MONDAY, JUNE 12, 2023
Front page of the Washington Post: We rise today to speak in praise of the Washington Post's Devlin Barrett.
More specifically, we refer to the analysis piece which tops the front page of this morning's print editions. The piece is a model of clarity and clarification. Headline included, Barrett's report starts like this:
Why Trump was charged on secret documents and Clinton, Pence were not
When Donald Trump was indicted last week on charges of willful retention of classified documents, many Republicans, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, cried foul, arguing that the Justice Department was treating the 45th president differently than it has Democrats who’ve been investigated over possible mishandling of national security secrets.
But the Trump indictment itself helps explain the difference between his case and other high-profile probes, like those of Hillary Clinton, President Biden and former vice president Mike Pence—not for what it charges, but for what it doesn’t.
Trump faces 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information, a crime delineated in the Espionage Act that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. Each count represents a different highly sensitive document that Trump allegedly kept at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida residence and private club.
Twenty-one of those documents, including some involving nuclear secrets, were found by FBI agents who searched the estate in August—yielding a total of 102 classified documents, according to the indictment. The other 10 willful-retention charges stem from a batch of 38 classified documents turned over to the FBI last June in response to a grand jury subpoena.
The key point turns out to be this:
Trump hasn't been indicted for taking the classified documents. He's been charged for their "willful retention"—for deliberately refusing to give them back.
It isn't the taking, it's the willful retention! Later, Barrett fleshes out this point:
“This is not a case about what documents were taken, it’s about what former president Trump did after the government sought to retrieve those documents,” said [former federal prosecutor Robert] Mintz, who noted that willful-retention cases often hinge on how much evidence prosecutors can find that a person deliberately hid material or refused to give it back.
The indictment offers anecdote after alleged anecdote charging that the former president sought to hide and keep some of the classified papers, so much so that Trump and Nauta are accused of conspiring to obstruct the investigation and scheming to conceal the truth not just from the government, but even from Trump’s own lawyer.
Barrett offers clarification from beginning to end. People who get their stories from red tribe media will rarely hear such points.
Along the way, Barrett uses this distinction to help explain why Trump has been charged with federal crimes, while Hillary Clinton and Mike Pence have not. Citizens who get their frameworks from Fox News will rarely be exposed to such points.
There's much more to say about the way the Hillary Clinton email "scandal" was handled—rather, was mishandled (ducked)—by major blue tribe figures in the summer of 2016.
The Rachel Maddow Show was stunningly AWOL as the themes of this punishing "scandal" took hold. Incredibly, for the first two nights in July of that year, guest host Steve Kornacki actively adopted the James Comey version of what had happened in the matter of Clinton's emails!
Upon her return from her summer vacation, Maddow herself proceeded to duck the topic all through that fateful summer. Today, red tribe forces continue to feed off the incompetence / laziness / cowardice of our blue tribe stars that year.
Getting back to today's major point:
Trump hasn't been charged for taking the documents. He's been charged for willfully refusing to give them back.
This morning, the distinction was spelled out in impressive detail for blue tribe news consumers. In our flailing nation's heavily segregated news environment, red tribe citizens haven't heard that distinction explained, and most of them never will.