Two weeks ago, Donald Trump ostensibly got what he wanted: The Justice Department released the search warrant in the Mar-a-Lago case. Of course, the disclosure didn’t do the former president any favors, and the revelations only intensified the larger scandal.
On Friday, Trump again got what he wanted, at least on the surface: The Justice Department also released the search warrant affidavit in the case. Once again, this worked against the Republican’s interests: The materials helped prove that the former president took highly sensitive national security secrets to his glorified country club.
Soon after the newly disclosed documents reached the public, Trump released a written statement of sorts by way of his Twitter-like platform:
“Affidavit heavily redacted!!! Nothing mentioned on ‘Nuclear,’ a total public relations subterfuge by the FBI & DOJ, or our close working relationship regarding document turnover — WE GAVE THEM MUCH. Judge Bruce Reinhart should NEVER have allowed the Break-In of my home. He recused himself two months ago from one of my cases based on his animosity and hatred of your favorite President, me. What changed? Why hasn’t he recused himself on this case? Obama must be very proud of him right now!”
Before we get to the forest, let’s consider some of these trees — because they’re unintentionally amazing.
“Affidavit heavily redacted!!!”: Well, yes, but as the documents — which I’m sure Trump read and considered in detail — made clear, the redactions were necessary in order to protect civilian witnesses, law enforcement officials, and the integrity of the underlying investigation.
“Nothing mentioned on ‘Nuclear.’”: Two weeks ago, The Washington Post published a stunning report noting that “classified documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought” in the Mar-a-Lago. It’s true that the word “nuclear” didn’t appear in Friday’s disclosures.
That said, a whole lot of Friday’s disclosures were redacted — we have no idea whether nuclear secrets were referenced under those redactions or not — and much of the documents related to materials Trump had already given back before the Aug. 8 search. There's still some question as to whether there were nuclear secrets at Mar-a-Lago during the Aug. 8 search.
Team Trump and federal law enforcement had a “close working relationship regarding document turnover.” There’s ample evidence to the contrary, which isn't surprising given that federal law enforcement kept asking for the former president and his team to cooperate with the law and return what he took, and Trump kept saying no.
“WE GAVE THEM MUCH.” Maybe so, but what this talking point means in practical terms is that Trump took a whole lot of materials he wasn’t supposed to take, and he only kept part of his original stash. When suspected burglars defend their actions by effectively saying, “I gave the police much of what I stole,” that tends to be unpersuasive.
“Judge Bruce Reinhart should NEVER have allowed the Break-In of my home.” There was no “break-in.” The FBI demonstrated probable cause, obtained a court-approved search warrant, and coordinated with the Secret Service in advance. Agents showed up in casual attire. Repeating the “break-in” lie every day does not make it true.
“Why hasn’t he recused himself on this case?” I obviously can’t speak for the magistrate or his recusal judgments, but isn’t the better question why, if Trump is so concerned about this, his lawyers never asked Reinhart to recuse himself?
But as notable as the former president’s hysterical statement was, let’s not lose sight of the larger context: Is this the statement of someone who seems confident that he’s done nothing wrong?
It’s days like this when I wonder whether Trump has ever heard the phrase, “Never let ‘em see you sweat.”