“These people don’t stop and they’re bad and we have to get rid of them,” Trump said to an audience assembled by the Georgia Republican Party. “These criminals cannot be rewarded. They must be defeated.”
But while that strategy has helped Trump turn the scandals he’s faced over the years into political strengths, the new and extremely detailed case will test the bounds of that strategy in ways Trump has never faced before.
Smith’s indictment suggests Trump personally directed aides to stash highly classified documents in cardboard storage boxes that he ordered shipped to Mar-a-Lago as his presidency expired. When the National Archives and Justice Department attempted to retrieve them, the Justice Department says, Trump ordered a valet to relocate dozens of boxes so they wouldn’t be found.
The indictment includes 31 charges for “willful retention” of classified documents, many of them described as military secrets of foreign governments, including allies. Six of the charges against Trump and his body man, Walt Nauta, were also for obstructing the grand jury investigation.
Trump made no secret of his plan to portray the prosecution against him — brought by special counsel Jack Smith — as secretly engineered by President Joe Biden, though the White House and the Department of Justice have gone to great lengths to keep a wall between them on the matter.
“This is a sick nest of people that needs to be cleaned out,” he proclaimed.
Trump used his remarks to demean both Smith — whom he called “deranged” — and the case Smith put together against him, which relied on extraordinary evidence culled from employees at Mar-a-Lago, close advisers to Trump and even one of his attorneys — Evan Corcoran — who was ordered by a judge to testify to the grand jury investigating the matter.
Smith on Friday delivered his first public statement since taking over the investigation in November, saying “laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced.
“Violations of those laws put our country at risk,” he said.
Trump previewed some of his legal defenses as well, citing Bill Clinton’s decision to keep tapes from a journalists’ interview in his home rather than turn them over to the National Archives. Trump claimed that the Presidential Records Act permitted him to remove any records created during his administration, even if they were classified, and convert them to his personal property and remove them at will.
Trump’s combative posture was evident even in his travel companion en route to the Georgia speech.
Trump traveled to the gathering from his club in Bedminster, New Jersey early Saturday with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who has been one of his fiercest defenders.
En route to the event, supporters lined the streets to catch a glimpse of the motorcade and some held “Witch Hunt” signs to greet him when he deplaned. In the room, he was treated like a conquering hero. The crowd was filled with red hats and Trump supporters, people holding their phones aloft to catch a picture. The audience erupted when he was introduced.
Kyle Cheney and Alex Isenstadt
Published: 2023-06-10 19:34:34