The Justice Department recently scored a temporary victory in the investigation into Trump’s handling of highly sensitive government materials with a ruling from a three-judge panel on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals that investigators can use items marked classified that were seized in the FBI’s raid of Mar-a-Lago in their wide-reaching inquiry.
Trump pushed for the selection of a special master, meaning third-party expert, for handling a review of items taken from his southern Florida resort early last month, and he got his wish — but it’s not working out. The special master, federal Judge Raymond Dearie, already signaled he might have accepted arguments from the Justice Department about the classification status of the disputed documents from the raid, which — while not preeminent to their investigative relevance — could have provided the probe significant support and preceded Dearie letting the department use the documents. Now, Dearie presently isn’t even examining the issue of the documents marked classified anymore. Assuming that recent rulings stand, his focus is limited to the other materials seized in the raid, with a deadline on his review of later this year after the elections.
Those developments mean the department’s usage of the materials marked classified for potentially further building a case against Trump is set to continue — and he sounds quite worried. “This is a giant Scam, a sick continuation of the Greatest Witch Hunt in U.S. History,” he ranted Sunday. “A complete Weaponization of the Justice Department & FBI, and includes Democrat D.A.’s & A.G.’s. Controlled by the same people that brought you Russia, Russia, Russia, Mueller, Impeachment Hoax 1, Impeachment Hoax 2, and more. The American people will not stand for “Weaponization” any longer!”
That last part mirrors language he used in an interview with Hugh Hewitt that was perceived as basically a threat of violence if he’s charged. “I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it,” he said of his potential prosecution. “If it happened, I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before.” Asked for details, Trump conspicuously didn’t provide any, which of course supports the idea he was trying to get a threat of violence across to listeners.
Trump is claiming — in public — that the documents at Mar-a-Lago were declassified (well, he is also claiming other, sometimes contradictory things, but that’s among them). Yet, his legal team isn’t directly raising this argument in court. Instead, they’re just pushing the idea he could’ve declassified the materials, an action he had the power to take as president. Perhaps implicitly revealing that there’s not actually any real-world evidence of declassifying the documents recovered from his estate, Trump suggested during a recent interview for Fox News he could have declassified documents just by thinking about it, which is — surprise surprise — not a thing. No matter the classification status, issues still remain like obstruction and the potential national security ramifications of the contents of the materials getting out. Bill Barr, Trump’s former attorney general, noted in an appearance on Fox how declassifying the materials — if Trump actually did so — would be staggeringly reckless.