Donald Trump wasn’t a keen reader during his time in office, to put it mildly. But at the end of his administration, the former president carted a lot of papers home to Florida — including top-secret documents.
According to the New York Times, the Trump administration’s relocating of these papers now has the attention of the Feds. After the National Archives and Records Administration reported in January that Trump brought 15 boxes of government documents to Mar-a-Lago that are considered presidential records, federal prosecutors opened a grand-jury investigation to determine whether he had mishandled them. Prosecutors have reached out to White House staffers who were there at the end of the administration for information as to how the records were moved, where they were stored at Mar-a-Lago, and if people knew there were classified documents involved.
An attorney for Trump said the former president was not culpable in any way: “President Trump consistently handled all documents in accordance with applicable law and regulations. Belated attempts to second-guess that clear fact are politically motivated and misguided.”
It’s highly unlikely that Trump would be charged in a probe involving the handling of classified documents: As the Times notes, the Department of Justice primarily opens such inquiries to determine if protected information has been released, so that the intelligence community can protect sources and get a sense of what information may have been compromised. During Trump’s presidency, Mar-a-Lago wasn’t exactly Fort Knox: In April 2019, a Chinese national walked past security carrying a thumb drive full of malware and claiming she was there to attend an event that didn’t exist.
DOJ investigations into the handling of classified information often take a long time. The probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, for example, began in 2015 and finished in November 2016. This suggests that Attorney General Merrick Garland — who has avoided inquiries into Trump’s conduct in the Capitol riot — could wrap up an inquiry around the time that Trump would announce a potential 2024 run. Surely his partisans, who were so upset about Hillary Clinton’s private email server, wouldn’t vote for a man who had been so careless with important government documents. Right?