It’s too early to prosecute Trump for missing documents and falsified lists
My Post colleague Jonathan Capehart asked me this question in Friday’s edition of The Post’s First Look. He was referring to three statements Donald Trump made in a lengthy interview with me the previous day, when he said he had declassified everything he took from former President Mar-a-Lago that he had related to the alternative voter lists did nothing wrong before him. January 6th and would therefore not be charged.
Jonathan asked me if I believe Trump on these three points.
I simply said I don’t know because answering that question requires a thorough examination of the former President’s intentions regarding declassification and listing. There are also many facts that have yet to be proven – who brought what documents to Mar-a-Lago, when, on whose orders, and did Trump have concrete knowledge of what happened there?
Criminal attorneys instinctively think twice before expressing an opinion as to whether the crimes warranting the indictment were committed. That’s the right instinct in documents and slate cases. And most importantly, Trump also told me that he did not receive a “target letter” from the Justice Department, which means he is facing charges on both counts, at least for now.
As for the voter rolls, Trump said he had nothing to do with it. Of course, the question of whether to believe him or not is one that no one who isn’t deeply privy to the FBI investigation can answer. The legendary “presumption of innocence” we invoke in courtrooms is a useful warning for journalists, including opinion writers. Sometimes not only do we not know, but we find it impossible to know.
I’m open to any outcome. So I urged the Justice Department to act quickly and put the President (if there is a case) in charge of the document case, and appointing the Special Master made sense to me. When the private master, Judge Raymond Dearie — a veteran and widely respected federal judge who served seven years on the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Oversight Court — finds that all critical documents were indeed classified and duly seized from Trump’s home, that’s one thing very much important new fact.