had not been permitted to watch the search "to see what they were doing, taking or, hopefully not, 'planting.'" But then his lawyer, Christina Bobb, said on Real America's Voice that the Family Trump watched the raid remotely. At this point, you'll note the documents were not important, were magically declassified if they were important, and also were planted by the FBI. Rand Paul also floated this latter idea on the television, while another Trump lawyer, Alina Habba, also went on Fox News to say, "I'm concerned that they may have planted something." Again, zero evidence to support this. Totally normal lawyer stuff.
Elsewhere, Trump started yelling that Barack HUSSEIN Obama took 30 million documents—then it was 33 million—to Chicago after his presidency, and surely some were bad like Trump's? "How many of them pertained to nuclear?" he asked. "Word is, lots!" The National Archives and Records Administration swiftly issued a statement that (twist!) this was fabulously false, and those documents are in NARA's possession.
Fox News luminary Brian Kilmeade, filling in for Tucker Carlson, put a doctored photo on-screen that purported to show the judge who signed off on the warrant, Bruce Reinhardt, with Epstein accomplice Ghislaine Maxwell. Kilmeade would later say this was "in jest"—you know, a joke where you insinuate a federal judge is a pedophile when he's already subject to a barrage of anti-Semitic threats that have forced his synagogue to cancel the weekend's services.
The news was not good for Trump. New revelations indicated the documents in question were quite serious. The New York Times reported they included "special access programs," a kind of super top secret, while the Washington Post shared that some had to do with nuclear weapons. Trump responded with a new line, asking why-oh-why the FBI didn't just ask for the documents. The flying monkeys descended to whine about why Mar-a-Lago was raided—INVADED!—when the federales could simply have submitted a nice request to get the documents back.
"My attorneys and representatives were cooperating fully, and very good relationships had been established," Trump truthed on Truth Social. "The government could have had whatever they wanted, if we had it."
But later that day, the Times reported that Trump had been served a subpoena months earlier, as the Feds sought to recover the documents without a raid. (Back in January 2022, the National Archives separately went and retrieved 15 boxes of material.) Justice Department officials also met with Trump's lawyers at Mar-a-Lago in June and reviewed some of the materials and the security setup. A glance at the latter prompted them to ask Trump's people to put a padlock on the storage room. One of Trump's lawyers signed a written declaration then that all the classified material had been returned to the Feds.
But then Attorney General Merrick Garland addressed the situation and agreed to release the warrant, and the accompanying inventory of items seized was soon public as well. It included 11 sets of classified documents. Sounds like maybe they were not "cooperating fully"? We also learned the search was related to an investigation into three specific crimes: violation of the Espionage Act, obstruction, and theft or destruction of government records. Intriguingly, none of these potential charges reportedly hinge on the documents in question being classified.
At this point, we've heard there was nothing important in the boxes (until there was); the rule of law was under threat because a former president was being investigated (for possibly breaking the law); and the documents were planted by the FBI. Also, Obama. But wait, what about that whole notion that they'd been magically declassified by the president? It was on the back-burner all week, but Trump turned to it in his time of need as the weekend approached and every other excuse had fallen through. The previously "planted" documents were suddenly legit, and he'd declassified them. In fact, Trump announced—incredibly—that he'd had a standing order in place to declassify all documents he brought to the White House residence.
The very fact that these documents were present at Mar-a-Lago means they couldn’t have been classified. As we can all relate to, everyone ends up having to bring home their work from time to time. American presidents are no different. President Trump, in order to prepare the work for the next day, often took documents, including classified documents, to the residence. He had a standing order that documents removed from the Oval Office taken to the residence were deemed to be declassified the moment he removed them.
Yes, the president who made 285 visits to a golf club during his tenure was hard at work. Mr. Trump also has a bridge to sell you. By the way, if all this is true, why didn't he just sort all this out by giving the documents back when the Feds asked for them? Why does he need (in this formulation, "formerly") classified documents in his basement?
At this point, yet another excuse started to roll in: Trump didn’t pack the boxes himself! (Granted, virtually no one thinks that he was in there with packing tape.) He didn’t know what was in there! So again, why did he refuse to give them back when repeatedly asked?
But that was a prelude to the ultimate excuse, a shameless special: Trump was so caught up in the “chaotic time” of January 2021 that he didn’t have time for this stuff. Fox News kicked it off on Friday:
Somehow, Fox has coalesced around the narrative that maybe Trump just didn't have time to properly pack up his top secret documents because he was busy dealing with the fallout of his coup pic.twitter.com/O2LrEgamls
— Lis Power (@LisPower1) August 12, 2022
NBC News came in with a report the following day that seemed to extend this reasoning:
When it finally dawned on Donald Trump in the twilight of his presidency that he wouldn’t be living at the White House for another four years, he had a problem: He had barely packed and had to move out quickly…In the run-up to Congress’ certification of Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump acted as if he had won the election — he hadn’t — and did little to ensure a smooth transition, according to the source familiar with Trump’s move who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the records investigation.The source said that it was only after Jan. 6 — two weeks before Biden’s swearing-in — that he began to make serious preparations to vacate the White House. And the process was a mess.
If you’re following along at home, the idea is that Trump was so caught up with his autogolpe that he didn’t have time to worry about all this classified stuff. He didn’t think about leaving until after his coup failed! You can’t blame him for then heading down to Florida with some top-secret intel and stashing it in his basement!
But wait, there was still time for one more lickspittle to jump all the way out on yet another limb:
Turner: There are a number of things that are classified that fall under the umbrella of nuclear weapons but that are not necessarily things that are truly classified. Many of them you can find on your own phone pic.twitter.com/N950GqWhJ4
— Acyn (@Acyn) August 12, 2022
Alright, man. Jump out in front of that bus. I'm sure Captain Trump will swerve to avoid you.
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