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Why Wasn’t Trump Quickly Arrested in Classified Docs Case?

We catalog the swift justice meted out to others caught hoarding secret documents, showing Trump's unprecedented kindly treatment by the feds.

1 min read
Some of the unsecured documents the FBI found at ar-a-Lago

On and on and on, it goes—the federal effort to bring disgraced former President Trump to justice for what, in cases involving many others less protected, has resulted in swift arrests and severe consequences, including the immediate loss of jobs and security clearances, stiff fines and even jail. Now we’ve learned that investigators believe the prince of Mar-a-Lago, or his onetime chief of staff, Mark Meadows, absconded from the White House with ultra-sensitive documents relating to Russian interference in the 2016 elections. adding urgency to the probe.

The government’s discovery of Trump’s mere hoarding of classified documents, not to mention the ensuing coverups, should have been a slam dunk, open-and-shut, quickly resolved case of mishandling and lying about his illegal retention of classified documents.  But no. As with all the other indictments he’s facing in New York and Georgia, Trump lawyers have adopted Washington’s cardinal rules of dodging accountability: Admit nothing, deny everything, make counter accusations.

Trump is hardly the first official to be prosecuted for such crimes under the Espionage Act of 1917 (which should have been replaced decades ago with legislation that clearly segregates real spy cases from the rest, if only for the public’s understanding). He’s merely the highest ranking one. Whatever, defendants caught red handed usually quickly plead out.  

Examples abound. In June, Kate Hussey, a reporter with WPTV in West Palm Beach, Florida, did us all a somewhat dyspeptic favor by compiling a list of several cases of officials prosecuted for illegally possessing classified documents, all of whom  were quite swiftly charged, prosecuted and sentenced.  The Voice of America compiled its own list, under the headline, “FBI, Justice Department Routinely Prosecute Misuse of Classified Documents.”  You get the point.

Here at SpyTalk, we’ve updated and annotated the lists, if only as a reminder that Trump, despite all his witch-hunt whinging about unfair treatment in his stolen documents case, has been afforded unprecedented, kindly treatment by the feds.

Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the editor-in-chief of SpyTalk, a newsletter covering U.S. intelligence, defense and foreign policy, on the Substack platform. Previously, he was the SpyTalk columnist (and national security correspondent) at Newsweek, and before that, the SpyTalk blogger at The Washington Post.

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