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Why did Trump want the White House records?

Why did Trump want the White House records?

So far, we do not know the answer to that question.  That has led to wild unsubstantiated speculation.  The reasons seem to be known only to President Trump – and perhaps a few other folks close to him.  Family and friends.

The speculation proffers all kinds of bad reasons he took his files home.  That is understandable since there is not an obvious good reason.  As President, he would have had access to them no matter where they were archived.  

Most White House and Executive Branch records are archived in Washington.  A small portion is archived at various presidential libraries.  Some of those are copies of documents that are held by the National Archives.  Secret and classified documents are almost never moved out of Washington or made available to the public – at least for years or decades.  

One of the reasons archiving is also important is because the documents are professionally cataloged – making it easier for researching and referencing.

The records Trump took home creates two issues.  Has Trump removed classified information improperly beyond the protective guiderails – a potential serious crime of espionage?  Or has he essentially declassified them by saying he did – and that taking them home was evidence of declassification?

As much as Trump-haters would like to pin espionage on Trump, that is a very steep legal climb because it is very arguable that he has unfettered right to declassify any document within the Executive Branch – at any time and in any manner.  As long as he is President at the time.

Despite the public debate of Trump’s powers in that regard, it is an unsettled constitutional issue. It will take a Supreme Court decision or a constitutional amendment (which I favor) to clarify the issue.

Then there is the issue of taking the records home … period.  That creates a much more serious problem for Trump because of the 1978 Presidential Records Act. In brief, it says sending those records to Mar-a-Lago without some specific authorizations is a no-no.  Illegal.  

There is not a lot of wiggle room in that law.  Conceivably, Trump could challenge the constitutionality of that law, but that is a stretch.  Personally, I doubt the Court would take the case.

The next issue is just how serious is violating that law.  It all depends.  If you take them home unwittingly – or with some reasonable explanation – it could be no big deal.  It would depend on the volume of records taken home and the types of records.   Also on the President’s willingness to return them expeditiously. 

Previous records and objects taken home by previous presidents have been returned upon request.  As I recall, President Clinton had to return some of the gifts from other heads-of-state.  (I wonder if they returned all the “W” keys the Clinton folks took from the keyboards as a jibe at incoming President George W. Bush.)

Trump, on the other hand, has put up a fight through statements and legal actions.  He returned some, but not all.

And that brings the question as to “why”.  Why does Trump want to maintain personal and exclusive possession?  That is the Achilles Heel of his position.  He has offered no good explanation.

One can easily argue that the Department of Justice overreacted in raiding Mar-a-Lago.  One can speculate that Attorney General Merrick Garland has political motives — like revenge on Trump and the GOP for denying him a seat on the Supreme Court. Unsubstantiated speculation can go both ways in this environment.

Trump’s insistence on maintaining whatever he is maintaining without a credible explanation does not bode well for his image or legal vulnerabilities.

Those on the left seem to believe that Trump has committed a plethora of crimes – and will be subjected to multiple indictments, convictions and jail terms.   That is more likely wishful thinking than good legal analysis.

However, I think Trump could get indicted for violating the Presidential Records Act – but not because he took records home, but because he refused to return them, and may having fibbed in the process.

What is so important that Trump feels the need to fight so hard to keep something he has no reason to maintain personally?  Why?  Why?  Why?  

My wise mother used to say that everything will make sense if you know all the facts.  It is what we know we do not know that is the problem.  In many of the other legal cases Trump faces, I can envision a defense argument, but not in this case.  Blustering that they are “my records” is not enough.

The raid on Mar-a-Lago still bothers me, but on the larger issue, I do not see how Trump avoids an indictment if he continues with his current strategy of irrational defiance.

In the meantime, Trump is just providing political fodder for the Democrats — mucking up the Republicans’ midterm election campaigns. Too often he is the bull in the GOP china shop.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry Horist Larry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.

14 Comments

  1. the old marine

    I like Trump but he talks to much and says dumb things, he needs to be more careful and think before speaking. Don’t give the Democrats any thing to draw attention from their own stupidity.

  2. frank stetson

    Good for you Larry to have the balls to pose the only important question in all this. Why?

    After that, it’s a word salad with a Trumpian soft shoe special.

    You say he will be indicted on the PRA; bull, he will be found guilty, convicted and not severely punished. And perhaps, as you noted, this will be more about the law itself rather than Trump malfeasance. The law has never been tested, no President since Nixon has ever been this stupid.

    As to the espionage, it’s not about spying and selling secrets, it’s about stealing them, lying about them, hiding them and refusing for over a year to rectify that. That’s one potential reason for the raid, and a damned fine one. Without the raid, would anything have changed in Trumpland? He still would secure them in an unsecure area. He would still lie about them. We would never get them back.

    The proof in the pudding is the nature of the info. Classified or not, it the info is detrimental to our National Security, if Trump has put people at risk, he’s toast.

    One thing is a certain future; if Trump is not convicted and punished, no foreign nation will ever give us secret information that a guy like Trump might take home for fun.

    As to the reasons, the other day I watched MSNBC expert proclaim: “it’s got Trump’s notes on it, therefore he knew.” Like he didn’t write on it and then later, much later, take it home. It proves that he saw it at one time, noting more. Speculation runs rampant.

    I can’t fathom why he would take it, could be anything from a nest egg to a “get out of jail card” for his 1/6 shenanigans; the man is not above extortion — re: Ukraine. But I like Bolton’s explanation: he does not know why he does what he does. Might be he like the paper, maybe it had some gold. Or maybe he just shoved it in his pocket. Isn’t that pretty? Whatever. Could be that simple since the man is a simpleton. A shrewd, street-smart, successful, simpleton.

    But that’s only the first why. The second why is: why did he lie to keep them? That will perhaps better be understood when we see what’s in the seizure, but it doesn’t look good if SCI info is in there. I just can’t imagine that the documents are THAT pretty :>)

    PRA certainly, espionage or national security probably, impeachment is still a possible way out —— just get the fuck out of all of our lives and we can go one with dealing with the maga semi-fascists —- democrats and republicans alike.

    I commend you for writing this, it’s about time someone did. I hope the blogosphere picks it up but………was that a flying pig?

    • pcwalt

      According to uncontested court precedent, the President has unlimited power to declassify. Trump asserted that authority before the election of 2020.

      • Frank stetson

        Who cares? The warrant and affidavit clearly avoid that issue and note obstruction, espionage, and national security.

    • Joe Gilbertson

      How many times do we need to answer these questions for you? You want to impeach someone who hasn’t been president for two years? You don’t know anything about national security and you don’t know anything about the laws that are of concern.

      • Frank stetson

        Well, that’s your opinion.

        Impeachment is clearly an available option cording to the constitution. I read it. Try it.

        I am not certain what you mean about not knowing about the laws of national security, that’s a pretty broad topic and I think you need to clarify. Although specifics have never been your forte. Generalizing and stereotyping are more your speed.

        You are right I do not know anything about the laws that are of concern. Mostly because, like most readers, on most of your rabid retorts, I don’t have a clue what you were saying. What laws actually concerned you here. What are you even talking about. Obfuscation will be your epitaph. Again, plain speak and specifics have never been your forte, generalizing and stereotyping are your style.

  3. pcwalt

    As matter in criminal case, Trump and his team do not need to prove that they have good reason. They only need to present that he did not do anything which is by definition illegal.

  4. Nick

    Trump for sure in 24!!!

  5. Carolinadog

    Possession of original documents keeps the corrupt officials from ” losing” or altering documents in order to frame Trump. Clinton documents, Obama documents, voting records all have disappeared or been altered . Fraudulent documents have been created in the ongoing persecution of Trump. Finally, Constitutionally, Trump is only answerable to the voters. He has no higher boss on earth. As a citizen he is subject to civil law, that’s it. Sue him if you like.

    • Frank stetson

      It’s good to be King. It’s good to have loyal subject sheeples.

      In America, the Rule of Law is King.

  6. AC

    Former president Trump can not plead ignorance of the laws pertaining to removal of these particular documents. His advisers informed him of the law. But, as associates close to him during the time he was president have reported, the man does not listen to advice contrary to his own opinion. In the end he does as he pleases. He believes he can do anything and get away with it.
    He believes he alone could summarily declassify documents even the most compartmented guarded protected documents. His actions are driven by the mistaken belief that still is the President with all the powers that position entails.
    Unfortunately, Trump deluded himself into believing he had power and authority beyond and above those defined and limited powers written in the U.S Constitution. Not unlike some think the President can push a button and launch a nuclear attack on a whim. Documents containing information vital to national security can not receive declassified status on just the President’s say so or being stamped as such. This so far from conventional wisdom and statute regulation, thinking otherwise amounts the absurd denial of the fact that 2+2=4.
    Trump, as a matter of personal history a true fact, has not and does not accept real and plain truth in facts when truth does not align with his wish’s. The truth would put him at a disadvantage personally and financially. Disadvantage is his stock and trade dispensed to others. His greatest joy in life comes when he yells “YOU’RE FIRED”.
    For him it all about control power. He needs to be in control . That is he needs the feeling and belief that he controls his world. If that control can be held onto by legal means in a court of law and delay tactics, let it be so. In the end he stiffs his legal team for under representation.
    In his present debacle involving multiple government entities he believes he had the right to obtain and keep documents belonging solely under care of the Executive Branch stored in the WH at least.

    • larry Horist

      AC … it is obvious that you know nothing about presidential powers. Regarding pardons and declassification, the President has unfettered powers. There are no procedures that are constitutional required. If he says something is decalcified while he is President, they are declassified. That may need to change — and that is why I called for a constitutional amendment to set up a procedure. On the other hand, the President does not have absolute power to engage in war. That is the function of Congress. While past legislation enhances his power to send troops into military actions, the President does not have the power or the ability to launch the atomic weapons. That requires a chain of events in the hands of various people. A Presidents order needs agreement with others who control the processed. There is no button or nuclear code that automatic launches the nuclear weapons at the unilateral will of the President.

      • AC

        Larry, and your an expert in all things pertaining to the truth and facts while seeing things objectively. It more clear your decidedly partisan opinions drive your commentary.
        You have a right to your opinion, as I and others have the same equal rights. But, you double down on your rights as superior to those will whom you disrespect and attempt cancelling. There ‘tis is not the same as the amen after a sermon. You have your bully pulpit where hubris is on display. A preachers stands by a pulpit giving a homily that ends with amen’ meaning so be it. The later, It is based on truth. Your’s, in the main, not so much.
        However, I am left wondering why the response of yours to a comment by someone who writes unintelligibly, as you have previously replied,
        And, one having, in your opinion, a lack of knowledge sufficient on this and other given topics on which you opine.
        Some impression by you of this writer stirs your compulsion for stomping, like stomping on a bug in your path.
        Did you say you support right-to-life? Consider what that looks like in consistent application across every sphere of your life.
        You and I are of the same generation. There ‘tis.

        • AC

          Larry,
          Please, disregard my “reply” and accept my apology.
          The initial lines in your reply prejudiced reading it in its entirety.
          On a second reading of your reply I read to its end.
          I have listened to people in the legal field who supposedly know how document declassification should be done. Presidential powers are being debated at the moment by constitutional law experts, I believe. It may well end up in the courts.
          Additional information you provided is appreciated as a refresher of knowledge .