At this point in Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago scandal, one of the most basic questions has no answer: Why did he bring highly classified materials to his glorified country club? There has been some interesting reporting over the last few days, however, shedding light on the former president’s sense of entitlement when it came to sensitive documents.
The New York Times, for example, published this report over the weekend.
It is not clear why Mr. Trump apparently chose to hang onto materials that would ignite another legal firestorm around him. But last year, he told close associates that he regarded some presidential documents as his own personal property. When speaking about his friendly correspondence with the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, Mr. Trump said, “They’re mine,” according to a person familiar with the exchange.
This came on the heels of a related Washington Post report.
Trump resisted handing over some of the boxes for months, some people close to the president said, and believed that many of the items were his personally and did not belong to the government. He eventually agreed to hand over some of the documents, “giving them what he believed they were entitled to,” in the words of one adviser.
The Times had a related report over the weekend, noting that the former president was “repeatedly urged by advisers” to return the sought after materials, despite “his desire to continue to hold onto some documents.”
Again, we're still dealing with a giant question mark hanging over the debate — we don't know why the Republican was so eager to keep the materials in his possession — but the reporting nevertheless offers a peek into a twisted perspective.
It was against this backdrop that CBS News spoke to John Bolton, who served as Trump’s White House national security adviser for a year and a half, about this intensifying controversy.
The then-president, Bolton said, would sometimes ask intelligence briefers, “Well, can I keep this?” Officials would often say, “Well, sir, we’d prefer to take that back.”
But, Bolton added, “sometimes they forgot.”
Asked what exactly Trump would say to intelligence officials, the former national security adviser said, quoting the former president, “This is very interesting. I’d like to keep it.”
Asked why Trump wanted to hold onto the documents, Bolton added, “Well, I don’t know, but it worried me.”
As for why he was concerned, Bolton elaborated on his former boss’ general indifference. Trump, he said, “didn’t feel that the confidentiality of much of this information was as important as we knew it to be. It just didn’t register with him that safeguarding this information for its own sake, and because of the risk to sources and methods of obtaining the intelligence, could be jeopardized.”
As the scandal advances, it’s a perspective worth keeping in mind.