Even as Donald Trump’s pet judge Aileen Cannon and the Special Master she appointed keep squabbling with each other, and the DOJ has now appealed the entirety of Cannon’s ruling, that’s just a sideshow. It’s important to keep in mind that the main part of the DOJ’s case against Trump – the part involving classified documents – has resumed moving forward ever since the Court of Appeals made its first ruling against Cannon. Now news is breaking which reveals the scandal is even uglier than we knew, but about as ugly as we were expecting.
The National Archives has now confirmed to the House Oversight Committee that some documents stolen by Trump still haven’t been recovered. Let’s put this in context. It’s news to us, and it may be news to Congress, but it’s certainly not news to the National Archives or the DOJ. They didn’t suddenly just now discover that some documents are still in the wind. The National Archives and the DOJ have known this all along. It’s just that because Congress is now running its own separate probe into the classified documents scandal, and Congress asked the question, the National Archives is dutifully providing the answer.
So the people on social media who are seeing this news and responding by frantically yelling “the DOJ must search Trump’s other properties right now!!!” don’t really know what they’re talking about. Court filings reveal that the DOJ had confidential informants inside Mar-a-Lago for months before finally going in, meaning it knew what was going on with the classified documents inside. The DOJ surely has confidential informants inside Trump’s other residences as well, and if there were classified documents there for the taking, the DOJ would have taken them by now.
So there is bad news here. But it’s not that Trump has classified documents in his other residences and the DOJ is somehow just too oblivious to go in and get them. The bad news is that these documents are likely not at Trump’s other properties, and instead Trump gave them away or lost them or sold them to bad people. The potential good news is that the DOJ and National Archives have likely known for quite awhile that Trump didn’t have these specific documents in his possession, and have presumably been working to track them down all this time. In fact this seems to fall in line with our original suspicion that the reason the DOJ didn’t immediately go into Trump’s home, and instead spent months cultivating sources around Trump, in an effort to quietly recover some of these wayward documents before potentially spooking anyone with a search of Trump’s home.
In any case, the really bad news here is for Donald Trump. We already know that he tried to trick the Feds by surrendering some classified documents several months ago and then falsely claiming that he’s surrendered all of them. Once the Feds came in and took the rest of the documents that were in his home, he was surely hoping that the Feds didn’t also know about the additional documents that weren’t at his properties. But it turns out the Feds do know which documents are still in the wind.
This means that if Trump did commit the even more serious crime of selling or giving away classified documents, the Feds have already known about it for awhile. At this point Trump’s indictment is a given. The more serious the charges he ends up getting hit with, the greater the odds of his conviction, and the longer his prison sentence will end up being.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report