For all of the criminal charges that Jack Smith has brought against Donald Trump – including the Espionage Act – he still hasn’t charged Trump with trying to sell or give classified information to America’s enemies. That may yet come. But it’s also possible that such things will never be provable beyond a reasonable doubt, and that Smith will have to put Trump in prison by simply proving that Trump consistently treated classified documents in a criminally reckless and obstructive manner.
To that end, Smith has already charged Trump for things like illegally showing classified documents to people like ghostwriters, and of course refusing to give the documents back once they were subpoenaed. The point is to establish a pattern of willfully inappropriate treatment of classified information.
ABC News is now reporting that when Trump was in office, he would make to-do lists on classified documents and hand them to his assistants, as if he were writing notes on the back of a napkin. More to the point, ABC says that at least one assistant has already (past tense) testified to Smith’s team about this. In other words, as has so often been the case in this probe, Smith knew about this long before the media and the public learned about it. But it shows what kinds of cards Smith is holding when it comes to making the case against Trump at trial.
Jack Smith will be able to show the trial jury that Donald Trump consistently treated classified information in willfully reckless fashion, both before and after leaving office. This will make it a lot harder for Trump to make the reasonable doubt argument that his refusal to return the documents was merely some kind of misunderstanding.
This kind of story also helps to convince the general public of Donald Trump’s guilt (and reckless ineptitude). The guy was making to-do lists on classified documents and handing them to his assistants. It’s not a far stretch from there to imagine what else he was doing with classified documents once he left office.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report