From the moment Donald Trump announced the FBI had searched his Mar-a-Lago residence to the public release of the search warrant that unveiled the former president is under investigation for potential obstruction of justice and Espionage Act violations, Trump world has thrown out a series of shifting explanations. And they haven’t all stuck.
Team Trump’s approach to lean into the political firestorm comes even as the former president reportedly asked Attorney General Merrick Garland, privately via a Justice Department official, what he could do to “reduce the heat.” Meanwhile, he continues to use the investigation as a fundraising tool, with an email out to supporters Monday morning declaring: “The Left will do anything to stop me from SAVING AMERICA.”
As more information trickles out about the scope of the government’s investigation into the former president, here’s a timeline of Trump world’s shifting defense.
It’s a “witch hunt.”
Right out of the gate on Aug. 8, with a lengthy statement confirming the FBI search, Trump used all the key words: “dark times,” “under siege,” “Radical Left Democrats,” “weaponization of the Justice System,” “prosecutorial misconduct,” “political persecution” and “witch hunt.”
Trump cast the search as a potential threat to Republican success in the midterm elections and his chance at a 2024 reelection bid. He called the law enforcement action corrupt, and posed this question: “What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democrat National Committee? Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States.”
First Hillary Clinton, then Barack Obama.
It was no surprise Trump immediately brought up Hillary Clinton’s handling of her emails while she was secretary of State, but in the days following the search, he invoked another name: former President Barack Obama.
As more information was published about the material Trump possessed, and Garland moved to unseal the search warrant, the former president released a statement accusing Obama of keeping 33 million pages of documents, “much of them classified.”
“How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!” he said.
The National Archives and Records Administration quickly responded with its own statement on Friday, noting it obtained “exclusive legal and physical custody” of Obama’s records when he left the White House in 2017. Roughly 30 million pages of unclassified records were transferred to a NARA facility in the Chicago area, NARA said, and this material is maintained “exclusively” by the federal agency.
I did nothing wrong.
On the day the search warrant was unsealed, Trump put forth a new explanation about why he kept highly classified documents — and it's likely to be at the center of his legal defense moving forward.
Trump’s office provided a statement to John Solomon, the conservative journalist who is one of the former president’s authorized representatives to the National Archives. The statement said Trump regularly took classified material to Mar-a-Lago, and that he had issued a never-before-revealed “standing order” that documents removed in this fashion “were deemed to be declassified.”
“The power to classify and declassify documents rests solely with the President of the United States,” the statement read. “The idea that some paper-pushing bureaucrat, with classification authority delegated BY THE PRESIDENT, needs to approve of declassification is absurd.”
Trump kept his Saturday statement short. He proclaimed he has “TRUTH” on his side, and “when you have TRUTH, you will ultimately be victorious!”