Trump Presidency: Review, Analysis, and Links

Contents
Attempt to extort Ukraine to investigate Biden
Attempt to obstruct the Russia investigation
Attempt to Keep Himself in Power after Losing the Election
Contempt for Science and Expertise
  • Global Warming
    • Biden administration revives EPA Web page on climate change deleted by Trump WaPo
    • View Global Warming
  • Covid
  • Politicization
  • Federal ‘brain drain’ threatens American scientific leadership, new report says, WaPo
    • “The four years of the Trump Administration were devastating for the federal scientific workforce. Throughout many of the Federal Government’s civilian scientific agencies, career scientists experienced political interference, bureaucratic obstruction, and personal retaliation,” the report said.
Disinformation and Invective
Overall Review
Policies
Populism
  • Populism: “The People” vs “The Elite”
    • britannica.com/topic/populism
      • Populism, political program or movement that champions the common person, usually by favourable contrast with an elite. 
    • How Democracies Die (2018), by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt
      • Populists are anti-establishment politicians—figures who, claiming to represent the voice of “the people,” wage war on what they depict as a corrupt and conspiratorial elite.  
    • wikipedia.org/wiki/Populism
      • In politics, populism refers to a range of approaches which emphasise the role of “the people” and often juxtapose this group against “the elite”. 
      • Populists can be found at different locations along the left–right political spectrum, and there exist both left-wing populism and right-wing populism.
    • Kirk Hawkins (political scientist at Brigham Young University)
      • They see politics as a cosmic struggle between the supposed will of the people and a conspiring elite.
    • wikipedia.org/wiki/Right-wing_populism
      • Right-wing populism, also called national populism and right-wing nationalism,is a political ideology which combines right-wing politics and populist rhetoric and themes. 
      • Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, noted for its anti-establishment, anti-immigration and anti-free trade rhetoric, was characterized as that of a right-wing populist.
Trump’s Possession of Classified and National Defense Documents
Timeline of Highlights

Red means documents are transferred from Trump to the government

  • January, 2021
    • Boxes containing documents are moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago. 
  • May – December, 2021
    • The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) makes requests for missing presidential records, which the government owns per the Presidential Records Act of 1978, e.g. “love letters” from Kim Jong Un.
  • January, 2022
    • NARA receives 15 boxes of records from Trump that had been taken to Mar-a-Lago. Included in the boxes are over 100 documents with classification markings.
  • February, 2022
    • NARA makes a criminal referral to DOJ
  • April, 2022
    • DOJ tells Trump’s lawyers that NARA has found over 100 documents with classification markings in the 15 boxes
  • May, 2022
    • Trump’s office receives a grand jury subpoena seeking additional documents with classification markings.
  • June 3, 2022
    • DOJ’s chief of counterintelligence visits Mar-a-Lago with three F.B.I. agents.
    • Trump’s lawyers turn over 38 additional documents with classification markings, including 17 labeled top secret.
    • A Trump lawyer serving as the formal “custodian” of the files signs a written statement asserting that “based upon the information that has been provided to me,” there had been a “diligent” search and all documents responsive to the subpoena were being returned.
  • June, 2022
    • The FBI interviews members of Trump’s personal and household staff.
    • The Trump Organization receives a subpoena for surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago and provides it.
  • August 8, 2022
    • The FBI executes a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago and seizes over a 100 documents with classification markings.
  • Timeline of FBI Investigation of Trump’s Handling of Highly Classified Documents, 8/30/22 factcheck
  • Inside the 20-Month Fight to Get Trump to Return Presidential Material, 8/26/22 NYT
  • Trump and the Mar-a-Lago documents: A timeline WaPo
Photo
  • The photo of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, annotated, Philip Bump WaPo
Search Warrant Affidavit for August 8 Search
  • “Based upon the following facts, there is probable cause to believe that the locations to be searched at the PREMISES contain evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 793(e), 1519, or 2071.”
    • Espionage Act
      • 18 U.S. Code § 793(d,e,f) – Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information
        • (d) Whoever, lawfully having possession of information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. (abridged)
        • (e) Whoever having unauthorized possession of information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. (abridged)
        • (f) Whoever, having lawful possession of any document relating to the national defense, through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both. (abridged)
        • wikipedia.org/wiki/Espionage_Act_of_1917
    • Obstruction Statute
      • 18 U.S. Code § 1519 – Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy
        • Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.
    • Mutilation Statute
      • 18 U.S. Code § 2071 – Concealment, removal, or mutilation generally
        • (a) Whoever willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys, or attempts to do so, or, with intent to do so takes and carries away any record, proceeding, map, book, paper, document, or other thing, filed or deposited with any clerk or officer of any court of the United States, or in any public office, or with any judicial or public officer of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.
        • (b) Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States. As used in this subsection, the term “office” does not include the office held by any person as a retired officer of the Armed Forces of the United States.
  • Footnote:
    • “18 U.S.C. § 793(e) does not use the term ‘classified information,’ but rather criminalizes the unlawful retention of ‘information relating to the national defense.’ ”
Argument that Trump Violated the Espionage Act
  • Abridged version of the Espionage Act, Section (e):
    • Whoever having unauthorized possession of information relating to the national defense which information the possessor has reason to believe could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.
  • After he left office, Trump had unauthorized possession of information relating to the national defense, some of the documents with classification marking.
  • Because of the classification markings, Trump had reason to believe the documents could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.
  • On May 11, 2022 Trump’s office received a grand jury subpoena seeking additional documents with classification markings.
  • On June 3, 2022 Trump’s lawyers turned over 38 additional documents with classification markings, including 17 labeled top secret.
    • A Trump lawyer serving as the formal “custodian” of the files signs a written statement asserting that “based upon the information that has been provided to me,” there had been a “diligent” search and all documents responsive to the subpoena were being returned.
  • On August 8, 2022 the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago and seized over a 100 documents with classification markings.
  • Thus on June 3 Trump retained and failed to deliver documents relating to the national defense of the US to an officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it
  • Therefore on June 3 Trump violated the Espionage Act.
  • Notes
    • Section (d) of the Espionage Act covers the case where the defendant has lawful possession of the documents:
      • “Whoever, lawfully having possession of information relating to the national defense ….”
    • Section (f) of the Espionage Act covers the case where the defendant is “grossly negligent” rather than “willful.”
      • “through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody…”
  • How the redacted FBI affidavit reveals depth of Trump’s legal peril  Jennifer Rubin WaPo
    • The preliminary review, conducted in May, found additional markings such as “HCS, FISA, ORCON, NOFORN, and SI.” These notations relate to national security secrets — one, HCS, indicates a category of highly classified government information; another refers to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — including human and signals intelligence.
    • In a damning footnote, the government points out that “18 U.S.C. § 793(e) does not use the term ‘classified information,’ but rather criminalizes the unlawful retention of ‘information relating to the national defense.’ ” In other words, the notion that Trump could declassify documents at will is a fantasy. Classification is beside the point.
    • We don’t know how the government knew Trump still had more documents
    • Trump had no right to keep top-secret documents in an unsecured location
    • We don’t know what actions might have violated the obstruction statute (Section 1519) and the mutilation statute (Section 2071)
    • The government caught Trump with top-secret documents and appears to have found that he hadn’t turned over all of them as his lawyer represented.
  • What Is the Espionage Act and How Has It Been Used?  NYT
    • Congress first passed the Espionage Act in 1917 at the urging of President Woodrow Wilson.
    • The law criminalizes the unauthorized retention or disclosure of information related to national defense that could harm the United States or aid its enemies. It was enacted decades before the executive branch established the current system of classifying national security secrets.
    • In normal circumstances, a document protected by the Espionage Act is almost certainly classified. But because the two protection systems, executive branch classification and the Espionage Act, work in parallel, a document does not need to be classified to be protected by the act.
    • The law has been used to prosecute both spies and leakers.
      • Those accused of spying under the act include
        • Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in the 1950s for purportedly giving nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union;
        • Aldrich Ames, a C.I.A. officer, who was charged for revealing the identities of American informants to the Soviet Union in 1994; and
        • Robert Hanssen, an F.B.I. agent, who was sentenced to life in prison in 2002 after confessing to selling secrets to the Russians.
      • Prominent leak cases involving the act include that of
        • Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers by photocopying the secret history of the Vietnam War and giving it to The New York Times. He was initially charged with a felony under the Espionage Act, but the charges were later dismissed.
        • Reality Winner, a former military contractor, was not so lucky. In 2018, she was sentenced to five years in prison for leaking a classified intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 election to The Intercept.
    • It is possible that if there were no unauthorized disclosure of the documents and prosecutors do not find any criminal intent, the Justice Department could decide not to prosecute. That could make an investigation into why the documents were taken to Mar-a-Lago particularly crucial.
    • One important caveat: The Espionage Act includes a gross negligence standard, meaning a prosecutor does not have to prove criminal intent.
Addendum
  • Inside the 20-Month Fight to Get Trump to Return Presidential Material, 8/26/22 NYT
    • LATE 2020: Talks begin between the National Archives and Trump.
    • JAN. 18, 2021: The move to Mar-a-Lago begins.
    • MAY 6, 2021: The Archives alerts Trump’s team to missing material.
      • Correspondence with Kim Jong-un
      • Obama letter to Trump
    • MAY 18, 2021: Trump offers to return letters from Kim Jong-un.
    • SUMMER 2021: Trump displays the Kim letters.
    • LATE 2021: Archives officials warn of consequences.
      • If Trump continues to refuse to comply with the Presidential Records Act, NARA will make a referral to DOJ or an alert to Congress
        • NARA = National Archives and Records Administration = National Archives = Archives
    • JAN. 18, 2022: The Archives recovers sensitive material from Mar-a-Lago.
      • NARA retrieves 15 boxes of documents
      • Some “appear to contain national defense information,” protected by Espionage Act
      • NARA notifies DOJ
    • JAN. 31, 2022: The Archives publicly criticizes Trump’s destruction of documents.
    • FEB. 9, 2022: NARA makes a criminal referral to DOJ
      • NARA tells DOJ that a preliminary review of the 15 boxes recovered indicated that they contained “a lot of classified records,” including highly classified records that were “unfoldered, intermixed with other records and otherwise unproperly identified.”
    • SPRING 2022: Investigations into the missing material ramp up.
      • A grand jury is seated to look into the missing boxes of documents.
      • FBI begins interviewing several of Mr. Trump’s personal aides as well as three former White House lawyers who had been among Mr. Trump’s representatives to the archives.
    • APRIL 29, 2022: A review raises national security concerns.
      • DOJ tells Trump’s lawyers that the Archives has found over 100 documents — more than 700 pages — with classification markings in the 15 boxes, and says the executive branch must assess “the potential damage resulting from the apparent matter in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps.”
    • MAY 11, 2022: A grand jury issues a subpoena to Trump.
      • Mr. Trump receives a grand jury subpoena seeking additional documents bearing classified markings.
      • The following week, as the F.B.I. reviews the material in the 15 boxes recovered from Mar-a-Lago, the agency identifies classified documents in 14 of the 15 boxes. In total, there are 184 unique documents with classification markings:
        • 67 are confidential
        • 92 are secret
        • 25 are top secret.
    • MAY 25, 2022: Trump defends his handling of documents.
      • Trump attorney sends letter to DOJ, claiming that Mr. Trump had the absolute authority to declassify the documents.
    • JUNE 3, 2022; The Justice Department visits Mar-a-Lago.
      • Jay I. Bratt, the Justice Department’s chief of counterintelligence, visits Mar-a-Lago accompanied by F.B.I. agents.
      • Trump’s lawyers turn over 38 additional documents with classified markings, including 17 labeled top secret.
      • One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers “explicitly prohibited government personnel from opening or looking inside any of the boxes that remained in the storage room, giving no opportunity for the government to confirm that no documents with classification markings remained.”
      • Christina Bobb, a Trump lawyer serving as the formal “custodian” of the files., signed a written statement asserting that “based upon the information that has been provided to me,” there had been a “diligent” search and all documents responsive to the subpoena were being returned.
    • JUNE 8, 2022: DOJ requests that Trump’s storage room be preserved.
      • In a letter to Trump’s lawyers, Bratt requests that the Mar-a-Lago storage room where the classified materials were kept be secured. He also asks that all boxes that had been moved from the White House to Mar-a-Lago be preserved in that room until further notice.
    • JUNE 2022: The F.B.I. interviews Trump’s staff.
      • Members of Mr. Trump’s personal and household staff are interviewed by the F.B.I.
    • JUNE 22, 2022: Mar-a-Lago surveillance footage is subpoenaed.
      • The Trump Organization receives a subpoena for surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago and provides it. The 60-day period of footage shows people moving boxes from the basement storage area around the time of one of the outreaches from the Justice Department.
    • AUG. 5, 2022: The warrant to search Mar-a-Lago is approved.
      • A federal judge approves a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago.
      • Application for search warrant states that “there is probable cause to believe that additional documents that contain classified N.D.I. or that are presidential records subject to record retention requirements currently remain at the premises.”
        • NDI = national defense information
    • AUG. 8, 2022: FBI searches Mar-a-Lago.
      • Eleven sets of classified material, comprising scores of pages, are recovered from the basement storage area, a container on the floor of a closet in Mr. Trump’s office, and a bedroom.
    • AUG 26, 2022: Redacted search warrant affidavit is released
    • AUG 30, 2022: DOJ files a 36-page response to motion for a special master
      • Documents at Mar-a-Lago Were Moved and Hidden as U.S. Sought Them, Filing Suggests NYT
      • The Justice Department’s Response to Trump’s Request for a Special MastersNYT
        • From Page 10:
          • “The government also developed evidence that government records were likely concealed and removed from the Storage Room and that efforts were likely taken to obstruct the government’s investigation.”
        • From Page 12:
          • “Three classified documents that were not located in boxes, but rather were located in the desks in the “45 Office,” were also seized.”
        • From Page 13:
          • “That the FBI, in a matter of hours, recovered twice as many documents with classification markings as the “diligent search”that the former President’s counsel and other representatives had weeks to perform calls into serious question the representations made in the June 3 certification and casts doubt on the extent of cooperation in this matter.”
      • The photo of classified documents at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, annotated, Philip Bump WaPo
        • PHOTO
        • The material shown, then, is from Trump’s personal office at Mar-a-Lago, but the photograph itself doesn’t appear to have been taken there. But there is credible evidence that the photo was taken at Mar-a-Lago.
        •  The photo has a photo scale, an instrument that can be laid down to allow observers to evaluate the size of objects in a photo. You can see it below the document at the lower center of the full photo.
        • You’ll notice that the documents with the “TOP SECRET/SCI” markings in the photo have a yellow border and not an orange one. Similarly, the document at the bottom center has an orangeish-red-bordered cover sheet (not a purely red one) and is marked “SECRET/SCI.” That “SCI” is important — as are other markings on the cover sheet that provide more information about the document’s classification.
        • “SCI,” for example, indicates that the material is considered “sensitive compartmented information” — information that is further restricted to a subgroup of those with “secret”-level clearance.
        • Then there’s the “UP TO HCS-P/SI/TK” flag. “Up to” suggests that the document includes material reaching each of the subsequent levels of classifications.
          • “HCS-P” indicates material obtained from human sources, generally meaning informants or spies. (There’s more about the “-P” qualifier here.)
          • “SI” refers to communications intelligence, generally material gathered from surveillance of online or telephone sources.
          • “TK” is short for “talent keyhole,” generally referring to satellite-based surveillance.