On Tuesday, the National Archives announced that it had located 15 boxes full of documents that should have gone to the archives for evaluation, but instead ended up parked at Donald Trump’s south Florida tribute to tackiness, Mar-a-Lago. On Wednesday evening, The New York Times reported that the boxes have been found to contain possible classified information, which is serving to accelerate calls for an investigation of how all this material ended up traveling in Trump’s luggage, and was never turned over as the law requires.
However, on Thursday morning, Trump put out another of his statements—this one repeating long-exhausted lies that the Clintons had stolen White House furniture and also going on about Hillary Clinton’s emails. In his statement, Trump claims that the Archives “willingly arranged” for the transport of the materials found at Mar-a-Lago, which should be easy to prove. The Presidential Records Act calls for each document to be be submitted to the Archives, evaluated, and released only with written permission of the Archives. So if Trump had permission, he must also have the receipts.
Unless, that is, Trump gave those receipts the treatment that he apparently gave so many other documents. It was already known that Trump had a habit of tearing up documents to leave them in shreds—on his office floor, scattered around Air Force One, and shoved into whatever trash can was closest—a habit that required White House staff to gather up the pieces and officials at the National Archives to tape the documents back together. Now, based on an excerpt from an upcoming book by Times reporter Maggie Haberman as reported by Axios, it seems that Trump also made a habit of attempting to flush his shredded documents down the toilet.
Now we finally know why Trump complained about how hard it was to flush an American toilet. When Trump said, “People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once,” it didn’t make a lot of sense. But then, most people aren’t flushing their conversations with Vladimir Putin.
On obtaining the boxes, the National Archives reached out to the Justice Department for instructions on how to handle what was clearly already a breach of the Presidential Records Act. The Justice Department instructed the Archives to place an inspector general in charge of evaluating the material. That inspector general has now taken the case back to the Department of Justice—a likely indicator that the contents contained classified documents, or evidence of some other egregious violation.
The revelation that Haberman was told by White House staff that they had “periodically discovered wads of printed paper clogging a toilet” is an interesting addition to the already well-established trend of Donald Trump attempted to hide the evidence of his actions. It’s also a significant contribution in the burgeoning field of Reporters Who Sat On Top of Criminal Evidence So They Could Monetize It in Their Books. One might think that Haberman doesn’t have a job in which she is paid to tell the public what’s going on in these situations.
It’s also somewhat illuminating to visit The New York Times webpage on the morning after they reported that Trump illegally held onto classified information. Because a quick Where’s Waldo of that page would find … no Waldo. To be fair, the story does get one small headline far down the screen below reporting on the latest Olympics, a piece about worn-down pharmacists, and the “real cost of cheap chicken.” To be even more fair, the day after it learned that some of Hillary Clinton’s emails might be found on Anthony Weiner’s laptop, every single inch went to that one story.
What almost every media outlet seems to be ignoring is that this isn’t a whoopsie, it’s a crime. Every time Donald Trump ripped up a document, that was a crime. Every time he tried to flush one down the sadly not gold White House crapper, that was a crime. Everything he boxed up and carted off to Mar-a-Lago, that was a crime.
In the “statement” on Thursday morning—the one where Trump is still raging about Hillary Clinton “acid-washing” her emails—Trump claims that there are “two legal standards, one for Republicans and one for Democrats.” Trump is absolutely right.
Both the Department of Justice and the major media treated Hillary Clinton’s handling of emails as if they were major crimes. They greeted even the possibility that she had mishandled a classified document as if it were a disqualifying action. Hillary Clinton would have been president of the United States had not both the FBI and The New York Times spent the last days before the 2016 election hammering the idea that there might—might—be a mishandled email from Clinton on a laptop they had already examined. There wasn’t.
But Trump … sure, he shredded documents in violation of the law. They treated that as a laughable habit. Sure, he tried to flush documents down the toilet—Maggie saved that one for her book. And sure, he carted off crates that now appear to have contained classified materials to his own home, where he may have been showing off nuclear codes to people in the all-you-can-eat shrimp line. A former White House aide even claims that Trump sometimes ate papers after meeting with his personal attorney (a well known habit of completely innocent people).
But hey, it’s not like he actually handled his email according to the instructions from the previous secretary of state, testified about it at length, and cooperated with every possible investigation into how those emails had been handled. Oh, no, he didn’t do anything that heinous.
Trump claims that he took all the documents because “some of this information will someday be displayed” at his presidential library. Emphases on “some” and “someday.”
However, among the materials found in the boxes from Mar-a-Lago was the map that Donald Trump marked up with a Sharpie to make it look as if a hurricane was going to hit Alabama only for the reason that he mistakenly said it would hit Alabama. The hurricane never hit Alabama.
That’s really the only document that Trump’s library needs. When it’s finally opened in an abandoned phone booth, after Trump taps his followers for a billion or so in library building funds, that map should be it. Just that map. It tells you everything you need to know about Donald Trump.