The Grotesqueness of the Trump Documents Case

Via WaPo: Golf shirts and classified docs: New court filings show Trump’s clutter.

Special counsel Jack Smith revealed new photos in a court filing Monday evening that depict how haphazardly Donald Trump stored classified materials at his Florida property post-presidency, with golf shirts stuffed into boxes alongside the sensitive materials, newspaper clippings and other mementos.

The images — a grab bag of national security secrets, souvenirs and various odds and ends — are part of prosecutors’ effort to show that the dozens of boxes containing government materials at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and private club were so messy and disorganized that investigators could not preserve the precise order of the contents they retrieved.

My favorite of the photos, in terms of its illustrative power, is this one:

This is all grotesque for a variety of reasons.

First, that these documents were treated in this fashion is unacceptable. While I never wanted to hear about HRC’s emails from any of her political opponents ever again, I really don’t want to hear it now.

Second, that Judge Cannon has allowed Trump’s lawyers to drag these proceedings out like they have is an absolute miscarriage of justice. The American public deserved to hear this case be adjudicated. Instead, it languishes in an absurd limbo.

FILED UNDER: 2024 Election, Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Gavin says:

    The entire point, Dr.Taylor, is that you’re now triggered and owned. Isn’t this fun?

    Laws only exist so that Republicans can imprison Democrats — The Country Is Lost if anyone who ever voted Republican is put in jail for any reason.

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  2. gVOR10 says:

    Both WAPO and NYT have run stories in the last couple days highlighting Cannon’s reasonableness on some aspect of the case. Bothsiders gotta bothsides.

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  3. Kathy says:

    I wonder if Ms Cannon carries a pregnancy to term in 16 months.

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  4. DrDaveT says:

    You just don’t understand the filing system — that’s TS/SCI Diet Coke, and the papers are encrypted with a sophisticated physical hashing function…

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  5. Cheryl Rofer says:

    @Kathy:
    Only for other people.

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  6. Jay L Gischer says:

    One tidbit that I got from EmptyWheel is that, at least in the White House, he would keep stacks of boxes on one side of his bed, so he could look at them. Much like some people might keep stacks of books on the unused side of their bed.

    Because that side of the bed was unused.

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  7. TheRyGuy says:

    Oooh! Trump is messy! Throw him in prison!

    There are going to be a lot of interesting psychological and sociological discussions in 50 years or so about how, with all of the perfectly legitimate reasons to dislike Trump, it was pure class snobbery and anxiety that utterly dominated elite opinion.

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  8. TheRyGuy says:

    @Jay L Gischer:

    Wait…what? Who keeps anything on the unused side of the bed? Do you mean actually on the bed or on the floor on the unused side? If you want access to something like a book, you keep it on a night table on your side of the bed or stacked up on the floor on your side, not on the bed or the floor on the unused side.

    It’s instructive how many Trump-haters can’t be bothered to even think about things for two seconds as long as it involves disparaging Trump in some way. I mean, Trump sleeps with stacks of boxes sitting on the bed next to him every night?

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  9. Tony W says:

    @TheRyGuy: It’s always amusing when people who know nothing about national security trivialize the mishandling of documents like these.

    But to be fair, this is not the most egregious national security violation Trump committed. For me it’s a toss up between inviting former KGB agents into the oval office (hopefully it has been de-bugged by this point), kowtowing to Putin in a private meeting and destroying all of the notes from that meeting, accepting Russian assistance in both of his elections, and the likely compromise of national security information that has resulted in multiple overseas agents being compromised.

    Trump is a traitor to his country, or at a minimum is indifferent to traitorous acts, and guys like this have their head so far up Trump’s ass they can’t even see it.

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  10. Argon says:

    @Kathy: I think Cannon is aiming for Bowhead whale lengths of gestation.

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  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @TheRyGuy:

    Wait…what? Who keeps anything on the unused side of the bed?

    Me, for one. For various functional and dysfunctional reasons, my wife and I, for the 11 years we were married and me alone subsequently, had separate queen-size beds in each of our separate bedrooms. Currently, the side of the bed on which I am not sleeping at any given time, I alternately sleep on both sides so the mattress doesn’t wear unevenly, holds, the e-reader I use, whatever magazine I’m currently reading, the headgear for the BiPAP machine that treats my sleep apnea, and frequently, my glasses and hearing aid. It’s not all that unusual–although it’s certainly not normative–…

    … and you missed the slam on Trump at the end of the triggering comment. (Just sayin’…)

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  12. wr says:

    @TheRyGuy: “I mean, Trump sleeps with stacks of boxes sitting on the bed next to him every night?”

    The too-subtle-for-Ry-Guy point being made here, I believe, was precisely that the other side of Trump’s bed was so routinely empty of his wife that he used it for storage. Sorry you missed that.

    Oh, and in case you’re still confused, generally when a man and a woman fall in love and get married, they share a bed. You may find out about this one day.

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  13. DrDaveT says:

    @TheRyGuy:

    Oooh! Trump is messy! Throw him in prison!

    Don’t be silly. You throw him in prison because he’s a traitor and a rapist and a con man and a deadbeat and a tax fraudster and an oathbreaker and a fomenter of violence. You laugh at him because he’s an even more completely dysfunctional individual than anyone realized at the time.

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  14. Franklin says:

    Oh, ffs. That couldn’t be Trump’s mess! He couldn’t even pick one of those boxes up.

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  15. al Ameda says:

    Second, that Judge Cannon has allowed Trump’s lawyers to drag these proceedings out like they have is an absolute miscarriage of justice. The American public deserved to hear this case be adjudicated. Instead, it languishes in an absurd limbo

    Another sign that this case is off the rails is that Alan Dershowitz is very complimentary of Judge Cannon’s ‘cautious’ method thus far.

    I think she knows that she’s boxed herself in now: (a) If she does what is legally obvious to most legal observors she incurs the wrath of all that is Trump, and (b) if she runs out the clock on this and Trump wins, she will always be viewed as a hapless partisan hack who was in over her head.

    Just another possible case study of what happens to people who serve Trump and his interests – it usually ruins reputations, and often puts those same people in legal jeopardy.

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  16. Jay L Gischer says:

    So, I’m pretty clear that some presidents that I like a lot did not have good marital relationships. FDR comes to mind.

    AND, nobody would call Eleanor Roosevelt a trophy wife, meant for show, valued only for her looks.

    In any other situation, I would feel some empathy for the poor shlub who has boxes of memorabilia to make him feel comforted and safe rather than a partner. That’s really kind of sad and terrible.

    This guy, as noted upthread, has translated those issues into National Security issues. That’s unacceptable.

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  17. Kathy says:

    @al Ameda:

    I wonder if she fantasizes her loyalty will get her appointed to the Supreme Court, maybe even as Chief Justice.

    I’m sure she will come up with at least one ruling so egregious, that even the deplorable Kleineorangefuhrer’s boosters will be hard pressed to explain away. When that happens, can the prosecution appeal the ruling to a higher court, or are they stuck with it for trial?

    I know the special master ruling was appealed and overturned, but that was before the indictment, and not as part of any trial.

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  18. DK says:

    @TheRyGuy:

    it was pure class snobbery and anxiety that utterly dominated elite opinion.

    Lol MAGA still pretending rapist convicted felon Trump is a man of the people.

    Trump II is opposed by our most historically-disadvantaged demographics: it’s the billionaire class elite begging to get their boy back. They know Trump will give them trillions more in corporate welfare while cutting taxes for the rich and attacking Social Security and Medicare — programs the non-elite rely on to avoid total poverty.

    MAGA wanted to lock up Hillary over an email server through which passed nothing of interest. Yet they shrug off Drama Queen Donnie taking, illegally retaining, and carelessly storing documents with nuclear secrets and sensitive national defense info. Hypocrisy and dishonesty and desperation — oh my!

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  19. DK says:

    @wr:

    generally when a man and a woman fall in love and get married, they share a bed.

    I have it on good authority this is false.

    (The authority is I Love Lucy reruns on Nick at Nite when I was a kid.)

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  20. Franklin says:

    @Kathy:

    I wonder if she fantasizes her loyalty will get her appointed to the Supreme Court, maybe even as Chief Justice.

    Shed be so out of her depth that she’d resemble … well I guess she’d resemble Clarence Thomas.

    Among my ongoing embarrassments is that Cannon attended my alma mater. And how the University of Michigan Law School graduated both her and Ann Coulter is beyond my comprehension.

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  21. just nutha says:

    @al Ameda: You’re far more generous than I am. I lean more toward partisan hack who deliberately subverted the course of justice as a favor to the person who installed her in the cushy job she got. No haplessness at all.

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  22. just nutha says:

    @Franklin: Passing classes isn’t really that much of a challenge these days. I had the reputation of being a “tough” grader but even so, I had more high achieving students than low achieving ones, and 100% of students who completed my classes earned scores higher than 75% (“C” in letter grading).

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  23. wr says:

    @al Ameda: “if she runs out the clock on this and Trump wins, she will always be viewed as a hapless partisan hack who was in over her head.”

    Unless Trump wins, and then she will always be viewed as Justice Hapless Partisan Hack.

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  24. Gustopher says:

    @TheRyGuy:

    Oooh! Trump is messy! Throw him in prison!

    There are certain careers and activities where you simply cannot be messy. Handling national security documents is one of them.

    And, it is not the messiness that is the criminal behavior. That he stores boxes of papers in his spare shower along with expired bottles of Diet Coke is weird and icky, but not criminal. It is retaining classified documents.

    And even there, people would have bent over backwards to discretely accommodate him and sort out that mess, had he not declared that the documents were his and tried to hide them.

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  25. al Ameda says:

    @Kathy:

    I wonder if she fantasizes her loyalty will get her appointed to the Supreme Court, maybe even as Chief Justice.

    I wonder about that too.
    It’s not that far off either. Imagine if Republicans control the Senate and the White House. The Confirmation Hearings would be napalm-level incendiary (no doubt Sussan Collins would be ‘very concrned.’) These are radical movement Republicans. I’m only half kidding here but, I could be persuaded to believe that they would put Kyle Rittenhouse on the Court if they had no other prospects.

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  26. Mikey says:

    @TheRyGuy:

    Oooh! Trump is messy! Throw him in prison!

    This isn’t merely about being messy, despite your brain-dead effort to reduce it to that. This is about what the mess illustrates: his utterly complete lack of respect for the nation’s most sensitive classified information.

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  27. @TheRyGuy:

    Oooh! Trump is messy! Throw him in prison!

    No, Trump is leaving classified documents all over the place. This is not about being messy. There is no way you don’t understand that fact.

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  28. Jay L Gischer says:

    This isn’t about Trump being messy. Let’s review:

    1 He stole government documents, which did not belong to him, some of which were very, very sensitive.
    2 He stored them in a highly insecure, and high-traffic area or areas.
    3 He showed them to other people.
    4 He lied about whether he had them.
    5 He hid them from people trying to recover them.

    These photos and discussion are germane to point 2. His handling of the documents did not respect their significance and sensitivity in any way. He was derelict in his dutys to protect and defend the Constitution and the country. He viewed the documents as personal possessions and mementos.

    If he had been messy in a SCIF, then so be it. He’s still discharging his duty. That’s not what happened. He stored them in the ballroom at Mar-a-Lago, and in the bathroom. You know, public areas.

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  29. Barry says:

    @Kathy: “I’m sure she will come up with at least one ruling so egregious, that even the deplorable Kleineorangefuhrer’s boosters will be hard pressed to explain away.”

    I am sure that there is no bottom.

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  30. Jen says:

    @TheRyGuy:

    Oooh! Trump is messy! Throw him in prison!

    The thing about being messy is that it makes it MUCH MUCH harder to determine if someone unauthorized has removed some of the CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS that, incidentally, TRUMP WASN’T SUPPOSED TO HAVE.

    There’s no way you’re this dense. You have to understand how serious this is.

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  31. DK says:

    @wr:

    Unless Trump wins, and then she will always be viewed as Justice Hapless Partisan Hack.

    A bit above 1/4th of our adult population, and bit below 1/2th of electorate, will view her as a hero though. That’s what counts to her and to them.

    Personally, I don’t share the approbrium towards Cannon. Because when Trump is convicted for his shambolic handling of the sensitive documents he tried to steal, Cannon’s pro-MAGA bias will make their inevitable whining about lawfare even more silly.

    The delay tactics are irritating, yes. But I’m not sure another pre-election conviction would move the needle so much anyway. Any voter still wedded to the perverted orange thug is beyond reach.

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  32. @DK:

    But I’m sure another pre-election conviction would move the needle so much anyway.

    You have far more confidence than I do that the trial will take place before the election (if it happens at all).

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  33. Joe says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    ETA:
    6 His attorneys are arguing that the FBI was careless in not preserving the evidence in the exact condition and sequence they discovered it. It would be like faulting the investigators for not maintaining the order of the pick-up-stix at the crime scene. One could not even turn these boxes upright without affecting the “order” of their contents.

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  34. CSK says:

    @TheRyGuy:

    You’re forgetting that while in the White House, Trump regularly ripped up and tossed away any document that crossed his desk. The cleaners had to retrieve and patch them together each night.

    Trump clearly wanted there to be no written record of his own daily activities.

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  35. Kevin says:

    I’m sure she will come up with at least one ruling so egregious, that even the deplorable Kleineorangefuhrer’s boosters will be hard pressed to explain away. When that happens, can the prosecution appeal the ruling to a higher court, or are they stuck with it for trial?

    @Kathy: The thing is, and I really wonder how much of this is intentional vs not, as she also seems just in over her head in general, she tends not to rule on things. She keeps making “judgements” along the lines of “You make good points, Mr. President, but there’s precedent against them so I can’t acknowledge those points officially, but I won’t bar you from making them at trial.” She’s really going out of her way to not make any judgements because there are a set of things that could be appealed to the 11th Circuit that would get her removed from the case if she actually officially made a ruling that contradicted settled law. If she can get to the actual trial, though, and a jury is selected, at that point double jeopardy attaches almost no matter what insane rulings she finally makes.

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  36. Mikey says:

    @CSK:

    You’re forgetting that while in the White House, Trump regularly ripped up and tossed away any document that crossed his desk.

    And he did so despite being admonished hundreds of times not to, as they were Presidential records, not his personal papers.

    It’s a thing with him, apparently.

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  37. Kathy says:

    @al Ameda:

    Der Kleineorangefuhrer strikes me as someone far more interested in punishing disloyalty, however defined, than in rewarding loyalty.

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  38. MarkedMan says:

    @Jen:

    There’s no way you’re this dense. You have to understand how serious this is.

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    There is no way you don’t understand that fact.

    wow! It’s almost as if he came here for a purpose other than engaging in a conversation!

    😉

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  39. steve says:

    Cannon hoping for nomination to a higher court is pretty realistic if she delivers. Dont forget that Bork got his nomination to SCOTUS by firing Cox after Richardson and Ruckelshaus refused to do so. He, of course has denied that there was an explicit promise of a future nomination for carrying out the firing but at the very least it demonstrated a severe lack of integrity, maybe almost as bad as accepting millions of dollars in “gifts” from “friends”.

    Steve

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  40. Mike in Arlington says:

    @al Ameda: You’re a lot more generous than I am. I don’t think she’s nearly that self-aware to realize that she’s in over her head.

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