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Tipsheet

Biden DOJ Now Circling Back to Nuke Secrets Talking Point at Mar-a-Lago

AP Photo/Terry Renna

We’re stuck in a time loop. As the fallout from the FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago continues, the Department of Justice has yet to present any damning evidence that Trump mishandled classified information that he already declassified. The president is the ultimate authority regarding declassifying records, rendering most of the media hysterics moot. No president can be charged with mishandling classified information in this context. This raid hasn’t uncovered another Watergate. It’s a political hit job that went awry—the bullet missed its intended target. Even Trump’s staunchest and most vocal critics admitted that the FBI needed to find something quick to justify this ransacking to avoid a public relations disaster and another severe erosion of their credibility. Almost a month later, there is no smoking gun.

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The most recent development centered on an absurdly redacted affidavit that doesn’t meet mens rea benchmarks suggesting criminal intent regarding the documents in question. Trump isn’t even mentioned in the parts we’re allowed to read. There was no probable cause to search the safe, leaving more questions than answers. Time magazine covers were some of the documents seized by FBI agents, along with empty folders. Blessedly, a judge did grant the Trump legal team’s motion for a special master to review the documents and issued an injunction against any further DOJ analysis of the records and other investigative operations. The DOJ is mulling an appeal, which could take months. And remember, the Justice Department was against a special master appointment because a) they said they were already reviewing the materials, and b) it was a threat to national security. Empty folders are a national security threat. You can see how this looks like a clown show.

Now, we’re circling back to the nuclear secrets talking point because some say such documents were at Mar-a-Lago. It wasn’t about our atomic capabilities but those of other nations (via WaPo):

A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club last month, according to people familiar with the matter, underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed in the Florida property.

Some of the seized documents detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are kept in the dark about them. Only the president, some members of his Cabinet or a near-Cabinet-level official could authorize other government officials to know details of these special-access programs, according to people familiar with the search, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive details of an ongoing investigation.

Documents about such highly classified operations require special clearances on a need-to-know basis, not just top-secret clearance. Some special-access programs can have as few as a couple dozen government personnel authorized to know of an operation’s existence. Records that deal with such programs are kept under lock and key, almost always in a secure compartmented information facility, with a designated control officer to keep careful tabs on their location.

But such documents were stored at Mar-a-Lago, with uncertain security, more than 18 months after Trump left the White House.

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Okay, so we’re back to this narrative again. It still doesn’t make the FBI or the DOJ look any better. If they knew for 18 months, why did they let them remain at Mar-a-Lago? Could it be that a June 8 letter from the Biden DOJ told the Trump legal team to keep everything at the former president’s home? And then, federal agents raided the residence under the auspices of the Presidential Records Act via the National Archives. It sounds like a trap, but if not—it’s gross incompetence on behalf of the FBI. They knew for months and did nothing. Now, again, Trump declassified the documents and kept legal copies. He has Secret Service protection which means Mar-a-Lago was secure. He has federally funded staffers with security clearances to handle his materials. And the fact that former presidents are afforded staff and such accommodations are Congress’ not-so-subtle way of saying that they expect ex-presidents to take classified items with them upon leaving office; government overclassifies everything.

Is there nowhere else for this hit job story to go? Maybe, especially if an appeal is filed, delaying any new significant updates until well after the 2022 elections.

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