Fact check: Trump responds to special counsel news with debunked claim about Obama and the Bushes
In former President Donald Trump’s first extensive response to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s announcement on Friday that he had appointed a special counsel to oversee the criminal investigation into Trump’s retention of government documents after he left office office, Trump has dishonestly defended himself – repeating his false and completely debunked claims about how other ex-presidents have handled official records.
Trump, speaking Friday night at a gala at his Mar-a-Lago resort and residence, questioned why there was no investigation into « every other president who came before me, » including, but not limited to, Republicans George HW Bush and George W. . Bush. He claimed that these former presidents « kept documents », and he continued: « In one case they had them in a Chinese restaurant with broken windows. And in another case they had a Chinese restaurant connected to a bowling alley. That’s where the documents were kept. They took documents with them. President Obama took documents.
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The facts first: Trump’s claims are, again, false – and they have been debunked by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) itself. As NARA explained in a statement from august, Barack Obama did not take the presidential documents that Trump claimed Obama took. Instead, NARA itself moved Obama administration records to a NARA-run facility in the Chicago area, near where the Obama Presidential Library is being built. NARA similarly explained in a statement in October, after Trump added other former presidents to the baseless narrative, that none of the Bushes took the documents Trump claimed to have taken. Again, it was NARA that took the Bush presidential papers to facilities that NARA operated near the future locations of their presidential libraries.
In other words, there is no equivalence between Trump’s situation – in which he allegedly took hundreds of classified documents, as well as many other presidential files, to the resort and to the residence of Mar -a-Lago – and the situations, or really non-situations, of its predecessors.
Trump used Friday’s speech to frame various other criticisms of Garland’s decision to appoint special counsel, veteran prosecutor Jack Smith. Smith will also oversee a second criminal investigation involving Trump, this one looking into whether someone « illegally interfered » with the transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election or with Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s victory. at the Electoral College « on or about » January 6, 2021. (Smith will not oversee the investigation or prosecution of individuals who physically violated the Capitol that day.)
Trump’s suggestion that past presidents’ documents were stored insecurely is also wrong.
The facility where George HW Bush’s presidential documents were temporarily stored, in College Station, Texas, was indeed a former bowling alley connected to a former Chinese restaurant. But by the time Bush’s records arrived, the building had been turned by NARA into a professional archival facility with extensive security measures and no more bowling lanes or equipment.
Although Trump has repeatedly claimed or suggested that the College Station facility was unsecured — this time he said it had “broken windows” — that account is also unsubstantiated. In its October statement, NARA said all of the temporary facilities where it stores former presidents’ records « meet strict archival and security standards. » NARA said « reports that state or imply that these presidential records were in the possession of former presidents or their representatives, after they left office, or that the records were kept in substandard conditions, are false. and misleading ».
You don’t have to take NARA’s recent word for it. The Associated Press reported in 1994: “Uniformed guards patrol the premises. There are CCTV monitors and sophisticated electronic detectors along the walls and doors. Some printed materials are classified and will remain so for years; it is only open to those with top secret clearances.
Finally, it is not a revelation that the establishment had a colorful past of restaurant and alley; NARA officials publicly joked about it at the time. It is normal for NARA to lease large buildings that previously had another purpose. The Washington Post reported in 1993: “There are no more hallways. No gutters, no pins, no beer. Thanks to a rushed renovation job after last November’s election, there are a few simple desks, a massive, fireproof vault and row upon row of steel shelves filled with cardboard boxes and wooden crates.
Trump has continued to make these false claims about his predecessors not only despite NARA statements debunking them, but despite extensive fact-checking by mainstream media outlets. He also claimed Obama allegedly took documents from Tuesday’s speech in which he announced his 2024 presidential bid; CNN also fact-checked.
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