The Biden Department of Justice follows a contemptible practice: when questioned by reporters, it declines to comment, and then leaks its preferred spin to friendly news outlets. DOJ/FBI is up to its old tricks with the latest leak to its mouthpiece, the Washington Post.
DOJ is fighting a propaganda war over its raid on Donald Trump’s house, and so far it has not obviously been winning. Hence the current leak, headlined by the Post “Material on foreign nation’s nuclear capabilities seized at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago.”
A document describing a foreign government’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities, was found by FBI agents who searched former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club last month, according to people familiar with the matter…
…underscoring concerns among U.S. intelligence officials about classified material stashed in the Florida property.
The Post’s story discloses that only a handful of classified documents–“more than 100”–were found in the Mar-a-Lago raid. But DOJ claims that a few of them were really important. There isn’t much more about the nuclear document:
It was in this last batch of government secrets, the people familiar with the matter said, that the information about a foreign government’s nuclear-defense readiness was found. These people did not identify the foreign government in question, say where at Mar-a-Lago the document was found or offer additional details about one of the Justice Department’s most sensitive national security investigations.
It is impossible to tell from such breathless reporting whether the “nuclear document” has any significance at all. Consider me skeptical. More:
Among the 100-plus classified documents taken in August, some were marked “HCS,” a category of highly classified government information that refers to “HUMINT Control Systems,” which are systems used to protect intelligence gathered from secret human sources, according to a court filing. A partially unsealed affidavit said documents found in the boxes that were sent to the National Archives in January related to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. There was also material that was never meant to be shared with foreign nations.
Of course there is zero reason to think that Trump had any intention of sharing information with foreign nations, and in any event he could have done so, if so inclined, regardless of pieces of paper in his basement. DOJ suggests that security issues are involved:
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence is conducting a risk assessment, to determine how much potential harm was posed by the removal from government custody of hundreds of classified documents.
I will hazard a wild guess that the “potential harm” of Trump keeping papers in his basement was zero.
Which leaves open, of course, the question why Trump wanted these papers in his basement in the first place. Why not just send them to the National Archives as he did with the other materials he initially took from the White House? To my knowledge, Trump has not even hinted at an answer to this question.
It is possible that something important is going on here. Possibly there were papers at Mar-a-Lago that were actually significant, and possibly there is some reason to think that their presence there was somehow a hazard. And perhaps Trump is playing some kind of deep game in which his possession of that handful of boxes is important, for reasons we cannot even guess.
But I very much doubt it. I suspect we are witnessing a performance by two parties who, while superficially opposed, share a common interest. Joe Biden and his minions, like Merrick Garland, desperately want to make Donald Trump the focus of the midterm elections. (Thus, obviously, Biden’s notorious Nuremberg speech.) If the midterms are a referendum on Joe Biden, as they should be, the Democrats are in desperate trouble. On the other hand, if the midterms are a referendum on the out-of-office Donald Trump–a bizarre concept, but stay with it for a moment–the Democrats can do pretty well.
There is one other person who also would like to see the midterms turn into a referendum on Donald Trump. That is, of course, Trump. I think the likelihood that Trump has a good reason for keeping 10 or 15 boxes of miscellaneous records in his basement, after having returned 15 other boxes to the Archives months ago, is negligible. I suspect that Trump and Biden are collaborating in what both want–the elevation of a faux controversy over a few boxes of White House files into an election-defining battle.
To the extent that the midterms are shaped by controversy over the Mar-a-Lago raid, rather than Joe Biden’s record, the winners will be Joe Biden, Donald Trump and the Democrats. The losers will be the Republican Party and the American people.