Levin Report: Special Counsel Appointment Brings Us One Day Closer to Republicans Demanding Merrick Garland Send Biden to Gitmo Over Classified Docs
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Early Thursday afternoon, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the appointment of a special counsel to examine Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents, after a relatively small number of them from his time as vice president were found in two locations. In a statement, Robert Hur, the veteran prosecutor (and former Trump-appointed US attorney) assigned to the job, said he would run the investigation with “fair, impartial, and dispassionate judgment.” As Donald Trump and his allies had been demanding this very thing since the news of the documents broke, we can now be reasonably assured they will take a breath, acknowledge they got what they wanted, and, in a quiet, reflective moment, come to see how very different the two cases of presidential-document-handling really are.
Yeah, just kidding. That’s obviously never going to happen! And we know this because that is very much not how Republicans roll. Instead, they will continue to traffic in absurd conspiracy theories about what Biden was doing with the documents and, we’re assuming, cry unfairness unless Garland sends the president to Gitmo until the conclusion of Hur’s investigation and/or has the FBI strip-search him on the South Lawn of the White House, because, hey, he might have top secret material on him.
Perhaps more crucially, the GOP will never, ever admit that—based on what we know at this point—what Biden did and Trump did are very different.
For one thing, there’s the volume. The Biden administration said that a “small number” of documents had been found at each location, and, according to CBS News, approximately 10 documents with classified markings were found at one of them. For his predecessor, the number is in the hundreds.
Even more significant than that is the way the presence of the documents was brought to light. In Biden’s case, the administration said his team informed the National Archives of the situation, and immediately at that. When it came to Trump? The timeline went like this:
– In the spring of 2021, the National Archives, per The New York Times, “realized…that historically prominent files were missing and asked Mr. Trump to return them.”
– In January 2022, the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of documents from Mar-a-Lago, and found that, among them, were ones marked “top secret.”
– Shortly thereafter, Trump—who, per The Washington Post, personally packed the boxes—reportedly tried to get one of his attorneys to tell the government that all requested materials had been turned over. The lawyer in question refused to do so, on account of not being sure if what Trump wanted him to say was actually true.
– Spoiler alert for those who haven’t watched the show yet: It wasn’t.
– In May, the government issued a grand jury subpoena for the additional classified documents. Some were turned over in June, but others were not—yet a Trump attorney reportedly signed a statement saying all requested documents had been returned.
– Again, spoiler: They hadn’t.
– Having become increasingly frustrated with Team Trump’s ability to ever tell the truth about anything, ever, the FBI eventually obtained a court-authorized warrant to search Mar-a-Lago for the remaining documents, having established that there was probable cause to believe they’d find evidence of a crime.
– In August, the FBI officially searched the place and found more than 100 additional documents with classified markings on them (with at least one that reportedly contained information about a foreign government’s nuclear capabilities).
– In the fall, the Justice Department got a sinking sense that Trump still had documents he wasn’t supposed to have, an inkling that turned out to be correct because…
– In December 2022—and, remember, it was in the spring of 2021 that the government first became aware there was a problem—the Post reported that lawyers for the 45th president uncovered “at least two items marked classified after an outside team hired by Trump searched a storage unit in West Palm Beach, Fla., used by the former president.”
In other words, Biden’s team seemingly found the documents, turned them over, and cooperated from the start, while Trump very much did not. To that end, only one person in this scenario has chosen to attack the government, baselessly claim the FBI planted evidence at his for-profit club and private residence, and engage in the kind of behavior that reportedly lead to literal death threats for law enforcement.
On Thursday, speaking to reporters, Biden said, “People know I take classified documents and classified materials seriously.” By contrast, Trump reportedly spent his time in office literally shredding presidential records and possibly also flushing some down the toilet. He’s also claimed he could declassify documents “even by thinking about it.”
Report: Trump wanted to nuke North Korea and then blame it on another country
Last March, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, Donald Trump reportedly told a room full of Republican National Committee donors that the US should “put the Chinese flag” on a bunch of military planes and “bomb the shit” out of Russia—and afterward, “we say, China did it, we didn’t do it, and then they start fighting with each other, and we sit back and watch.” Maybe you remember this, because it was a fucking insane thing to say. Or maybe you don’t, because Trump has said and done fucking insane things on a near-daily basis for many years now. Either way, it seems that this was not a one-off, and that suggesting the US attack another country and blame it on someone else is reportedly very much the 2024 presidential candidate’s thing.
In a new section of his 2020 book on Trump, as obtained by NBC News, New York Times correspondent Michael Schmidt reveals that Trump spent much of 2017 suggesting “behind closed doors in the Oval office” that he wanted to attack North Korea. The then president, Schmidt writes in the soon-to-be released afterword to Donald Trump v. The United States: Inside the Struggle to Stop a President, “cavalierly discussed the idea of using a nuclear weapon against North Korea, saying that if he took such an action, the administration could blame someone else for it to absolve itself of responsibility.”
For his part, John Kelly reportedly attempted to explain to his boss why that probably wouldn’t work, noting that “It’d be tough to not have the finger pointed at us,” but, of course, the then White House chief of staff was using reason and logic, two things that haven’t typically worked on Trump. Still, according to Schmidt, Kelly tried, bringing in “the military’s top leaders to the White House to brief Trump about how war between the US and North Korea could easily break out, as well as the enormous consequences of such a conflict. But the argument about how many people could be killed had ‘no impact on Trump.’” Nor did the threat of economic blowback; according to the book’s update, informed of why all of this would be a very bad idea, the president would still “turn back to the possibility of war, including at one point raising to Kelly the possibility of launching a preemptive military attack against North Korea.”
Last May, less than two months after the former guy reportedly floated the idea of attacking Russia and blaming it on China, we learned that, according to former defense secretary Mark Esper, Trump asked, on at least two occasions, if the military could “shoot missiles into Mexico to destroy the drug labs,” saying, “They don’t have control of their own country.” Told all the various reasons this idea was a no-go, the then president reportedly insisted that they could do it “quietly,” adding: “no one would know it was us.” Informed that, yes, people would know it was the US, Trump apparently responded that he would simply lie and say the US didn’t do it.
Anyway, all this would maybe be neither here nor there if Trump was simply an ex-president whose patently insane and wildly dangerous notions were in the past, and no longer posed a risk to the United States—but unfortunately, he’s not!
Trump is running a poll to determine who his 2024 running mate should be
And if that sounds like a crazy way to pick a person who could, in theory, one day be a “heartbeat away from the presidency,” rest assured that Team Trump is presumably just humoring his supporters, who he thinks are very dumb. In reality, according to the Daily Beast the former guy is currently tossing around three names for VP: Marjorie Taylor Greene, Elise Stefanik, and Tulsi Gabbard, and yes, at this time it’s not clear that anything could beat “Trump/MTG” for the ultimate ticket from hell.
“But if he does, the GOP will obviously fall in line, and you can forget this interview ever happened”
Proud Boys planned to keep Trump in office by force, prosecutors say (The Washington Post)
McCarthy says he’s willing to look at expunging a Trump impeachment (The Washington Post)
Who is Robert Hur, the special counsel overseeing the Biden document probe? (CNN)
Republican Men Still Can’t Talk About Abortion and Rape Without Embarrassing Themselves (Jezebel)
US Deficit Fell to $1.4 Trillion in 2022 (NYT)
Inflation Is Slowing Despite What Larry Summers Predicted (The Intercept)
Ro Khanna says he’s looking at the Senate. His allies are talking about the White House. (Politico)
Bernie Madoff’s NYC penthouse off market after finding no buyers (NYP)
Mike Novogratz Wants to Punch Disgraced Crypto Titans in the Face (Bloomberg)
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