“But that’s just the trouble with me. I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”Alice in Wonderland
When one makes an error in judgment or commits a crime, intent is often an element used to measure the severity of the actions and the appropriate consequences . A mistake absent intent is just a mistake. A crime one intends to commit is a different animal.
Another measure is how one responds to the discovery of such action. When the mistake or crime becomes known, how one takes responsibility after the fact speaks volumes.
The contrasts could not be more apparent with classified documents in the possession of former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden. (And apparently former Vice President Pence according to the latest news.)
In Mr. Biden’s case, his aides discovered the documents, notified the Justice Department and the National Archives, then immediately turned the documents over to the appropriate authorities. They went further and invited the Justice Department to conduct their own search of the locations, cooperating fully with access requests.
With Mr. Pence, early indications are he reacted in a similar manner to President Biden, notifying authorities and relinquishing the documents.
Mr. Trump denied he had any documents. Then claimed they were not, in fact, top secret documents but personal papers. Refused to allow the National Archives to search through these “personal” papers and, despite Herculean efforts to get him to cooperate, forced the Justice Department to obtain a Search Warrant.
I had many dealings with the US Department of Justice when I was a police officer. And while they have many talented and dedicated individuals doing the day-to-day work, as an entity they are risk-averse. We used to joke the Justice Department policy was, Big cases, Big problems. Little cases, Little problems. No cases, No problems. So for the Attorney General of the United States to authorize an application for a Search Warrant on the residence of a former President of the United States, they had come to a point where they had no other choice.
(On a side note, I would have loved to see the look on the face of the judge when they presented the warrant application. You want to search who?)
And even after the discovery and seizure of documents from Mar-e-Largo, Mr. Trump denied they were classified documents because he “thought” it so.
Here’s the difference in a nutshell with a simple comparison.
If you back into a car in a parking lot, one type of person either waits for the owner, leaves a note with contact information taking responsibility, or calls the police. Another kind of person leaves the scene, tries to coverup the damage to their car, and, when the cops show up, denies it, denies it, denies it.
It wasn’t me! You got the wrong guy. Not my car. I wasn’t there.
One shows character, and the other shows a lack thereof.
Now, with all that said, it is time for a complete revaluation of the process by which those with such access to classified material take it away from the office. Frankly, I suspect a search of many former officeholders might find such material. That is a significant problem.
But it doesn’t mitigate the apparent differences in actions between Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump. One demonstrated the elements of conscience and truth, and the other tried to weasel out of it. Therein lies a big difference.
And in the big scheme of things, this may be the least of Mr. Trump’s “mistakes.” Something, perhaps, a judge could take into consideration during a sentencing hearing.
4 thoughts on “Error in Judgment or Criminal Act?”
Thank you, John
Excellent piece, Joe. And reports are coming out that the careless handling and lack of accountability regarding classified information can be traced all the way back to the Carter administration. I had access to highly classified documents in the military that I still don’t talk about 50 years later. And not once did I even think about taking them off government property.
Thank you, Jim. Clearly we have a broken system