Trump Accused of Taking Top Secret Material To Mar-A-Lago

According to a new report by The Washington Post, the National Archives had to retrieve a large number of boxes from Mar-a-Lago that were unlawfully removed by President Trump or his staff upon leaving the White House. There are strict laws on the preservation of presidential documents, laws that President Trump was repeatedly accused of flaunting during his presidency. However, the most serious element of this latest allegation is that the removed material included clearly marked classified information, including some at the Top Secret level.

We still do not have confirmation of the allegation from the National Archives but Trump himself acknowledged that boxes were removed and called the exchange friendly and routine. There are often conflicts over what material can be removed by departing presidents, though the reports are suggesting that this conflict was more serious in light of the status of the documents.

The allegation that Trump removed classified information is a potential criminal violation. It is also highly ironic given Trump’s long use of “Lock Her Up” to refer to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server for official and classified material.

While the Presidential Records Act requires the preservation of such documents (and the removal was likely in violation of that law), it is relatively weak on enforcement elements. As we have previously discussed, presidents have long chaffed at both the limitations or disclosures imposed by the Act. I previously wrote about these disputes in a law review article with Cornell. Jonathan Turley, Presidential Records and Popular Government: The Convergence of Constitutional and Property Theory in Claims of Control and Ownership of Presidential Records 88 Cornell Law Review 651-732 (2003).

The 1978 law requires that any memos, letters, emails and other documents related to the president’s duties be preserved for retention by the National Archives and Records Administration at the end of an administration. Trump was previously warned about the law after he reportedly tore up some documents, though he recently denied reports that he literally flushed some documents down a White House toilet.

There are some criminal provisions that can apply to such cases, though such application to a former president would be unprecedented. The Section 1361 states that anyone who “willfully injures or commits any depredation against any property of the United States” can be given a fine or up to one year imprisonment if convicted. The Section 2071 states that anyone who “willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates or destroys … any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited … in any public office” can be fined or face up to three years in prison if convicted.

Again, those laws have never be used against a former president.

The allegation of the removal of classified material can trigger other laws barring the removal of such material without authorization and without proper protections. Those laws were raised with regard to former FBI Director James Comey removing FBI material and then leaking information to the press. Comey clearly violated federal law but was not prosecuted.

In the case of President Bill Clinton’s former national security adviser Sandy Berger, he stuffed classified material in his socks to remove them from the archives.  General David Petraeus was accused of giving access to classified information to his alleged lover but was also given no jail time on a misdemeanor.

Controversies like the one is less likely that this would be treated as a criminal matter, though we still do not know key facts. Moreover, one would expect a search warrant to be issued if the Justice Department was treating this as a criminal investigation. Once classified material is found, they would have a basis for demanding a broader search of areas and computers.

Nevertheless, this remains a serious allegation leveled against the former president. You cannot be part of the “Lock Her Up” crowd and immediately pivot to “Let Him Go” when a similar allegation is raised against the former president. That does not mean that the allegations are true, but they should be confirmed.

There are a host of violations that may apply in such a case from the unauthorized removal to the possible possession of classified material by unauthorized parties to the storage of such material in an unauthorized location.

Ironically, before leaving office, Trump had the ultimate declassification authority. However, if the material was still top secret when he returned to his status as a private citizens, he may have tripped the wire on some of these laws.  I do not know of any authority for a former president to retain classified material.  Former presidents have access to such documents at the National Archives.

This should not be a difficult story for the government to confirm. Either some of the documents were marked classified or they were not. The question then becomes a question of why those documents were included in these boxes and the specific knowledge or involvement of the former president.

128 thoughts on “Trump Accused of Taking Top Secret Material To Mar-A-Lago”

  1. Which of the following best describes the Democrat party and their deep state collaborators:
    A. The boy who cried wolf
    B. Vengeance is mine
    C. The Manchurian Candidate
    D. All of the above

      1. Just when we thought it was safe to send the children back to school, out comes ATS to defend the indefensible.

    1. I am perplexed by the law. The president has plenary powers….yet the legislative wants to mon day at morning quarterback? What? The president is a man. He was elected to make decisions. Not to have his mind after the fact picked by the elites at national archive. If he was protecting classified info….who cares? Do they have a need to know.? Ice tea. They don’t have a need to know. And the president can put in where ever….to protect its classification. Who are they thst they have a need to know? For access….this is the leg is treading on exec grounds. Via the unconstitutional archives laws. The very law is suspect. But it apparently only applies to presidents not like ppl said hopefuls like Hillary. And no reasonable prosecuter could find intent….when she destroyed……yet marked boxes at Marlboro are intent….the crack pipes are working.

    2. Now it is Hillary paid a company to hack Trump’s computers for dirt as a candidate and into 2017 at least. Guess they did find evidence of him being Putin’s puppet

  2. If you polled most Americans, citizens of both parties probably overwhelmingly agree that “laws only apply to little people”. Nobody expects anything to really happen to certain classes of people.

    Ironically, this is likely a big part of Trump’s voter base appeal. Trump viewed the carnival game as a carnival game, instead of institutions pretending to be something else. This is an unhealthy cynical view of government that needs fixing, but we can’t fix it by pretending otherwise.

    Congress could start fixing it by restoring the damage done to our constitutional due process from the so-called “War on Drugs” and the “War on a Tactic” after 9/11 that literally amended the Bill of Rights’ letter & spirit, bypassing the constitutional amendment process.

    Congress could institute a “Truth Commission” on post-9/11 unconstitutional practices. Senator Patrick Leahy had a great model that would offer condition immunity from criminal prosecution to “subordinates” (order takers) in exchange for truth-telling to entire intelligence units and entire security units.

    If Americans want their kids to inherit a better America, a Leahy style Truth Commission is the one and only way to get there. In spite of their Oath of Office supreme loyalty oath, in real practice these officials have loyalty to those who have their backs. In America’s 21st Century “carnival game” – who can blame them? Would you trust any government agency?

  3. If you want the real story here, check out the video of the “Thomas Drake Luncheon at the National Press Club” in 2013 [source: C-Span]. Basically America over-classifies almost everything and way too many officials (post-9/11) have too much secrecy authority. Drake also explains the U.S. Department of Justice’s role in violating the American Oath of Office.

  4. Did Hillary Clinton send her personal server, which allegedly contained “Classified material”to her attorines, and then to a Colorado Co., which neither had clearemce to have in their possession of classified materials?

      1. Anon: I am not confused. Seems you are the spider monkey way out on the limb.
        Research Denver employee that oversaw Hillary Clinton’s e-mail server granted immunity in probe. Two PlattRiver employees called to testify. I would allege Hillary should be in prison for her derelioction of a number of her duties.

  5. Normally, very senior people retain their security clearances. Much ado about nothing

    1. Having a security clearance is does not in any way allow you to store classified information in unsecured, unapproved locations.

  6. One would like to think that before running this story The Washington Post would have acquired confirmation that the story was true. In sentence number four of this post it states that there has been no confirmation from the National Archives that Trump took secret documents. Perhaps he did but until it is confirmed by the National Archives, unlike some hate filled posters here I will reserve my judgement until all the facts are in. One thing we know for sure is that there was classified material on Hillary’s secret server. I still can’t help but wonder what was in the 30,000 deleted emails. A second thing that we know for sure is that the emails were deleted. Dear Professor, I do believe that you would agree that there are different levels of breaking the law.

    1. I would think that anyone who was concerned about Hillary’s emails would be equally concerned about Ivanka and Jared both breaking the same law.

  7. Amusing to see this apologist for Trump oh so grudgingly acknowledge that the former President violated the law.

    1. Dale,

      I yield to no one in my disdain for Turley’s decision to work on behalf of Fox News, but I have to defend him when I believe that he is being unfairly maligned. He is decidedly NOT an apologist for Trump. Turley has been a NeverTrumper long before Trump ran for President. He knew what kind of bullsh*tter he was when he called him a “carnival snake charmer” 10 years ago!

      Furthermore, Turley has never joined the Trumpists in their rage against the “Deep State.” Turley is a calm and reasoned academic; not a hothead. Nor is he a liar, for he does not believe the election was stolen.

      Turley also believed that Trump’s conduct in BOTH impeachments rose to the level of High Crimes and Misdemeanors IF the Democrats could prove Trump’s mens rea which he claimed they failed to do in both cases. However, Trumpists think that Trump did nothing wrong whatsoever! To them, the Impeachments were “witch-hunts.”

      The ONLY thing Turley and Trumpists have in common is a shared complaint against Fox News’ media competitors, namely, the mainstream media: Trumpists for ideological reasons, Turley for financial ones. That’s it.

      1. Fox was the only Sunday show to mention that Hillary paid to spy on Trump. The other shows are propagandists for your side who do NOT tell the whole truth, if they mention it at all. They are REALLY good at reporting hoaxes and lies like the fake Russian Collusion trap that HILLARY was paying for.

          1. Jeff, why do you think Wen Bars is lying? Rational people generally have reasons. Are you not rational?

        1. The first question is: does the person who alleges that “Hillary paid to spy on Trump” have evidence of this, or is that person instead lying or confused about key details?

          For example, if you’re referring to the Motion to Inquire into Potential Conflicts of Interest filed by Durham a few days ago, have you read the motion? The motion doesn’t allege anything illegal.

          As Marcy Wheeler notes, some are “very excited that, among the data that someone heavily involved in cybersecurity like Rodney Joffe would have ready access to, was data that included the White House. They seem less interested that, to disprove the allegations Sussmann presented, Durham effectively … conducted the same “spying” on EOP networks of President Obama that Durham insinuates Joffe did of Trump. Remember: This meeting is not charged. … instead of rolling out what Sussmann presented in that February 9 meeting five years and two days ago in a conspiracy indictment, Durham instead packaged it up in a filing pertaining to a potential conflict. … Whatever Durham hopes to use to sustain the claim of a continuing conspiracy, this filing seems to concede that the lies Durham claims Sussmann told in that meeting that took place five years and a few days ago will not be charged,” because the statute of limitations just expired for charging someone for lying to the CIA on 2/9/2017.

          More of Wheeler’s analysis of the motion:

          She’s liberal, and she does try to “tell the whole truth” about these things, including details that many on the right miss.

          1. In the following paragraph written by Wheeler, her writing became wordier and more difficult to understand easily. She didn’t deal with the situation in its totality and, in the end, seems to excuse wrongdoing because of the statute of limitations. She doesn’t sound like a good source of information unless one is trying to weasel out of a losing argument.

            “… Whatever Durham hopes to use to sustain the claim of a continuing conspiracy, this filing seems to concede that the lies Durham claims Sussmann told in that meeting that took place five years and a few days ago will not be charged,” because the statute of limitations just expired for charging someone for lying to the CIA on 2/9/2017.”

            1. I had an easy time understanding it, perhaps because I read the entire column.

              You haven’t identified any relevant content that she omitted from the entire column. (I’m clearly not going to quote the entire column, as that would be copyright infringement.)

              She wasn’t excusing wrongdoing. We don’t even know that wrongdoing occurred; it has been alleged but not yet proven in court. She was making a point about Durham’s choice to file this as a Motion to Inquire into Potential Conflicts of Interest without filing any charges related to what he discusses in the motion, and she was noting that Durham has allowed the statute of limitations to expire on that meeting without charging a conspiracy.

              You, of course, are free to have any opinion you want about her and her columns. But despite your complaints, you haven’t identified any material error or omission in this column. Just what error or material omission are you alleging?

              1. “I had an easy time understanding it, perhaps because I read the entire column.”

                After reading the excerpt, there was no reason to read the entire column. Take note of how the first half differed from the second half, where Wheeler used many unnecessary words. She was spinning, and in the end, we were left with the statute of limitations which makes her sound a bit ridiculous.

                Your questions regarding my understanding of the column do not relate to anything I said. Instead, they deflect from my point.

                1. Again: you haven’t identified any material error or omission in her column. What error or material omission are you alleging?

                  1. I only accused Wheeler of spinning and sounding ridiculous. I didn’t accuse her of doing anything else. You made that stuff up.

                    1. You said “She didn’t deal with the situation in its totality,” which implies that she omitted something material, and “She doesn’t sound like a good source of information” which implies that she made some mistake and/or omitted material information.

                      Since you haven’t identified any material error or omission, my opinion is that you’re the one “spinning and sounding ridiculous.”

                    2. She didn’t say much of anything in the excerpt, and neither did you. That is typical of your links that don’t provide the needed support of your claims. However, she did point out the statute of limitations which is more of an argument for a crime being committed than against one.

                    3. “That is typical of your links that don’t provide the needed support of your claims.”

                      But her column did support my claims, nor have you quoted anything to the contrary.

                      And again: you have provided ZERO evidence that she made any material error or omission in her column.

                      “she did point out the statute of limitations which is more of an argument for a crime being committed than against one.”

                      On the contrary, her point was that Durham let the statute of limitations expire without filing any charges related to that 2/9/2017 meeting. That’s not an argument FOR a crime. It’s either an argument AGAINST there being evidence of Sussman having committed a crime at that meeting OR it’s an argument FOR Durham being incompetent.

                    4. “But her column did support my claims,”

                      You chose the excerpt, and according to what you are saying, you did a miserable job. You also control what you write—another miserable job.

                      “her point was that Durham let the statute of limitations expire without filing any charges related to that 2/9/2017 meeting. ”

                      I expect nothing from Durham. How Klinesmith (?sp) was handled told me the fix was in. In this case, when one hears talk of the statute of limitations and a Super Bowl release date, one knows not to hold out high hopes.

                    5. So you can’t back up anything on the factual end, and all you’ve got is negative opinions about me and negative opinions about Durham. OK.

                    6. “So you can’t back up anything on the factual end, and all you’ve got is negative opinions about me and negative opinions about Durham. O”

                      You provided the excerpt and you chose your own words. Neither you nor Wheeler provided anything of significant value. There is nothing to back up because virtually nothing has been said. You failed and failed again. I’m sorry, but spin doesn’t count for much and no one is going to send out a boat to rescue you.

                    7. “Neither you nor Wheeler provided anything of significant value.”

                      Your opinion. That’s all you’ve got: opinion. Wheeler presented facts, I quoted some of the facts she presented. You’ve demonstrated that you cannot counter those facts.

                      You, of course, are free to have any opinion you want about her and her columns and me. But despite your many complaints, you haven’t identified any material FACTUAL error or omission in her column.

                    8. “Your opinion. That’s all you’ve got: opinion.”

                      What else do you expect when you provide a dumb excerpt and a lousy bit of rhetoric. You require others to make a case for you or word parsing to such an extent that you sound ignorant or like a liar.

                      The major fact she provided was that the statute of limitations was over, which went against your argument and made you look Stupid. I explained how Stupid that was and how she was spinning. One doesn’t need to lay it on any thicker. You failed miserably and cannot resurrect yourself.

                      In this mini-thread, you have told everyone why you link instead of quoting from the link while providing your point. You are unable to do so. You were better off linking. For now, you have proven yourself to be abysmally Stupid.

                    9. Oh, goodie, more opinions, and not a single factual claim.

                      You cannot debate the facts.

                    10. Understand, Anonymous the Stupid, that you can’t rely on posting spin to debate facts, especially when your own spin and quotes make you look foolish. Why don’t you repost the excerpt and point out the facts you wish to discuss. There is nothing there. Your mind was filled with empty implications leaving you bereft of an argument. There are lots of words and somewhat tortured language to convince people like you with no critical thinking skills. Wheeler succeeded in passing garbage and spin. You also took the bait and passed it on but made yourself look like a dummy in the process.

    2. Dale, Turley used the word ‘alleged’ theoughout this article and concluded with;

      “This should not be a difficult story for the government to confirm. Either some of the documents were marked classified or they were not.”

      Turley said this because all of the reporting on the allegations of classified materials and ‘torn-up’ documents is anonymously sourced and is entirely without evidence. Until it is confirmed it is nothing but tabloid speculation.

      1. Actually, NARA already confirmed that some of the presidential records they received from the Trump Admin had been torn up and had to be pieced back together.

  8. Jonathan: Finally, you have come around to address Trump’s routine practice of destroying official documents. Kind of ironic because Trump and you made a big deal over Hillary Clinton’s document retention practices. Trump used the issue in the 2016 campaign against Clinton saying it was “bigger than Watergate”. In your column (2/1/16) you called it a “serious scandal”. Clinton was eventually cleared. The volume of trump’s shredded docs was so large that “burner bags” had to be brought in and then sent to the Pentagon for burning. And there are eyewitnesses who saw shredded docs in Trump’s WH toilet.

    You cite 18 USC, Section 2071. What you don’t mention is what Glenn Kirscherer, a former federal prosecutor, has pointed out. He says the Presidential Records Act is “largely toothless” but adds: “Not only is that [Section 2071] a 3-year federal felony, but importantly anybody who is convicted under the statute is prohibited from holding federal office”. Wow! If AG Garland has the cajones to prosecute and get a conviction Trump would be prohibited from running in 2024. Of course, investigating Trump over violations of Section 2071 would take months if not years. But I doubt the GOP would want to nominate a person under investigation or charged with violating Section 2071. Trump was able to skate after his routine violations of the emoluments clause and never convicted in the two impeachments .But now I would imagine Trump is nervously pacing the halls of Mar-a-Lago. The walls are closing in on him relating to the NY investigations and possible voter fraud in Georgia–and now the possible prosecution under Section 2071. If I were Trump I would take a pass on 2024. But, hey, Trump has surprised us before. I can imagine him claiming: “All this is a conspiracy by the Democrats to deny my right to reclaim the throne, I mean the presidency!”

    The House select committee indicates there are “gaps” in the docs so far received from the National Archives. Particularly Trump’s of E-mails and phone records in the hours before and just after Jan. 6. Could these be the docs Trump burned or were flushed down the toilet? The fact that a former president has never been prosecuted is irrelevant. There’s a first time for everything. No person is above the law. And Section 2071 doesn’t apply to classified material only. “Any record” is covered. The question for you is, if Clinton’s E-mails involved a “serious scandal”, why don’t you use the same term with reference to Trump’s much more egregious illegal behavior?

    1. Dennis,

      Good post. You have the link to that Turley article of (2/1/16)?

      We know that Turley has always been a NeverTrumper. In the final analysis, he will acknowledge Trump’s civil accountability as well as his criminal prosecution. Despite the fact that he is a Fox employee, he cannot overlook real Trump crimes even if his Fox colleagues Carlson, Hannity and Ingraham do. While Turley will criticize the MSM for dismissing the Hunter Biden story, you will NEVER hear him criticizing Fox News for ignoring Trump scandals. It’s very sad to witness how he has become compromised. Money makes people do things they otherwise would not do.

      1. Jeff: Notice how the Trumpsters in this comment section accuse us of convicting Trump before the evidence is in. Trump has loudly denied he flushed official docs down his toilet. But he has not denied destroying thousands of others–using burner bags. And he has admitted taking a number of boxes of official docs back to Mar-a-Lago. Those are crimes alone. And there are witnesses to these crimes who, no doubt, will testify under oath before the House select committee. The defenders of Trump are like the husband who is caught in bed with another woman. He looks at his wife and protests: ” Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”

        1. Dennis,

          It remains to be seen whether Trump is guilty of destroying White House documents. I’m content to wait for an indictment, if any, and prosecution. I don’t want to convict him in the press.

          However, it’s fair game to report on the matter as Turley did. Did Hannity, Carlson or Ingraham do so? I did not see any mention of it on their programs. Will Turley criticize these prime time hosts for ignoring the story? Fat chance.

          You say:

          “The defenders of Trump are like the husband who is caught in bed with another woman. He looks at his wife and protests: ” Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?”

          If Trump is caught in bed with another porn star or prostitute, he would not have to ask his followers, “Are you going to believe me or your lying eyes?” He knows that his Trumpists will blame the girl for seducing him and deny to everyone not there that they saw nothing. Trump can count on his liars.

    2. The House select committee indicates there are “gaps” in the docs so far received from the National Archives. Particularly Trump’s of E-mails and phone records in the hours before and just after Jan. 6.

      Yea, there were huge gaps in SoS Clinton’s emails too. Took 6 different congressional committees before she stopped lying. Going to be hard for the President to take that medal away from her. Clinton suffered no repercussions and was just fine to run for office. But equal protection only protects Democrats.

  9. I’m sorry, but if one really thinks this is even a story after the past six years of DNC bull****, then heaven help you. Hunter Biden alone makes this the nothing burger of the century. Spare us. The grip the DNC has on its voters is preternatural – Zeus would be jealous.

      1. Secretary of State Corruption under President Susan Rice and Vice President Valerie Jarrett.

        “[We gave you] a republic, if you can keep it.”

        – Ben Franklin

        You couldn’t.

      2. What government office does Hunter Biden hold?

        That was a dumb question. Joe Biden said, “Hunter Hunter was the smartest man I know!” Clearly Hunter is a crack addict shoe in for Administrator of the Department of Health and Human Services plan to distribute $29,500,000 in “harm reduction” crack pipes “safe smoking kits/supplies”.

        Hunter likely will provide quality control for the safe smoking kits, i.e. as DHS stated, “will provide pipes for users to smoke crack cocaine, crystal methamphetamine, and ‘any illicit substance.'”

        Try to take a break from your crystal meth, Peter Shill / Sammy / Seth Warner / John Burgoyne / Svelaz / et al. New crack pipes are on the way!

    1. James says:

      “Hunter Biden alone makes this the nothing burger of the century.”

      Totally predictable. Turley, you are are wasting your time preaching law and order to your followers. Trumpists have been groomed to reject criminal accountability; they will NEVER accept any guilty verdict of Trump.

  10. “Hillary Clinton Emails Held Info Beyond Top Secret: IG”

    The intelligence community’s internal watchdog said email from Clinton’s home server contained info classified at a level beyond Top Secret.

    – NBC News

    “Barack Obama used a pseudonym in emails with Clinton, FBI documents reveal”

    President Barack Obama used a pseudonym in email communications with Hillary Clinton and others, according to FBI records made public Friday.

    The disclosure came as the FBI released its second batch of documents from its investigation into Clinton’s private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.

    – Politico

    ‘How is this not classified?’

    Obama used a code name to talk with Hillary on her personal email, as new FBI records reveal that even her top aide Huma was shocked by unsecure messages

    Huma Abedin told FBI the White House was informed when Clinton changed her primary email address
    White House server could only receive emails from designated accounts
    FBI showed Abedin an exchange between Clinton and an account she did not recognize, believed to belong to Obama
    June 2012 email was titled ‘Re: Congratulations’ and took place on day Supreme Court upheld part of Obamacare
    Abedin said she was shocked the email was not classified
    Obama told CBS in March 2014 he learned about Clinton’s private emails from ‘news reports’

    President Obama used a code name to communicate with Hillary Clinton on her controversial email server in 2012 – appearing to contradict claims he ‘found out at the same time as everybody else’.

    According to FBI investigators, Clinton’s top aide Huma Abedin understood the significance of this immediately when told during questioning and exclaimed, ‘How is that not classified?’.

    – Daily Mail

  11. Listening to the constant squealing of our leftist friends, I ran across this video, which can enlighten squealers as to how we should be looking at things of this nature, especially when the facts aren’t in.

  12. C’mon man! as the ESPN crew used to say on the Monday Night Football pre-game show. If Trump was accused of flaunting anything, it was probably his hair. As to the laws, and adult standards of common decency, Trump has been flouting them for years.

  13. I love how leftists convict a person before he is found guilty and before the evidence is in. I love how they suddenly forget about precedence and the rule of law. When let out of their cages, they will eat their own.

    1. The left has not convicted Trump, we are just a bit giddy that he likely committed a clear crime that would be easy to prove. It is not a “politically motivated drummed up fake charges” if Trump moved classified documents to Mar A Lago.

  14. If soldiers own their bodies, just as women own their bodies, then the soldiers should have the right to put their bodies into a war zone if they so desire, in spite of what Tucker Carlson wants.

    1. You mean the guy who has degrees in engineering from KSU and MIT? And a decade of experience in nuclear waste and nuclear policy? I admit he is a bit young for the post but he does have the qualifications.

    2. And lets remember that Trump nominated someone who had no idea what the Department of Energy did to to be Secretary of Energy.

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