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The problem with Trump’s response to the National Archives story

After the National Archives confirmed that Donald Trump took classified national security information to Florida, he tried to respond. It didn't go well.


After weeks of questions about the degree to which Donald Trump mishandled sensitive materials, the National Archives and Record Administration didn’t do the former president any favors on Friday.

In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, Archivist David Ferriero confirmed that officials uncovered classified information among the documents Trump took to Mar-a-Lago. The Archives has acknowledged that it had consulted with the Justice Department about the matter.

The result was a dynamic that almost seemed hard to believe. A former American president took sensitive national security information to an unsecured venue known as a haven for spies.

But don’t worry, Trump assured us that this story is just not important. A written statement issued late Friday read in part:

“The National Archives did not ‘find’ anything, they were given, upon request, Presidential Records in an ordinary and routine process to ensure the preservation of my legacy and in accordance with the Presidential Records Act. If this was anyone but ‘Trump,’ there would be no story here.”

From there, the Republican proceeded to ramble for several sentences, including pretending once more that his Russia scandal — in which Trump sought, received, benefited from, and lied about campaign assistance from Moscow — was a “hoax.”

Let’s unpack this a bit.

First, the idea that Team Trump cooperated with the National Archives and Record Administration sounds nice, but there’s evidence pointing in the opposite direction. Indeed, multiple reports indicate that the Archives was so frustrated while trying to obtain the records the former president improperly took that it threatened to take the matter to Congress and the Justice Department.

What’s more, while the former president suggested he and his team have already cooperated, the fact remains that the Archives is still trying to recover materials that have not yet been produced.

Second, the idea that Trump is concerned about acting “in accordance with the Presidential Records Act” is amusing, but difficult to take seriously. We are, after all, talking about a Republican who not only spent four years tearing up official White House documents, but who’s also been accused of trying to literally flush materials down White House toilets.

And third, the idea that this process has been “ordinary and routine” is plainly ridiculous. The Washington Post recently reported, “One person familiar with the transfer characterized it as ‘out of the ordinary.... [T]he National Archives and Records Administration] has never had that kind of volume transfer after the fact like this.’”

What’s more, there’s nothing “routine” about a former president taking classified national security information to a Florida golf club.