Donald Trump is undeniably evil, but he is no evil genius. Despite crowing about his “very, very large brain,” Trump has neither the ability, patience, nor desire to understand complexities. As a result, Trump has developed an unusual history of taking action that he thinks helps his cause but instead circles back to target him like a karmic ricochet.
Jeff Yarbro, a Democratic state senator in Tennessee, pointed out the latest example of this phenomenon soon after the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago seeking classified documents and other items this week. Yarbro posed a question in a tweet: “So when did the DOJ start treating removal of classified documents like a felony anyway?” Although Trump fans might insist the answer is ever since Attorney General Merrick Garland decided to “raid” their golden idol’s home, the only answer that matters is the correct one.
Yarbro concluded his tweet by providing the correct answer: “When President Trump signed a 2018 law making it a felony.” As backup, he attached a screen shot of the amendment to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978, highlighting a section entitled, “Increased penalty for unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material.” This amendment (which Trump signed) stiffens the penalty (for what Trump has apparently done) from up to a year in prison to a five-year felony.
As mentioned, this is not the first time that a trigger-happy, “I alone can fix it” Trump has shot himself in the proverbial foot. Another notable example is when, in 2018, SDNY prosecutors tried to access Michael Cohen’s Gmail account when he was still Trump’s fixer. Google refused to comply with the warrant because the law at the time did not require turning over data kept on overseas servers.
A few weeks later, after pushback from privacy advocates, Trump signed into law The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, which allows for retrieval of data stored overseas. Using the CLOUD Act as ammunition, prosecutors succeeded in gaining access to Cohen’s account, along with valuable information—thanks to Trump.
As I wrote for Palmer Report at the time this pleasant turn of events was discovered in 2019, Trump was an “egotistical oaf who just got trampled on by his own two feet.” Indeed, as Trump’s descent from president to prisoner appears to be gaining speed, it is, in large part, a product of his own proud ignorance, reckless bluster, and faux-savvy. Trump may play an evil genius on TV, but his inadvertently self-sabotaging actions continue to betray him and hasten his long-awaited downfall.