Of COURSE Trump Having All Those Documents At Mar-A-Largo Was Unethical…Is Anyone Seriously Confused About That?

Well, maybe Donald Trump. But definitely not Ethics Alarms.

At the Washington Examiner, editor and columnist Quin Hillyer writes that…

Former President Donald Trump’s defenders in the matter of the Mar-a-Lago documents controversy are defending the indefensible. Forget the legalities: For the sake of (spurious) argument, let’s stipulate that somehow Trump can concoct some looking-glass version of a legal argument that justifies his “authority” to do with the documents as he did. The point is that even if it was technically legal, it was wrong, wrong, wrong.

Heck, I’ll go farther than that; this is the proverbial low-hanging fruit. Donald Trump doesn’t know what ethics is: never has, never will. He decides what is “right” according to some secret personal algorithm that changes daily so it can’t be stolen, or something. His lifting government documents and storing them at his home without authorization after he had left office is as indefensible as any time an ex-employee takes property from the workplace home. Funny, I didn’t think that was even worth writing about; I do try to avoid the obvious here as often as possible.

The fact that Trump’s handling of the documents and machinations to delay or avoid returning them was unethical and probably illegal nevertheless does not automatically make the Biden Administration’s treatment of Trump as if he were a drug lord and the documents as if they were vats of smack any less ominous or unethical themselves. We saw—those of us capable of metaphorical “sight”—saw with Biden’s “Reichstag speech”(that’s also from the Examiner, and I like it) what the Democrats are trying to do. The raid on Trump’s home can only be analyzed in context the Left’s Machiavellian, unprecedented and relentless assault on Donald Trump since the 2016 Presidential campaign. It is motivated not by a dedication to the Rule of Law or justice, but by a combination of fear and revenge.

Up until this moment, no political party or sitting President ever took action to prosecute and imprison an opposing party’s political leader, or sought to do so through chains of targeted witch hunts, fishing expeditions and accusations. The closest would probably be the Republican pursuit of Bill and Hillary Clinton over Whitewater. Admittedly, there is a thin line there: the President cannot be seen to be above the law, but the criminalization of politics is a genuine danger to democracy that should be given a wide safety zone. Even a legitimate precedent would be dangerous, which is why Gerald Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon was so necessary (and courageous).

I don’t have the time or inclination to thoroughly research the issue, but I know that many Presidents of the United States committed or may have committed indictable crimes before, during, or after their Presidency. Indeed, the kinds of people who become national leaders, especially in the United States, have a natural tendency to believe they are governed by different rules that the typical citizen. I’m fairly certain that Jefferson, Jackson, Van Buren, Andrew Johnson, Grant, Arthur, Cleveland, Harding, FDR, Truman, Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Nixon and Clinton could have been indicted, and also that they aren’t the only ones. Trump probably has broken more laws than any of them; he has been in the construction, hotel and casino business, and you can’t be in a much more corrupt culture than those.

None of that changes the main focus here, which is what ethical standards a democracy should maintain regarding the insulation of politics and ideological difference from prosecution.

12 thoughts on “Of COURSE Trump Having All Those Documents At Mar-A-Largo Was Unethical…Is Anyone Seriously Confused About That?

  1. I am confused about that.

    And dig might be as much due to bad reporting as anything else.

    I have heard that Presidents have a certain period of time after leaving office to review and return documents that are subject to the Presidential Records Act (or whatever it is called).

    Then, there is an issue of whether he violated the law by keeping classified documents (or whether those documents were unclassified).

    And there was some question about whether he could hold on to records that would go to his presidential library.

    In other words, there seem to be scenarios in which it was appropriate to possess certain records.

    Then, you throw in the precedent that he was acting no different than his predecessors.

    And, in all of this, I have seen no clear analysis of what his legal obligations were. People simply want to jump to the conclusion of their choice.

    The media are not doing their job here.

    -Jut

    • Agreed. He still had no business taking the documents and holding them for two years, which did not belong to him. I’m willing to believe it was mostly sloppiness, arrogance, inattention, not malice. Sloppiness, arrogance and inattention are still all unethical. And handing an implacable enemy a stick to beat you with is irresponsible, especially when a lot of people are depending on you.

      • Jack,
        I don’t understand your response to JUT. In the first sentence you agreed with JUT that the Trump’s legal obligations are not clearly defined, but then you said he had no business taking them and holding them for 2 years. Whether it was right or wrong depends on what the defined law is regarding his possession of documents and the length of time he is permitted for review. If he is given time to review various documents, that would suggest that the review is to determine what documents he believes to be personal and what belong to the archives.

        I believe it was Judge Amy Berman Jackson that stated the President has absolute discretion on these matters given that he alone had the responsibility for managing these documents. I am not arguing that is a correct decision. I am simply pointing out the relevant judicial decision on this matter that was never appealed by Judicial Watch.

        I do agree with your last sentence but that would require Trump to hole up in a cave until he dies because anything he does will be something with which they will beat him.

        • They aren’t his papers…simple as that. If he’s not President, then they documents don’t belong to him, they belong to the United States. He had a lawyer falsely claim that he had returned everything he was supposed to return. Bill Barr knows his law, and has said there was no justification for Trump having all those documents. Sure, there might be some legal loopholes, but what the ethical defense? If the wasn’t a good reason, never mind the law, then it was unethical to keep them, store them, whatever.

          • Addendum: “Whether it was right or wrong depends on what the defined law is regarding his possession of documents and the length of time he is permitted for review.”

            No—and I know you know better than that, CM. Whether it is legal or not depends on that; whether Trump can get away with taking something that doesn’t belong to him depends on that, but if it’s unethical, and it is, then the law doesn’t change that. Laws can make what was once considered ethical conduct unethical (because it now violated the law), but laws don’t usually make what was unethical ethical. See: abortion at will.

          • This is the same argument I made, for what it’s worth. There were legitimate reasons for Trump to have those documents up to and including the last moment of his presidency, he didn’t magically become a criminal at the stroke of midnight, there are good legal arguments that nothing he did is technically illegal… But he really should have returned the docs, and he had more than enough time to do it in two years.

  2. Would it be inappropriate to point out how the FBI treated Secretary of State Clinton for a very similar mishandling classified documents and contrast that to how the FBI has treated President Trump?
    Neither Clinton nor Trump demonstrated ethical behavior in response to the FBI’s request, yet the responses from the FBI for failing to turn over documents couldn’t be more dichotomous; a wrist slap for Clinton and a raid on Trump’s home.
    The FBI’s response is the most unethical behavior in this threesome, particularly the leaks from Merrick Garland’s DOJ while he argues against releasing any information as if it would derail his investigation; physician, heal thyself.
    Merrick Garland reportedly received his search warrant several weeks prior to executing it. The timing, the show of force – being so close to Election Day – is just coincidence, right?

    • Wait….Several weeks? Is there a link to anything confirming that?

      My experience with search warrants is that they have a shelf life for service of 10 days. This is because the longer one waits, the better the material sought has of being moved or destroyed. I always saw it refer red to as the “melting iceberg” concept. The longer you wait the smaller your chances of success.

      Why would they think that the materials they think were illegal to possess would still be there after a multi-week delay. Especially the way the DOJ leaks information.

      • I’ll concede. I can’t recall where I read of the weeks’ long delay. With the leaking and redacting being mixed together, the information that could affirm my timeline may have been cleaned up; I can’t seem to find anything to backup my claim. Per info on the warrant that has been made public, the execution of the search must occur not more than 14 days after the warrant is issued, which could be defined as ‘weeks,’ but that doesn’t bolster my credibility in this instance.

  3. AM
    You said, “Why would they think that the materials they think were illegal to possess would still be there after a multi-week delay.”

    Why would Trump get rid of things he believed were rightfully legitimate to keep given his negotiations with the National Archives were ongoing? The statement you made above presumes Trump knew it was illegal for him to keep said documents. If he (Trump) felt it was illegal for him to have them, why would you think he is retaining them? To believe he knew it was illegal to possess the documents, the logical conclusion you must draw is that he planned to profit from them in some way that was detrimental to the U.S. I think that is a stretch.

    The real issue is if they (the FBI) felt there was a serious national security issue with him retaining them why did they not take them in June when they retrieved other records and told him to install a second lock on the storage room?

    I have no idea who is correct in this situation. JUT raises some legitimate precedent behaviors for which nothing like this raid ever transpired. Further, the Presidential Records Act is a civil one not a criminal one so why did a raid occur for a civil matter? We don’t know exactly what was marked Classified, Secret or otherwise and may never know. For all I know, those folders held documents on UFOs from the fifties. There was also some speculation that he had damning information about the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane operation which would have shed light on the alleged illegal activities by the FBI and the CIA to undermine him.

    Given your experience with search warrants, when did we start issuing General warrants that did not specify exactly what they were looking and the place to search? The FBI scooped up over 11,000 personal documents and other items including his passports. Looks like a fishing expedition even if it was not.

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