The world knows that Donald Trump has been recently indicted by a grand jury in Florida on 37 federal felony counts.
These are for obstruction, conspiracy, unlawful retention of government property, and perjury/making false statements.
Trump claims he did nothing illegal, but first, let us review what the law says about government records.
The Presidential Records Act of 1978 states:
“…the official records of the president and his staff are owned by the United States, not by the president.”
“Presidential records are records in the White House relating to the constitutional, statutory or other official or ceremonial duties of the president.”
“The archivist is required to take custody of these records when the president leaves office, and to maintain them in a federal depository.”
In other words, a presidential record is ANY document from the Oval Office, official or unofficial, that is classified or unclassified, mixed in with other materials or that stands alone, that is not exclusively and purely personal in nature.
Trump’s claim that documents emanating from when he was in office belong to him is untrue.
In addition, the Espionage Act defines as protected any document related to national defense information, REGARDLESS of classification, all records produced by or for the government are government property that contain NDI.
While the president can start the declassification process, this process includes national defense agency oversight, content review, locating other copies worldwide, and a formal declassification mechanism. I know how this works because while in the military and as a security director for a defense manufacturer, I handled and maintained classified documents and national defense information.
Trump’s claim that he “declassified” documents simply by taking them does not magically remove their NDI status, nor does it give him permission to keep them.
To be clear, protecting government records safeguards our intelligence-gathering techniques and agents from discovery, preserves our secrets and plans, and offers a layer of safety to our military personnel and Americans around the world. We are safer when our plans are confidential.
While president, Trump made a pledge to keep secrets a secret: “In my administration, I am going enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information.”
Trump knows the vital importance of protecting our secrets. If we are to believe his own words, Trump has disqualified himself as a presidential candidate.
“Hillary (Clinton)’s private email scandal which put our classified information at the reach of our enemies, disqualifies her from the presidency.”
If held to the same standard, Trump infers he is disqualified as well.
Joe Biden and Mike Pence, when their self-inspections revealed improperly stored records, handed over what they found voluntarily.
Rather than cooperate, the felony charges against Trump assert that he and his co-conspirators kept sensitive and government property hidden, moved records from place to place with criminal intent, and lied about what they possessed.
It is widely believed that these felony charges could have been avoided if Trump simply turned in the 113,000 pages of government documents, including over 100 classified secret and top-secret files, upon government demand in 2022.
But defiant, on Sept. 22 Trump told Sean Hannity, “If you are the president of the United States, you can declassify just by ‘saying it is declassified.’”
One has to wonder what Trump might have meant when he boasted regarding these thousands of government records and over one hundred classified files, “They are mine. They belong to me.”
I suggest two possible explanations.
Either Trump is a brazen criminal with no regard for our laws or the rule of law, or Trump sees himself as the embodiment of America.
Trump in a speech, hours after his arraignment, proclaimed, “Today we witnessed the most heinous and abusive use of power in our country’s history…”
He also stated regarding his indictment, “One of the saddest days in the history of our country…”
Both quotes illustrate that Trump infers that his personal experience is the American experience.
I used to think Trump was simply a New York con artist who ran his businesses and presidential office like a gangster operating in a crime family.
Now I am beginning to think Trump, perhaps a bit deranged, believes he IS this nation rather than its servant.
Regardless of his motivation, the danger to our nation is not why Trump acts the way he does, but knowing what we now know, how his followers continue to endorse and support him.
Jonathan Kraut directs a private investigations agency, is the CEO of a private security firm, is the CFO of an accredited acting conservatory, is a published author, and Democratic Party activist. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or of other organizations.