It was Sen. Marco Rubio who helped get the ball rolling. Looking for a creative way to defend Donald Trump in the Mar-a-Lago scandal, the Florida Republican — who also happens to be the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee — told the NBC affiliate in Miami that the entire controversy should be seen as a “storage” issue.
Evidently, the former president’s legal team found this compelling. Here, for example, was the first paragraph from the attorneys’ latest court filing:
“This investigation of the 45th President of the United States is both unprecedented and misguided. In what at its core is a document storage dispute that has spiraled out of control, the Government wrongfully seeks to criminalize the possession by the 45th President of his own Presidential and personal records.”
Right off the bat, it’s worth emphasizing that the highly sensitive national security materials in question did not, and do not, belong to Trump. Characterizing the documents as his “Presidential and personal records” is bonkers.
But more entertaining is the idea that the entire scandal is “a document storage dispute.”
As we discussed last week, Trump stands accused of taking classified secrets, refusing to return them, and possibly even obstructing the retrieval process. To focus attention on “document storage” is to deliberately miss the point.
At a certain level, I suppose every theft is a “storage” issue. If robbers took your belongings, they might argue that they’ve simply decided to “store” your stuff at their place, but I have a hunch this wouldn’t prove persuasive in court.
Or as Jay Bookman put it, this “is like saying that when I steal a Mercedes and hide it in my garage, it’s not auto theft but a ‘vehicle storage dispute.’”
Taking one step further, while the criminal investigation is obviously serious in ways Team Trump wants to downplay, the former president’s attorneys aren’t exactly moving the discussion in directions that help their client. The Washington Post had a memorable report a couple of weeks ago on Mar-a-Lago’s approach to “storage” issues.
At the southeast corner of this area, behind a simple door, is a large closet-type space that workers once called “the mold room” in honor of leftover stonework molds deposited in the corner, the former employee said. Today, staffers think of the room more like the former president’s personal closet, one said. It is here, in this windowless nook, where some of the nation’s most sensitive secrets allegedly were stashed.
Joel Brenner, former head of U.S. counterintelligence under the director of National Intelligence and former inspector general for the National Security Agency, told the Post, “I think Mar-a-Lago is a counterintelligence nightmare.”
So to summarize, the scandal surrounding these classified materials is plainly more than just a “document storage dispute”; Trump World should avoid discussions about storage issues anyway; and more than a month after the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s legal team is still in desperate need of more credible defenses.