September 2, 2022
Just a week ago, a judge ordered the release of the affidavit on which the FBI applied for a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. That document revealed that Trump had taken highly classified documents from the government and held them in insecure locations. That document was horrifying, but it referred only to documents the government had already recovered, not the ones for which it would go on to search for on August 8.
Today the unsealing of a court filing revealed that the August 8 search turned up more than 11,000 documents or photographs that were not classified, 31 documents marked CONFIDENTIAL, 54 marked SECRET, and 18 marked TOP SECRET. In addition, agents found 48 empty folders marked CLASSIFIED, and 42 empty folders marked to be returned to a military aide. Those documents were not filed with the envelopes.
This story is unprecedented and explosive. As Sue Gordon, who was principal deputy director of national intelligence from 2017 to 2019, told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace yesterday, in addition to the potential for exposing national secrets, the exposure of the networks and techniques that were in those documents could unravel intelligence networks that took decades to build.
The implications for the destruction of our national security at Trump’s hands are enormous.
And yet, after President Joe Biden’s speech last night saying that “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very foundations of our republic,” Republicans have rushed to attack Biden as divisive, hateful, or disparaging of half the country, claiming far more support than they have. Biden offered them an off-ramp from this profound scandal, inviting them to stand on the side of defending democracy, and they refused it.
They have tied themselves to what looks like it is on the way to becoming the biggest attack on our national security in our history, but it is not clear to me that even remaining Republican voters will be okay with the compromise of our national security. National security used to be very important to Republicans.
Trump’s attorney general Bill Barr seemed today to be trying to get whatever is left of the Republican establishment to abandon the former president. He told two different Fox News Channel programs: “I…think for them to have taken things to the current point, they probably have pretty good evidence…. I think the driver on this from the beginning was…loads of classified information sitting in Mar-a-Lago. People say this was unprecedented, well it’s also unprecedented for a president to take all this classified information and put them in a country club.”
“I can’t think of a legitimate reason why they…could be taken…away from the government if they’re classified.” He added that he was “skeptical” that Trump had declassified the documents. “I think it’s highly improbable, [and]...if in fact he sort of stood over scores of boxes, not really knowing what was in them, and said ‘I hereby declassify everything in here,’ that would be such an abuse and…shows such recklessness it’s almost worse than taking the documents.”
Among all the Republican backlash over Biden’s speech, today, veteran CNN White House reporter John Harwood said:
“The core point he made in that political speech about a threat to democracy is true.
“Now, that’s something that’s not easy for us, as journalists, to say. We’re brought up to believe there’s two different political parties with different points of view and we don’t take sides in honest disagreements between them. But that’s not what we’re talking about. These are not honest disagreements. The Republican Party right now is led by a dishonest demagogue.
“Many, many Republicans are rallying behind his lies about the 2020 election and other things as well. And a significant portion—or a sufficient portion—of the constituency that they’re leading attacked the Capitol on January 6th. Violently.
“By offering pardons or suggesting pardons for those people who violently attacked the Capitol, which you’ve been pointing out numerous times this morning, Donald Trump made Joe Biden’s point for him.”
Shortly afterward, Harwood announced he was no longer with CNN.
A source told Dan Froomkin of Press Watch that Harwood had been told last month he was being let go, despite his long-term contract, and that he used his last broadcast to send a message.