August 30, 2022

Mar-a-Lago Search

The Justice Department on Friday unsealed the FBI affidavit justifying the unprecedented search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate. While the document released is highly redacted, with many of its pages crossed out by black blocks, it includes new details about the sheer volume of sensitive and highly classified information that was stored at the former president’s Florida beachfront home.” AP News

Here’s our recent coverage of the search of Mar-a-Lago. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left argues that the evidence disclosed in the affidavit indicates there was a national security risk.

“The evidence presented in the affidavit indicates that at least some of those records discuss clandestine human intelligence operations — spying — as the New York Times’s Julian E. Barnes and Mark Mazzetti wrote Friday. Should information about those sources, the information they collect, and how they collect it get into unauthorized hands, not only could it jeopardize US intelligence gathering, but it puts the lives of people who spy on behalf of the US at risk.” Ellen Ioanes, Vox

“The markings for top-secret and sensitive compartmented information indicate the highest level of security we have. Those levels protect what is rightly described as the crown jewel of the national security community…

“These documents belong to the government, and their having been taken away posed a clear risk to our national security. The release of the redacted affidavit provides further clarity on why Attorney General Merrick Garland took the extraordinary step of approving the search of certain locations at Mar-a-Lago. The short version is that nothing else had worked and top-secret information was at stake.”

Andrew Weissmann, New York Times

“Most of the statutes at issue in the Mar-a-Lago documents case are more similar to a narcotics case than a complicated bank fraud or obstruction of justice case. Top Secret classified documents are a lot like narcotics from a criminal law perspective. You really don’t want to possess them if you are not authorized to do so. If you take Top Secret classified documents from a government facility and store them at your home, you’re guilty…

“The only viable defense Trump has is to point the finger at someone else — to claim that he is a hands-off administrator who took the word of his aides that none of the documents at Mar-a-Lago belonged in the government’s hands. But while two of the statutes at issue require the government to prove that the defendant intended to break the law, the DOJ’s repeated requests and demands to Trump — including a grand jury subpoena — will make it hard for him to argue that he did not realize that the records contained national security secrets that belonged to the federal government.”

Renato Mariotti, Politico

“First, while a president can declassify documents, there is a process for doing so; at the conclusion of the process, the special classified tabs and markings would be removed. Yet the tabs and markings are still on the documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago. Second, mere possession, much less declassification, of some documents, such as those marked ORCON, must first be approved by the originating agency. That doesn’t seem to have been done either. Third, a president—certainly an ex-president—has no executive privilege to hold documents that properly belong to the National Archives.”

Fred Kaplan, Slate

From the Right

The right argues that the evidence disclosed in the affidavit is unlikely to lead to an indictment.

The right argues that the evidence disclosed in the affidavit is unlikely to lead to an indictment.

“It’s possible the redactions in the 38-page document release contain some undisclosed bombshell. But given the contours of what the affidavit and attachments reveal, this really does seem to boil down to a fight over the handling of classified documents… As always with Mr. Trump, he seems to have been his own worst enemy in this dispute. He and his staff appear to have been sloppy, even cavalier, in storing the documents…

“But that didn’t mean the FBI and Justice Department had to resort to a warrant and federal-agent search… Instead they could have gone to a district court and sought an order for the proper handling and storage of documents. It surely would have been executed. If Mr. Trump then failed to comply, he could have been held in contempt. On the evidence in the warrant and the affidavit, and even based on the leaks to the press so far which all focus on the demand for documents, the search on Mar-a-Lago was disproportionate to the likely offense.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“The specter of the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton haunts these proceedings. She was not charged after improperly storing classified national-defense information on a private server—including information classified at the same top-secret/SCI level as some documents located in Mar-a-Lago. When then–FBI Director James Comey announced that his agency was not recommending a prosecution of Clinton, he articulated a prudential standard that he said had governed prior charging decisions…

“‘All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.’… If that’s the prudential standard that was applied to Clinton, the same standard should be applied to Trump.”

David French, The Atlantic

“Trump's intent—not so much what he did with classified documents, but what he intended to happen based on his actions—will decide his innocence or guilt if the case ever comes to court… The three laws mentioned in the Mar-a-Lago search warrant all specifically require proving intent—Trump's mental objective in taking a classified document—or its equivalent…

“Without knowing the exact nature of the documents this is a tough task, but even with the documents in front of us it would be difficult to prove to a court's satisfaction what Trump wanted to do by keeping the documents, which would require coworkers and colleagues to testify to what Trump himself had said at the time, which is unlikely to happen. It is thus unlikely, based on what we know at present, that Trump would go to jail for storing the documents in Mar-a-Lago.”

Peter Van Buren, American Conservative

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