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Officials reportedly think they know why Trump took classified docs

What motivated Donald Trump to take secret materials to his glorified country club? We now appear to be left with a good-news, bad-news explanation.


More than two months after the FBI executed a court-approved search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, a core question has gone largely unanswered: What exactly was Donald Trump thinking?

Based on everything we’ve learned, it appears the former president improperly took highly sensitive materials, stored them at his glorified country club, ignored appeals to return the documents, and allegedly interfered with efforts to retrieve them. What’s been far less clear is why the Republican did this.

In fact, some of the questions about his possible motivations have veered in uncomfortable directions, including the possibility that Trump might’ve intended to sell the materials. The latest Washington Post reporting suggest investigators have arrived at a different kind of conclusion.

Federal agents and prosecutors have come to believe former president Donald Trump’s motive for allegedly taking and keeping classified documents was largely his ego and a desire to hold on to the materials as trophies or mementos, according to people familiar with the matter.

According to the Post’s report, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, investigators scrutinized the retrieved materials, “looking to see if the types of information contained in them pointed to any kind of pattern or similarities.” The article added that the federal authorities’ scrutiny has led them in directions that appeared relatively benign:

That review has not found any apparent business advantage to the types of classified information in Trump’s possession, these people said. FBI interviews with witnesses so far, they said, also do not point to any nefarious effort by Trump to leverage, sell or use the government secrets. Instead, the former president seemed motivated by a more basic desire not to give up what he believed was his property, these people said.

In other words, if this is accurate, we appear to be left with a good-news, bad-news situation. The good news is, the former president apparently didn’t intend to sell or misuse the classified secrets he took. The bad news is, the reporting presents Trump as some kind of man-child who saw official documents as toys and trophies he couldn’t stand the thought of losing — despite the fact that they didn’t belong to him.

This, alas, is consistent with earlier reporting on the scandal. The New York Times, for example, reported in August that the Republican last year “told close associates that he regarded some presidential documents as his own personal property,” legal designations be damned.

On the surface, all of this might seem vaguely reassuring. The nightmarish worst-case scenario was that Trump took government secrets with the expectation that they’d end up in the hands of some of his foreign allies. At least at this point in the investigations, federal agents and prosecutors apparently don’t believe that was his motivation.

But the less terrifying explanation still isn’t great: A former American president was willing to ignore his lawyers, ignore federal law, and risk a federal criminal investigation that might very well lead to his indictment because of his toddler-like sense of entitlement.