The Trump Presidential Library

The indictment is devastating. Whether it can be proven remains to be seen as with any criminal prosecution, but anyone suggesting the charges are either trivial or insubstantial is blowing smoke. But Trump, together with his lawyers and lovers, are doing their best to mount a public relations defense to make him appear neither as guilty nor as ignorant as he comes off. The efforts involve a three prong attack.

(1) But what about . . . ?

This ranges from Hillary to Hunter, and occasionally even the “Big Guy,” despite their being neither equivalent nor relevant. The initial implication is that this is a selective prosecution because they didn’t pursue other political prosecutions. It is, of course, an ironic claim, given that Trump was president and there was no political impediment to prosecuting Clinton had there been cause. Indeed, it’s not as if Trump’s supporters would have been troubled if he had done so.

Nonetheless, there is currently a special prosecutor, former Maryland US Attorney Rob Hur, for President Biden’s possession of classified documents, but unlike Trump, he didn’t conceal, lie and refuse to cooperate. Unlike Trump, Biden willingly allowed the FBI to search for classified documents. Trump was offered the same opportunities to correct any inadvertant error and not only chose not to avail himself of them, but to intentionally reject them. He made his choice.

But the very nature of the argument is mere deflection. It’s a tacit admission of “sure, he’s guilty as hell, but…” This is not a defense.

(2) He’s got two years to separate personal papers from government papers under the Presidential Records Act.

The PRA is a fairly straightforward law, originally enacted in 1978 to prevent Richard Nixon from destroying inculpatory papers, This claim, put forth by former Trump attorney, Tim Parlatore, during his flurry of television appearances, contended that the PRA allows outgoing presidents time to sift through their papers. It’s false. Upon the moment when the term of office is over, the papers become the property of the United States, and they are to be put in the custody of the National Archives.

But the National Archives had rented space for other presidents to store their papers and thereafter separate personal from official? That was for presidents who sought to establish a presidential library. Trump did not, even if it might appear that he did in his own inimical way.

Not an artist’s rendering of planned Trump Presidential Library.

When the National Archives rents space to hold files pending the creation of a presidential library, it has custody of the files held, not the former president. This complies with the PRA.

§2203(G)(2) The Archivist shall deposit all such Presidential records in a Presidential archival depository or another archival facility operated by the United States. The Archivist is authorized to designate, after consultation with the former President, a director at each depository or facility, who shall be responsible for the care and preservation of such records.

The Mar-a-lago bathroom (or ballroom, storage roon or any other room) was not such an archival depository, and the bathroom attendant, had there been one, had not been duly designated as director.

(3) He’s allowed to under the PRA.

Trump said this, and repeated this, numerous times, including on his CNN Town Hall. To those for whom law is hard, the mere mention of “Presidential Records Act,” together with their inclination to believe Trump’s baseless assertion that it authorizes him to do anything he wants as if Trump is either truthful or knowledgeable about law or governance, is sufficient. Except it’s shameless nonsense and completely false.

§2202. Ownership of Presidential records

The United States shall reserve and retain complete ownership, possession, and control of Presidential records…

There is absolutely nothing in the PRA that enables or authorizes Trump to take and/or retain presidential records. The law is absolutely clear that upon the end of his term in office, the records belong to the United States, not the former president. Yes, Trump keeps saying he’s allowed to take them and keep them, that they’re his. They are not. There is no question whatsoever that what he’s claiming is totally false.

And despite Trump making the assertion to his adoring supporters, Trump was well aware that he was lying to them (not that it mattered to him).

The indictment says that Mr. Trump not only took from the White House classified documents that he was not authorized to possess but also that he showed them to visitors and political cronies at his country club. One of the documents involved a potential attack on another country, which The New York Times has reported was Iran. “Isn’t it amazing?” he asked one visitor, brandishing the document. During that conversation Mr. Trump acknowledged that he knew the document was “a secret,” the indictment said.

The details in the indictment make it clear that Mr. Trump knew that he was not authorized to keep national security secrets in his possession and that he played a cat-and-mouse game to conceal them from the F.B.I. and other federal officials. At one point he suggested his lawyer take some documents to his hotel room and “pluck” out anything really bad, the indictment says. “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?” he asked his lawyers. He added, “Well, look, isn’t it better if there are no documents?” Meanwhile, he instructed his lawyers to falsely inform federal investigators that they had cooperated fully.

The burden remains on the government to prove its allegations, and would no doubt like to thank ex-president Trump for providing a wealth of evidence against himself. Like every criminal defendant, he is entitled to the presumption of innocence and due process. What he is not entitled to is lying about laws allowing him to do this or fallacious arguments that only his blindest sycophants will believe.

7 thoughts on “The Trump Presidential Library

  1. Andrew Ottaway

    If you sit by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by.

    African proverb of great comfort to me, and to my enemies.

    1. LocoYokel

      If you sit by the river to long the alligators will get you.

      Loco’s corollary to African proverb.

  2. Hal

    Your closing paragraph reminded me of the observation, “Trump has the right to remain silent, but lacks the ability to do so”.

    I read the indictment last night and, to this layman’s eyes, it certainly seems damning. Given Mssr. Smith’s reputation, I have to think it’s pretty solid, too. Former AG Barr said last week that he thought that, of the various cases against Il Douche, this was the case most likely to lead to a conviction.

    I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

  3. Paleo

    Trump has spent the past year begging for this indictment. Loudly proclaiming that he committed the offense.

    His complaint about Biden and HC has some validity I guess, but it’s like I told the one of my daughters that had a proclivity for getting speeding tickets – yes others were speeding too and getting away with it, but when you chose to speed you opened yourself up to the punishment if caught, independent of what did or didn’t happen to anyone else. Trump needs a practical engineer daddy to explain that to him.

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