In the summer, former President Donald Trump emphatically stated the classified documents that the federal government seized from him belonged to him, and that he wants them back.
Trump has clung to this belief from the outset of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) investigation into his alleged mishandling of classified documents. However, Trump faces indictment based on the contention that the documents do not belong to the former President.
The ability of Special Counsel Jack Smith to obtain a warrant from a judge to raid Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence indicates that they were not Trump’s documents to control as he saw fit. Trump is adamant about his right to mount a legal defense.
Simultaneously, he’s embroiled in a challenging presidential election campaign, despite some favorable recent polls.
Amidst all of this, Trump has opted to initiate a legal battle against the U.S. federal government to regain possession of classified documents. Most legal experts dispute the former President’s initial right to possess these documents.
Trump’s well-known character trait of never admitting to being wrong is resurfacing as a significant distraction for him. This is ultimately a minor matter that Donald Trump refuses to relinquish.
Instead of letting bygones be bygones and focusing on addressing threats to his candidacy or allowing his legal team to construct a robust defense, Trump chose to escalate this issue with the National Archives.
Trump insists on having “my documents,” as he likes to refer to them. However, these documents were not exclusively his to claim. The National Archives had clearly delineated the proper procedures for declassification to Trump and his team, which involved the formulation of executive orders expressing the outgoing President’s intention to declassify.
These procedures were established under the Presidential Records Act, a legislative response to the Watergate Scandal. Surprisingly, the National Archives afforded the forty-fifth President well over a year to return the documents he took from Mar-a-Lago, a considerably more generous timeframe than what most ordinary citizens or even military officers would receive to rectify mishandling classified documents by returning them to their designated storage areas.
The government did not assert that Mr. Trump was ineligible to regain possession of these documents once returned. Their stance simply emphasized that Trump had to adhere to the declassification process, a requirement incumbent upon every former President.
Trump defiantly extended a defiant gesture towards them—an act that resonates with many of his supporters and gratifies his sense of self. One of Trump’s enduring attributes, as well as one of his notable vulnerabilities, is his unrelenting obsession with defying the establishment.
Instead, he has deliberately opted to obsessively battle the enigmatic figures within the Administrative State who seek the return of their documents.
Earlier this month, Trump was interviewed on “The Megyn Kelly Show.” He repeatedly asserted that he enjoyed protection under the Presidential Records Act, highlighting that the records belong to the United States rather than the President individually. This assertion has been refuted by legal experts. “I’m allowed to have these documents. I’m allowed to take these documents, classified or not classified,” Trump said.