Mundane and an Overdue Library Book

"They found these three mundane statutes: espionage and the two others ― obstruction. And they are trying to claim there is some sort of criminal activity." Alina Habba, Trump Attorney.

Fox News host Mark Levin is arguing that the FBI was “grossly negligent” with its photo of documents the agency recovered during a search of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in August.

"Trump lawyer calls refusal to turn over documents 'an overdue-library-book scenario" James Trusty, Trump Attorney.


Taking Top Secret Documents out of a secure facility and letting them lie around is not mundane or an overdue library book. Two Trump attorneys made these crazy absurd claims.

The disclosure of Top Secret documents "reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security."

People who do this belong in jail. Period.

I have considerable experience in handling classified information. I served 32 years, Regular and Reserve in the Marine Corps, and held a Top Secret clearance.

A few stories. In Vietnam I was handed an investigation over lost radio call signs and frequencies. The information was Secret.  The Commanding General of 1st Marine Division found them at the Helipad, and gave them to his driver, who gave them to my Commanding Officer. My CO assigned me to do the investigation.

I interviewed the driver who was present when the General found the codes. It was obvious that the codes had been lost by a radio man boarding a previous helicopter. And they were only valid for one day, and would be changed the next day.

The Helipad was in the center of the 1st Marine Division, a secure area. The General would have found them soon after they were lost and therefore they were unlikely to have been discovered.

The General had, however, given the codes to his driver who did not have a security clearance, which is a violation. I wrote it that way in my investigation. My CO was not impressed and ordered me to eliminate that part of the report.

On a training exercise in 29 Palms, California I issued frequencies and call signs to a number of officers. These were classified Secret - For Training Purposes and the validity was for 3 days.  Two officers no longer had the codes.  I took their formal statements, where they claimed that they destroyed them.

My senior Colonel told me that I had signed a document that said that I knew the codes had been destroyed. "No Sir," I said. The two officers signed that statement and I simply forwarded it on.  Because the codes were for a training exercise and were already declassified no further action was taken. 

The two examples above were classified Secret, but only for a matter of days, when they automatically were declassified. 

I attended a week long school on the handling of classified information while in Vietnam. Like most officers I am horrified about how Top Secret information was handled at Mar A Lago. It can and should result in people going to jail.

William Barr, on Fox, says there's no legitimate reason for classified docs to be at Mar-a-Lago and doubts Trump declassified

I concur with former Attorney General Barr. Why in the world would former President Trump take classified material with him out of the White House?  Some possibilities.

1. Souvenirs?
2. Because he could?
3. Decorate his 45 theme restaurant?
4. Show to impress people?
5. Give to foreign leaders?
6. Sell?

Giving or selling the documents is the most concerning. We don't know, of course, that this was done, but when someone improperly takes Top Secret information it is one of the possibilities that must be investigated.

A few things that have not been in the news. Bear in mind, most of my experience is very dated, 25 years plus, but I think it is probably still valid and applies to the White House.

1. All Classified Documents are kept in a secure area that must meet very high standards.

2. When a document is taken out of the safe, someone must sign for it.  A log of all transactions is kept.

3. When a document is returned it is logged back in.

4. All documents should have been returned and logged back in before President Trump left the White House.

5. Clearly not all were not returned.

6. Therefore the FBI knows precisely what documents were never returned. 

7. The FBI can compare that list with the documents they recovered from Mar A Lago.

8. If there are documents missing they must look further. 

9. They must ask the former President and his staff where they are.

10. We do not know if more documents are missing, but will find out soon enough. And the haphazard way this has been handled by President Trump and his staff make this seem possible.

I have a Veteran friend who insists that President Trump declassified all the documents he took, therefore, no harm no foul.  This is certainly incorrect.  Declassification of high level documents is a tedious process.  The top staff of the department that created the classification must be contacted in writing, and asked for their recommendation. They will respond in writing, listing their objections if they have them, which they likely will if they recently classified them. 

The President can then declassify them.  Since he will only have one of the documents in his position, he must notify the other agencies that hold the document so they can remove the classification. The documents are noted by number, say 3 of 13.

All declassified documents must be removed from their colored classified binders.  Each subsequent page has the Classification on the top and bottom page lined out, Documents must be declassified page by page, If the document is TS/SCI [Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information] it must be noted on each line. The document then is marked declassified by the authorizing agency.  Judging from the photo the Classified binders were not removed. We don't know if the actual documents were declassfied, but the investigators will find out. Example below:

You can see how absurd it would be for a President to declassify documents and not tell anyone. No one in the Federal Government would know it was declassified.

The FBI has all the documents recovered from Mar A Lago and they will know if there are missing documents.  As part of their investigation they will know what is in the documents.  They should be able to see if there is information that is not particularly concerning - and items that are very important and should not be revealed under any circumstances. Example - Nuclear information, top secret weapon designs, etc. If this kind of information was taken it begins to look very bad for former President Trump - and the country.