Last month, Democrats on the House Oversight Committee were clearly frustrated. The lawmakers knew that Donald Trump had been credibly accused of mishandling classified information, and they’d requested more information from the Justice Department about the ongoing controversy.
But federal law enforcement said it could not answer the congressional panel’s questions. The bad news for Democrats is that this left investigators largely in the dark.
The good news for Democrats, however, is that the Justice Department’s reticence suggested that prosecutors were taking the matter seriously. It was against this backdrop that The New York Times reported this afternoon:
Federal prosecutors have begun a grand jury investigation into whether classified White House documents that ended up at former President Donald J. Trump’s Florida home were mishandled, according to two people briefed on the matter. The intensifying inquiry suggests that the Justice Department is examining the role of Mr. Trump and other officials in his White House in their handling of sensitive materials during the final stages of his administration.
In case anyone needs a refresher, it was in February when questions first emerged about the degree to which Trump mishandled sensitive materials, some of which were labeled “top secret.” In late February, the National Archives and Record Administration (NARA) confirmed that officials uncovered classified information among the documents Trump took to Mar-a-Lago — and that the Archives had consulted with the Justice Department about the matter.
The result was an extraordinary dynamic: A former American president took sensitive information to an unsecured venue known as a haven for spies.
Last month, The Washington Post moved the story forward, reporting that the Justice Department had “begun taking steps to investigate” the controversy.
There’s new reason to believe that the preliminary stage is over, and federal law enforcement remains fully engaged. Indeed, the Times’ report added prosecutors have already subpoenaed the Archives and have “made interview requests to people who worked in the White House in the final days of Mr. Trump’s presidency.”
This reporting has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News.
For his part, Trump has denied wrongdoing, though his response appeared badly flawed.
As for the larger political world, it seems only fair to note that in 2015 and 2016, Americans were repeatedly told a presidential candidate’s handling — and potential mishandling — of classified materials was the single most important issue on the planet.
As regular readers know, when various observers — including me — said an intense focus on email protocols was outrageously stupid, we received pushback from those who argued with great sincerity that the handling of sensitive documents deserved to be an issue that dictated the outcome of one of the most important national elections in modern history.
And now, here we are, learning that the former president — who was elected in part because of his former rival’s email practices — may have mishandled classified information while improperly taking White House materials to his private golf resort.
I realize that “but her emails“ jokes are probably a little too easy, but that doesn’t mean they’re wrong.