Public reactions to Friday’s release of the affidavit underlying the heavily redacted Mar-a-Lago search warrant were largely predictable. The partial disclosure played into Trump’s strategy of demanding that the entire document be unsealed, expecting that not to be the case. Criticism from its supporters of the research itself continued, although some signs of saw it was more discreet than before. Trump’s opponents, on the other hand, have seen criminal proceedings pending.
Trump’s “cover-up” claims are misleading. Revealing the affidavit further would hurt, as would Friday’s revelations, but Trump certainly knows compromising the investigation itself could be his best hope of avoiding prosecution. In fact, important information remains unknown; a may Letter from the National Archives to Trump’s attorney provided more information than the affidavit. Unsurprisingly, Trump opened a new front, looking for a special master and other help.
However, Trump’s critics still lack an adequate basis to claim that their dreams have come true. The hype of their case (among other things) cost them two impeachment losses, thus empowering and emboldening Trump, instead of restraining and deterring him. Being overzealous in producing more evidence than he can now bear to demand prosecution is doing Trump’s job for him and risking a third defeat.
Mar-a-Lago’s classified documents require careful analysis to accurately assess what they contain. Let’s consider some examples of the work to come. Each paragraph of a document containing classified information is usually marked with the classification level applicable to that paragraph. Thus, a paragraph may be marked “(U)” for unclassified, followed by a “(S)” paragraph (secret), a few “(C)” paragraphs (confidential) and then a “(TS/SCI) )” (top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information).
In such a case, the entire document would be classified as TS/SCI. Theoretically, there could be a 100-paragraph document, with 99 unclassified paragraphs and one TS/SCI paragraph: The entire document would be marked TS/SCI. (Of course, there could also be documents with 100 TS/SCI paragraphs.) It doesn’t diminish the sensitivity of TS/SCI information to say that, at this time, we just don’t know what’s involved. or potentially compromised.
We also cannot say whether the Mar-a-Lago documents, even those marked TS/SCI, remain classified at these levels today. Time and bureaucracy pass. Even ignoring the absurd declassification claims of Trump supporters, some information becomes less sensitive; some media leaks; and some are declassified for the government’s own reasons. All classified Mar-a-Lago documents are now would have been examined with these and related considerations in mind.
Again, these caveats do not ignore or minimize the potential harm to the United States, but they indicate that at this point we simply lack sufficient information to make an informed judgment about the extent of the damage. caused to national security.
Nor do these considerations constitute a defense of Trump’s conduct. His disdain for intelligence actions, his cavalier disregard for the sensitivity of classified information, and the deeply idiosyncratic manner in which he “governed,” including the chaos of his departure from the White House, warrant no defense. In a normal case, conducted quietly, the Department of Justice could make a prosecutorial decision without compromising its institutional legitimacy and integrity. The caution of waiting for all the facts to be gathered would make sense.
But with Donald Trump, this luxury does not exist. While his lawyers trip over themselves trying to mount a defense, his political defenders need only rhetoric to discredit the Justice Department’s seemingly cumbersome and opaque process. In such circumstances, appealing to the due process, institutional legitimacy and personal integrity of key decision makers, however correct, is not enough. trump is precisely address these characteristics.
And justice is not free from guilt. FBI Director James Comey’s public performance in closing the Hillary Clinton email case in July 2016 was totally unwarranted and unprecedented, as was his October letter to Congress proclaiming the case reopened. . If he hadn’t made the first mistake, he shouldn’t have made the second. Indeed, given this misconduct, Trump would have been fully justified in firing Comey on January 20, 2017. Moreover, the Department’s Hunter Biden investigation drags on, energizing those who claim a “double standard” of justice. .
Nevertheless, contrary to widespread speculation, the search for Mar-a-Lago still seems limited to issuing documentsand is apparently not a cover for obtaining information relating to January 6th. So whatever justice may think of Trump’s potential criminal liability for that sad day is, at least for now, irrelevant.
Clearly, Trump is waging both a political and legal battle, hoping the former will disrupt the latter. Justice is predestined to lose political debate by adhering to traditional practice. Losing honorably, however, is neither a desirable nor an inevitable outcome. What should Attorney General Merrick Garland and others do in defense of the department?
First, expedite the Trump and Hunter Biden investigations so that prosecute/non-prosecute decisions can be made more quickly than in the normal course. Giving higher priority to these issues in no way compromises the integrity of the investigative or prosecutorial processes, or tilts the balance in favor of one final substantive decision over another. But justice must act instead of remaining a fixed target.
Second, Garland should confront Comey’s misdeeds and permanently repudiate her public position in the Clinton case. By admitting past mistakes, justice can blunt the line of attack of “double standards.” While there, Garland is expected to defend Robert Mueller’s findings that there was insufficient evidence of Russian collusion to prosecute Trump on those grounds.
Third, members of Congress should accept the reports Efforts of the “Gang of Eight” to learn more about the Mar-a-Lago records. Leaving that to congressional committees is insufficient. Senior Republican leaders must come forward. If Trump has in fact caused deep damage, this is an opportunity for Republicans to unambiguously uphold our values of national security and the rule of law, rather than surrender those motives to his depredations.
None of this is a panacea. But failing in the usual approaches while Trump and his supporters attack fundamental institutions and tenets of law enforcement is worse.
John Bolton was National Security Advisor President Trump from 2018 to 2019, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 2005 to 2006 and held senior positions at the State Department from 2001-2005 and 1985-1989. His most recent book is “The room where it happened(2020). He is the founder of John Bolton Super PACa political action committee supporting candidates who believe in a strong American foreign policy.