After members of Donald Trump’s White House staff gave testimony to the House Jan. 6 committee in 2021, Yahoo News reported that among the few women remaining on his good side were “former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, Trump’s executive assistant Molly Michael, and his daughter Ivanka.”
McEnany both came from and returned to her slot in right-wing blond punditry. Ivanka is enjoying those Saudi billions and getting featured in People. But it’s a pretty good bet that one week ago, Molly Michael wasn’t a name that was on anyone’s radar. She’s not on television. She’s not showing off her latest clothing line on the beaches of Costa Rica. Certainly, no one would have pointed to the longtime Trump assistant as a potential big player in America’s political future.
All it took to change that was a box of notecards.
On Monday, reports showed that Michael had been compiling a collection of notecards. Those notecards happened to be classified documents that Trump had failed to turn over to the FBI. Instead, he used them to write to-do lists that he gave to Michael.
According to ABC News, those cards bore “visible classification markings” and had been part of briefings given to Trump when he was still in office. However, Trump did not hand them over when requested, nor did he store them in the storage room where several boxes of other classified materials had been kept. Instead, he scribbled on them like scratch paper and handed them to Michael.
It was Michael who recognized that, as classified documents, the cards should be kept. They were still on her desk when the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022. However, the FBI didn’t notice Michael’s collection of cards. So she did the right thing and made the FBI aware of the cards the next day.
The cards represent an unknown number of additional classified documents that are currently not the subject of charges leveled against Trump or others. While referring to them as “notecards” may make the documents seem trivial, their description as having been previously used in briefings makes it likely that some of these cards contain distilled information that was highly important for military or diplomatic purposes. The cards were created as a means of helping Trump deal with complex information, and represent a treasure trove of compressed, no-nonsense facts—classified facts.
What’s also clear is that, since Michael was on the receiving end of these to-do lists coming from Trump, there had to be some source of these cards that Trump was using. It’s unclear if that source of the notecards was ever identified and secured.
Trump had a stack of cards containing classified information. That information likely included the most important details of high-level briefings in an easily accessible form. How many of the cards he had, how many were used as scratch paper in notes he sent to Michael, and how many were discarded before Michael recognized their importance is all unknown.
But none of that is what makes Michael’s testimony so potentially radioactive for Trump.
Trump currently faces 37 charges on the indictment issued in the Southern District of Florida in connection with his mishandling of classified documents. Most of those charges are individual counts of willful retention of national defense information connected to specific documents. However, Trump also faces a charge of conspiracy to obstruct justice focusing both on his failure to hand over documents on request, and on his efforts, along with his assistant Walt Nauta, to withhold documents and convince others to go long in a coverup.
Michael is important to the classified documents case because she can confirm every aspect of how the documents were handled, including Trump’s direct involvement in efforts to hide classified documents.
Michael was Trump’s former special assistant and Oval Office operations coordinator. She has worked with him since 2018. She’s the only member on that short list of still-trusted assistants whom Trump convinced to come with him to Mar-a-Lago and take up a job of continuing to do … whatever it was Trump put on those lists.
She was implicitly trusted by Trump and deeply involved in his day-to-day actions, both in Washington and at Mar-a-Lago. She’s also believed to be “Trump employee 2” in the indictment. If that assessment is correct, it means Michael was fully aware of how Trump was treating other classified documents.
The famous stack of boxes that was kept in a shower? Here’s how they got in there.
Michael may not have been the one who toted the boxes into place, but she was certainly aware of where they were going. She was also the recipient of a text from Nauta showing that one of the boxes of classified documents had spilled out across the floor.
It was Michael who provided Trump with an image of how the boxes had been stored. It was Michael who worked with Nauta to select boxes to bring to Trump. It was Michael who, along with Nauta, took boxes from Trump’s residence to be handed over to the National Archives.
And yet Nauta is facing charges for his involvement in dealing with those documents. And Michael … is not.
The reason seems to be that Michael testified extensively to investigators, expressing her concerns about the materials that were not turned over when she and Nauta drove those boxes to the National Archives.
All the way back when the FBI carried out its search of Mar-a-Lago, there were cries of outrage from both Trump and Republicans who insisted he had done what the government asked. After all, hadn’t he just turned over boxes of classified documents?
However, the affidavit connected to that search says it was conducted not just because the boxes sent to the National Archives contained classified documents, but also because “there is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified [National Defense Information] or that are Presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the premises.”
How did the FBI know there were other documents remaining? It can’t be certain that it was information from Michael that triggered the search. However, according to sources contacted by ABC News, she became “increasingly concerned” about how Trump was failing to return requested documents and felt that Trump’s claims would be “easy to disprove.”
Michael isn’t just the woman with the notecards: She’s at the center of the classified documents case. She may even be a principal source on which the DOJ based its request for that initial search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.
Her deep involvement in the handling of these documents, her longtime involvement with Trump, her knowledge of every aspect of how the documents were moved, her acknowledgement that Trump was actively working to conceal documents that he had not turned over, and the fact that she has not been charged—it all adds up to one thing: star witness.
The name Molly Michael is still obscure at this point. It’s not going to stay that way.
Kerry talks with Drew Linzer, director of the online polling company Civiqs. Drew tells us what the polls say about voters’ feelings toward President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, and what the results would be if the two men were to, say … run against each other for president in 2024. Oh yeah, Drew polled to find out who thinks Donald Trump is guilty of the crimes he’s been indicted for, and whether or not he should see the inside of a jail cell.