Donald Trump’s Best (a.k.a. Worst) Excuses for Hoarding Classified Documents at Mar-a-Lago
At some point in the near or slightly-less-than-near future, depending on how successful his legal team is at delaying the proceedings, Donald Trump will stand trial for retaining classified documents and conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation—just some of the crimes he was charged with by the Justice Department this month. (On Tuesday, Judge Aileen Cannon said the trial would begin August 14, but that’s seen as highly unlikely.) When Trump actually does set foot in the courtroom, his lawyers will obviously need to be armed with a strong defense, lest the ex-president be convicted on all 37 charges, an outcome that could result in him going to prison for the rest of his life. Do they have one? Unclear! Should they use one of the many excuses once-in-generation-legal-mind Donald Trump has trotted out since the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago last August? Probably not!
If you missed those excuses, they include:
The “I was just so busy I didn’t have time to comply with a government subpoena” defense
Donald Trump’s post–White House days appear to largely revolve around posting on Truth Social, golfing, and crashing the occasional Mar-a-Lago wedding and memorial service. And yet, according to the former president, the reason he failed to return the classified documents he’d been asked—on numerous occasions, including in the form of a subpoena—to return, was that he was simply too busy. “I was very busy, as you’ve sort of seen,“ Trump told Fox News’ Bret Baier. “Before I send boxes over, I have to take all of my things out. These boxes were interspersed with all sorts of things.” He didn’t have time to take his “things” out, and so he just never returned the documents. What court of law wouldn’t understand that?
Among the people not buying this excuse is former federal prosecutor and 2024 opponent Chris Christie:
As Politico notes, not only is the above argument not a good one, but Trump’s comments “are an admission that he did not move to satisfy the federal government’s demands that he comply with their requests to hand over the documents.”
The “I declassified the documents with my mind” defense
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better excuse, from a comedy perspective, than the one Trump proffered last September in which he claimed that as president, he had the ability to declassify documents just “by thinking about it.” To be clear, that is not how any of this works.