But Stimson, and arguably the whole of the GOP, which is now Trump’s, maintain that nothing Trump stole from the White House and stuffed in his basement would fall under criminal statutes—even the law Trump signed in 2018 making the unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents by any official a felony offense punishable by five years in prison.
Of course that’s not how any of this works. Former commanding general of United States Army Europe and the Seventh Army and national security analyst Mark Hertling has a helpful thread on Twitter explaining the process. As a senior officer in the military, he did this stuff. He explains how the government “specifies - in excruciating detail - procedures for protecting levels of classified information.”
And it takes a lot more than thinking, “Oh, hey, I might want to use this document to get some money out of the Saudis some day, so I’m calling it declassified.”
Plenty of other experts interviewed by NBC News agree. “He can’t just wave a wand and say it’s declassified,” former Assistant Deputy Director of National Intelligence Richard Immerman said. “There has to be a formal process. That’s the only way the system can work,” in order to control access to and handling of sensitive national security documents. “I’ve seen thousands of declassified documents. They’re all marked ‘declassified’ with the date they were declassified,” Immerman said.
Process, schmrocess, says Trump. “We’ve told him there’s a process and not following it could be a problem but he didn’t care because he thinks this stuff is dumb,” a source who tried to explain this to Trump said. “His attitude is that he is the president. He is in charge of the country and therefore national security. So he decides.” Note that’s all in present tense.
Plenty of us dirty fucking hippy bloggers railed for years about how not holding Bush and Cheney accountable for the laws they broke was going to come back to bite us all the next time a Republican became president. Yeah, we told you so.
But back in 2009, no one imagined this. How much worse could it be in 2024? We can’t even imagine. Which is why holding Trump accountable now is absolutely essential.