After a special counsel investigation, former President Donald Trump was recently indicted on thirty-seven counts of willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and fraudulent statements. However, there are rumors that the federal government may have set up the former president.
In April, Trump’s counsel sent a letter to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence containing a potential resistance. In the letter, the former president’s counsel alleged that the National Archives and Records Administration “has become overtly political and refused to provide archival assistance to President Trump’s transition team.” This is the first occurrence of its kind in forty years, causing reasonable concern.
There are compelling reasons why the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) typically assists the president during his or her transition out of office. In a January article about the Presidential Records Act, the Classified Information Procedures Act, and other pertinent statutes, the Associated Press stated that Trump is “not the first president to mishandle classified information.”
Although former President Jimmy Carter signed the Presidential Records Act, it did not apply to his administration. According to the Associated Press, Carter “found classified materials at his residence in Plains, Georgia, on at least one occasion and returned them to the National Archives, according to the same individual who described frequent instances of mismanaged documents. The individual did not provide details regarding the discovery’s timing.
“An aide to the Carter Center provided no details when asked about that account of Carter discovering documents at his home after leaving office in 1981. It’s notable that Carter signed the Presidential Records Act in 1978 but it did not apply to records of his administration, taking effect years later when Ronald Reagan was inaugurated,” the Associated Press account continued.
“Before Reagan, presidential records were generally considered the private property of the president individually. Nonetheless, Carter invited federal archivists to assist his White House in organizing his records in preparation for their eventual repository at his presidential library in Georgia.”
Former Trump lawyer Timothy C. Parlatore complained in a letter to the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Representative Mike Turner of Ohio, that NARA’s cooperation with the outgoing Trump administration was incredibly different from what the agency had done with every president since Jimmy Carter.
“When President Trump left office, there was little time to prepare for the outgoing transition from the presidency. Unlike his three predecessors, each of whom had over four years to prepare for their departure upon completion of their second term, President Trump had a much shorter time to wind up his administration,” Parlatore wrote in the letter.
“White House staffers and General Service Administration (‘GSA’) employees quickly packed everything into boxes and shipped them to Florida. This was a stark change from the standard preparations made by GSA and National Archives and Records Administration (‘NARA’) for prior administrations.”
As NARA recognized in a news release the agency issued on October 11, 2022: “The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), in accordance with the Presidential Records Act, assumed physical and legal custody of the Presidential records from the administrations of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan, when those Presidents left office. NARA securely moved these records to temporary facilities that NARA leased from the General Services Administration (GSA), near the locations of the future Presidential Libraries that former Presidents built for NARA. All such temporary facilities met strict archival and security standards, and have been managed and staffed exclusively by NARA employees.”
According to the former president’s former counsel, the modification was made for political reasons.
“NARA unfortunately has become overtly political and declined to provide archival assistance to President Trump’s transition team. Interestingly, in its Press Statement NARA cites every recent President after Jimmy Carter as having received the same assistance with ‘archival and security standards,’” Parlatore wrote.
“Yet, President Carter, the last President before President Trump to not receive archival assistance found documents with classification markings in his home, which he returned to NARA (though apparently without an accompanying DOJ criminal probe).”
As reported by The New York Times, Paralatore took a step back in May of 2023 due to differences with one of Trump’s advisers, Boris Epshteyn.
The paper stated that Parlatore “described how Mr. Epshteyn had hindered him and other lawyers from getting information to Mr. Trump, leaving the former president’s legal team at a disadvantage in dealing with the Justice Department, which is scrutinizing Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents after leaving office and his efforts to remain in office after losing the 2020 election.”
The Times also reported that “Mr. Parlatore singled out Mr. Epshteyn as trying to keep the team from conducting additional searches of Mr. Trump’s properties after the F.B.I. executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida, and discovered more than 100 additional classified documents.”
“As I said at the time, it had nothing to do with the case itself or the client,” Parlatore told the Times. “There are certain individuals that made defending the president much harder than it needed to be.”
The possibility of a connection between the situations is open to debate by anyone. Timothy Parlatore has not updated his Twitter account since before his indictment, when he retweeted an announcement of his June 4 appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press”.
— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) June 3, 2023
Yet, in an appearance on CNN prior to the charges being announced, Parlatore stated “the indictment has a lot in it, a lot of stuff I wasn’t aware of … specific allegations about moving boxes before the search … there are things in here that, if they have backup for, are certainly problematic.”
It is common knowledge that the feuds on Trump’s legal team extend beyond a dispute between Epsteyn and Paratore. Jim Trusty and John Rowley, the two attorneys who represented Trump in the classified document case, resigned a day after the 37-count indictment was issued.
The question of whether this indictment is a set-up hinges on whether NARA intentionally withheld its assistance in transferring the presidential records securely and whether Trump’s legal counsel considered the possibility of a set-up sufficiently.