Fox News host Sean Hannity and former President Donald Trump had a notable on-air exchange last Monday. Hannity, giving Trump the benefit of the doubt, said he couldn’t imagine Trump taking classified documents with him as he left the White House. Trump stepped in, however, to say that he would “take stuff” as he pleased.
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“I can’t imagine you ever saying, um, ‘Bring me some of the boxes that we brought back from the White House, I’d like to look at them,’” Hannity said to Trump, “Did you ever do that?
“I would have the right to do that, there’s nothing wrong with it,” Trump said.
“I know you,” Hannity said, offering the former president an out. “I don’t think you would do it.”
Trump answered, saying that he doesn’t “have a lot of time,” but “I would have the right to do that…I would do that.”
Hannity, an ardent Trump supporter, attempted to pivot away from the classified documents discussion. “Let me move on,” The Fox host said. But Trump interjected, wanting to speak more on the subject. Trump then claimed that the Presidential Records Act gives him “the right to take stuff” and “the right to look at stuff.”
(Well, now we have an idea what Trump’s defense is going to be should the Department of Justice charge Trump for criminally mishandling classified documents.)
“But they have the right to talk, and we have the right to talk,” Trump continued. “This would have all been worked out. All of a sudden, they raided Mar-a-Lago – viciously raided Mar-a-Lago.”
Donald Trump then claimed that he possessed “tapes” that the government didn’t want shown publicly, including one tape of the FBI viciously raiding Mar-a-Lago.
“I’ll take that tape, and I’ll air that tape,” Hannity said.
“I know you would,” Trump said. “Everybody would take that tape.”
Did Trump take documents he wasn’t supposed to take?
“According to the Justice Department, Trump did exactly that,” Business Insider reported,” and refused to return the records for months after leaving the White House.”
“In the end, the FBI was forced to execute a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago golf club in Florida to recover the documents, some of which bore the highest classified markings. Trump’s retention of the records is now at the center of a federal criminal investigation into his handling of national security information.”
Trump is just one of the prominent politicians currently involved in a document mishandling “situation.” President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence both had documents that they should not have. Trump himself campaigned in 2016 against the idea that his opponent, (“Crooked”) Hillary Clinton, was not to be trusted on account of using a personal email server to conduct sensitive State Department correspondence.
So, Trump isn’t the only one with documents where the documents should not be (which speaks to the idea that maybe the government is a little bit neurotic about classifying documents, but that’s a different discussion), but Trump’s case stands out from the others because of Trump’s reaction. The initial hesitation to return documents, for example, prompting multiple FBI raids. And of course, discussing the case on Fox News, maintaining (as Trump is prone to doing) that he did nothing wrong.
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I don’t lose a lot of sleep over whether Trump mishandled sensitive documents. But either way, Trump should do himself a favor and keep his mouth shut on the matter.
Harrison Kass is the Senior Editor at 19FortyFive. An attorney, pilot, guitarist, and minor pro hockey player, Harrison joined the US Air Force as a Pilot Trainee but was medically discharged. Harrison holds a BA from Lake Forest College, a JD from the University of Oregon, and an MA from New York University. Harrison listens to Dokken.