IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

On Mar-a-Lago tapes in classified case, Trump misses the point

Amid the lies and distortions littered across his sprawling “Meet the Press” interview, the former president latched on to an argument that doesn’t help him.


In his interview Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” amid his lies and distortions across a range of matters, Donald Trump missed an important legal point (or was lying about that, too).

It came during discussion of his classified documents and obstruction case, one of four criminal prosecutions the Republican faces as he runs for president again. Asking Trump about one of the charges in that Florida case, “Meet the Press” moderator Kristen Welker said it “suggests you asked a staffer to delete security camera footage so it wouldn’t get into the hands of investigators. Did you do that?” 

In addition to denying doing that, Trump said that “more importantly, the tapes weren’t deleted.” Showing this wasn’t an idle thought, the former president soon followed up with: “Much more importantly, when the tapes came, and everybody says this, they weren’t deleted.”

Putting aside whoever the “everybody” is or what they said, the important thing to keep in mind about this allegation — which represents only part of this federal case against Trump — is that prosecutors don’t need to show that the tapes were deleted. That’s probably why the superseding indictment doesn’t allege they were. Rather, it says Trump and his co-defendants “requested” that an employee “delete security camera footage at The Mar-a-Lago Club to prevent the footage from being provided to a federal grand jury.”

That is, the law punishes attempts, even unsuccessful ones. To that end, there’s a section in the superseding indictment literally titled “The Attempt to Delete Security Camera Footage.”

So, Trump’s argument that the footage wasn’t deleted isn’t much of an argument at all. And even if it’s true that it wasn’t deleted, that could just show a bungled crime rather than the absence of a crime. In any event, Trump may want to sharpen this defense ahead of his scheduled May trial in Florida.