1,000 Words

[ Posted Wednesday, August 31st, 2022 – 15:51 UTC ]

Don't get your hopes up -- that title does not promise I will strictly limit myself to writing only that many words today (I thought I should start with that). Instead, of course, it refers to the old saying: "A photograph is worth 1,000 words." And, if this proves to be a normal column, I'll be spending approximately the next 1,500 words explaining why.

Adages aside, you've got to admit the photograph the Department of Justice included in last night's late-night filing of their response to Trump's lawsuit (to get a special master appointed to review documents seized from his Florida golf resort) is indeed a doozy.

It shows a slew of documents spread out over the floor in a room that had been searched. This is just the contents of one box that was seized (as the "2A" label indicates), mind you.

At least eight of these documents have cover pages identifying them as classified. There are three basic classifications documents can have: Classified, Secret, and Top Secret. Other designations can also be added, such as "SCI" for "Sensitive Compartmented Information," which is another way of saying "need-to-know." If you don't have a need to know, you don't get to look at it, even if you are cleared for that level of classification. In the photo, two (mostly obscured) documents have red borders -- designating "Secret." One has a duller-red border for "Secret/SCI." There are no blue documents (the "Classified" level), and the other five are yellow-bordered, for "Top Secret/SCI." In the inventory already made public, Box 2A is described as containing: "Various classified/TS/SCI documents" -- which is exactly what the photo shows. Other markings indicate that some of the documents contain information from human sources (or "spies"), satellites, or intercepted electronic communications.

A quick rundown of the timeline: The National Archives realized Donald Trump had absconded with presidential records he was not entitled to keep within a few months of him leaving office, in 2021. They asked for them back, politely. Trump's lawyers gave them the runaround until December. In January, 15 boxes were handed over. The Archives became suspicious that not all the proper documents had been returned, however. They referred the matter to the F.B.I., who opened an investigation. This investigation convened a grand jury, which issued a subpoena demanding that Trump immediately surrender all "documents bearing classification markings." Note that wording -- not: "classified documents," but instead: "documents bearing classification markings." Trump's lawyers then turned over more classified documents, and one of them signed a piece of paper certifying that that was all of them -- that no more documents marked classified remained in Trump's possession. However, during the transfer, they refused to let the federal agents actually see inside all the boxes which were still stacked up in an unsecured room. This led to further suspicions, and after gathering further evidence, a search warrant was requested, granted by a federal judge, and executed. Which led to that photo. Of documents clearly marked as classified.

In fact, that photo might not be worth just 1,000 words, it might be enough to convict Trump's lawyer of lying when he or she signed that certification. Because that was clearly false. Here is what the lawyer signed (also provided in last night's court filing):

Based upon the information that has been provided to me, I am authorized to certify, on behalf of the Office of Donald J. Trump, the following: a. A diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida; b. This search was conducted after receipt of the subpoena, in order to locate any and all documents that are responsive to the subpoena; c. Any and all responsive documents accompany this certification.

Which, obviously (just look at that photo!) wasn't true.

Trump is trying to distract everyone by splitting hairs and outright lying about his magical powers to declassify documents, but legally it makes not the slightest bit of difference. Let's say for the sake of argument that Trump did declassify the documents (there is zero evidence of this, but whatever...). It wouldn't matter, legally, to his lawyer. Because that's not what the subpoena said. It plainly said: "documents bearing classified markings," with no mention of whether they were still classified or not.

It wouldn't matter to any case brought against Trump, either. The search warrant had two purposes: (1) to get all those secrets back and out of Trump's grubby little paws; and (2) to collect evidence of criminal activity. Three laws were cited as having possibly been broken. Not a single one of them mentions classification anywhere -- the closest any of them comes is specifying material "respecting national defence [sic]." That's not too surprising, since the Espionage Act was passed over 100 years ago, long before the modern classification system even existed. This sidesteps the entire question of classification/declassification. So it just doesn't matter whether Trump declassified the documents or not; if they deal with the national defense, he could be charged with illegally possessing them and refusing to give them up -- (especially since a subpoena was issued for them).

The nation's intelligence service has begun a review of all documents Trump had in his possession -- the ones he turned over (after delaying for over half a year), the ones he reluctantly gave back after being subpoenaed, and the ones seized during the search. There will almost certainly be a public version of their subsequent report that (in vague and unspecific ways) will describe the risk to national security that Trump illegally holding onto these documents created. The full report, of course, will itself be classified at the highest levels. But even the public version is likely going to be even more damning than this photo.

This truly seems like a slam-dunk of a case, at least against the lawyer who certified something that was patently not true. I'm sure if the case is ever brought to court there will be a chain of evidence stitched together by the prosecution proving each point along the timeline, which might perhaps conclude with security footage from Trump's resort showing the search and seizure actually happening.

But all they really need to show the jury would be the signed certification and that photo. Which seems worth closer to 10,000 words than 1,000 (as some versions of the old adage put it).

[Editorial Note: Not including this note, and not including the first paragraph where the matter was discussed, my first draft of today's article clocked in at 1,030 words. That spurred me to judiciously cut here and there during editing and I did actually manage to get it down to exactly 1,000 words. Proving it can be done! You're welcome.]

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


14 Comments on “1,000 Words”

  1. [1] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    People are saying that the Deep State Space Force moon base project that gets underway this week is part of The Plan To Get Big Orange. The "classified" code name of the base is said to be Mar-A-Gitmo. It's expected to open in 2024 on the dark side.

    There'll be angry, diabetic retirees rioting in the streets when their traitorous orange imbecile starts his re-education program, but they're next. There's room for them on Mars.

  2. [2] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Also it should be noted that these documents were not being kept in the storage area where Trump claimed all of the classified info was located. These documents came from his office.

    Trump will hopefully be indicted and refused bail because he is a major flight risk and is a threat to public safety as he has been shown to have no problem calling for violence from his followers to get his way. He's got a ton of money from grifting his followers, multiple passports, and once told a crowd if Biden beat him in the 2020 election that he would have to flee the country -- that makes him a flight risk!

    The fact that the FBI so publicly returned three passports back to him that he claims are all his now makes me wonder if that wasn't done just to prove to the public that he is truly a flight risk.

  3. [3] 
    BashiBazouk wrote:

    Looks like Mary Peltola beat Palin in the special election for the Alaska house seat. Hopefully she can repeat in November...

  4. [4] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    This is nothing that dragging HRC back in for a hearing can't fix.

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Why is DOJ fighting the 'special master' request? Wouldn't that be what's called obstruction of justice?

    Asking for a friend ...

  6. [6] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    DoJ isn't fighting the Special Master request but said it's rather moot two weeks after the raid unless one believes the Feds just sat on the recovered material for a couple of weeks, unopened and uninventoried.

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Actually, DOJ is arguing against the Special Master.

  8. [8] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    My question is why ...

  9. [9] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    They said it would pointlessly delay the damage assessment.

  10. [10] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  11. [11] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Look at it the other way: the process of appointing a Special Master with a suitable security clearance would delay proceedings enough that the Trump camp could then claim that any further action would be too close to the mid-terms, and then once he announces his candidacy, that any further action would be 'too political'. It's just a delaying tactic.

    There is no good reason that privileged attorney-client communications should be stored with documents with security labels, any more than personal items like framed magazine covers.

  12. [12] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Apparently, the Macron Files were hidden in Natasha's underwear drawer. She's so freaked out by the raid that she's bought new undies. Now, keep in mind that this dead-eyed Barbie is married to Short Fingers. She should be thrilled to have hot FBI agents in her panties. She can re-live it over and over on the surveillance video.

  13. [13] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Trump's lawyers acknowledged that the Special Master would have to be granted special clearance to be able to review the documents in question.

    That pretty much destroys Trump's claims that he declassified all of the documents that he took. Anyone can review declassified documents.

  14. [14] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:


    H/O to the top shelf snark!

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