Some of the documents that the National Archives retrieved from Mar-a-Lago were not just possibly classified, as was hinted at earlier, they were definitely classified. In fact, some of the documents that Donald Trump illegally took home with him were marked top secret.
When news first broke that Donald Trump had carried away at least 15 boxes of documents and other items when he decamped to Mar-a-Lago, the only materials known to be present were items that Trump might likely pin to a wall in one of his private clubs: His letters to Kim Jong Un, the hurricane map he marked up in a blatant attempt to excuse his own error, the note that Barack Obama left for Trump in the Oval Office. Trump even issued a statement claiming that that the National Archives “openly and willingly arranged” for the transport of the documents to Trump’s Florida haunt. As was obvious at the time, Trump’s claims are a lie. The Presidential Records Act requires that all such documents first be submitted to the Archives, which can hand back documents that have no historical or evidentiary value after they have completed evaluation.
With The Washington Post reporting the presence of top-secret documents among Trump’s haul, such clearance from the Archives would have been impossible. As the Post notes, classified information was “clearly marked” and the presence of top-secret information among Trump’s trove of takeaways, “is likely to intensify the legal pressure that Trump or his staffers could face, and raises new questions about why the materials were taken out of the White House.”
Meanwhile, The New York Times continues to bend over backwards in its efforts to give Trump’s blatant disregard for the law kid glove treatment—and they even found a new way to disrespect Hillary Clinton in the process.
The files recovered from Mar-a-Lago are now being stored in a SCIF (sensitive compartmented information facility) while the National Archives sorts things out and the Justice Department tries to decide what comes next.
In previous stories, Trump aides used a different excuse than that offered up by Trump for how the documents ended up going with Trump rather than remaining in Washington. Members of the White House staff didn’t mention anything about a deal with the Archives, but instead blamed hurried packing brought on by Trump’s refusal to acknowledge the results of the 2020 election and an unwillingness to plan for departing the White House.
But even that excuse sounds extremely unlikely with the discovery of documents stamped top secret. Aides may have been hurried, but not that hurried. On Thursday afternoon, a Trump spokesman gave the expected response, calling this “a normal and routine process” and called claims that Trump had done something wrong were simply “fake news.”
Among the boxes of which images were captured before going into storage, one clearly concerns Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. That box is marked on the end with “Coronavirus GS1” and the timeframe “April to August 2020.” The information inside could contain telling insights about decisions made in the early months of the pandemic, including why Trump decided to cancel a chain of nationwide testing facilities that he promised to deploy in the parking lots of big-box retailers. The content of the other boxes is not clear.
Meanwhile, anyone looking to The New York Times for their thoughts on this story will have to first locate a microscope. On Thursday, the Times ran a single story about the possibility of classified documents in the mix on page A15. On Friday, the news that there are actually top-secret documents to be found didn’t warrant a mention at all.
However, those digging deep into the paper on Thursday might have located a story with the headline “Republicans Who Railed About Clinton Emails Are Quiet on Trump’s Records.” That story accurately noted that some of the same Republicans who found the idea that Hillary Clinton had employed a private email server—on the recommendation of the previous secretary of state—outrageous, are now worried that the National Archives are treating Trump “too harshly.”
But the story was missing one rather important beat.
According to former State Department official Nick Merrill, the Times asked for and received a comment from Clinton. Then the editors decided to simply … not include that comment.
In another story, the Times also noted that the Jan. 6 investigation had been hampered by missing documents, some of which may actually be in the boxes that Trump refused to return until the National Archives threatened to take their complaint to the Department of Justice. That story also didn’t get within a phonebook of the front page.
In contrast, stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails regularly occupied large portions of the front page during the runup to the 2016 election. One of those stories, published less than a week before the election, was a front-page statement from Donald Trump giving his opinions about the emails.
The Times may have run a story about the hypocrisy of Republicans. But that’s not the hypocrisy they really underlined.