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Columnists

Is That a Wrongful Act? Well, it All Depends on Who Committed it

When the FBI forced its way into Donald Trump’s home in September to search for and seize classified documents, it was the first time that organization raided the dwelling of a former president.

Trump-bashers reveled in the moment, portraying it as if the FBI busted into Willie Sutton’s hideout and recovered all the loot he amassed from robbing banks.

Trump’s highly believable response – I mean that sincerely, not sarcastically – was that he simply didn’t know he’d taken any classified documents and/or wasn’t aware they were classified. Trump added that it’s irrelevant anyhow, because the president has the right to declassify documents. He’s correct about that, but critics countered that he didn’t go through the proper protocol to do so. Trump’s rather bizarre-sounding retort was that as president, all he had to do was merely think about declassifying the documents, and presto – instant declassification.

I recently went through an old filing cabinet containing various types of personal records from over a decade ago (paid utility invoices, course syllabi, etc.) and sometimes found things misfiled. For instance, a very nice letter I received from a former employer upon leaving that organization was mixed in with annual sales records of one of my books. The point is: things get misfiled, misplaced, and accidentally transported.

Well, now we learn that Joe Biden’s done the same thing: he took files with him from the White House to his office and home. Not while he’s been president, mind you, but from his days as vice president, when he no power to declassify documents in any manner.

The consistent answer here is either it was a big deal in both cases or it wasn’t. I believe it wasn’t. Lest we panic that our nation’s leaders carelessly pack the nuclear codes in with the badminton rackets on moving day, the vast majority of classified documents are so obscure that hardly anyone would even recognize them as anything noteworthy. It’s not as if they’re red folders marked with big, ominous ‘X’ insignia containing reports titled: “the day I almost dropped a bomb on Russia.”

Of course, it’s unfortunate when it happens, but other presidents have acknowledged inadvertently removing classified documents. Others may have kept it a secret, or also didn’t realize they did it. Just as Democrats are far less likely to believe that Trump didn’t know he was doing anything wrong, Republicans probably feel the same way about the Clintons and think their Chappaqua home is filled with secret passageways containing vaults filled with classified documents. When Ronald Reagan left the White House in January 1989 to retire to his California ranch, he was already exhibiting signs of the onset of Alzheimer’s. Think he didn’t pack some papers into the wrong box?

There’s nothing to see here, folks. But even if there is, too many people won’t choose to be consistent in their judgment. I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that most of the people who lambasted Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause a few years ago never even heard of the term until the media ratings harlots infused it into the vernacular. And then, the feigned outrage was so disproportionate it would’ve been eminently laughable were it not so pathetic.

Someday, a president will travel with a small group including a couple of active duty soldiers. For whatever reason, the soldiers won’t have a place to sleep for the night, and the president will say to a local: “do you have any extra space in your house? I’m going to need you to let these two fine soldiers spend the night.” The local will reply: “I don’t, but my next-door neighbor Herb is out of town for a month and I have his housekey. I’m sure he’ll be fine with it and he’ll get a kick out of it when I tell him.”

Then, some of those aforementioned media harlots will discover what happened and accuse the president of violating the Third Amendment, which reads in pertinent part: “No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner…” That president’s bashers, most of whom until that point had no idea what the Third Amendment was all about, will then insist that the president be impeached. And if there are enough crazy people in the House of Representatives in charge – odds are, there will be, no matter which party it is – they’ll follow through. Naturally, the president will be acquitted. The first four presidential impeachments in our nation’s history consisted of trumped-up charges (pun intended) brought into kangaroo courts, so why should we expect future ones to be any different?

Our two major parties at the congressional level have become embarrassments, with a few rare and notable exceptions. They’re like a husband and wife who don’t simply bicker and disagree, but who’ve reached a point that they loathe one another so forcefully that they can’t even be in the same room or sit at the same table without contemptuously barking at one another.

Discord in the halls of Congress is as old as that branch itself. Federalists and anti-federalists feuded about the size of government, and Whigs argued with Democrats that the president should do the legislature’s bidding. But the language was eloquent and respectful, not soliloquies and diatribes so crass that even middle school cafeteria students would be offended.
Lest the masses worry about which transgressions they need to pretend to find appalling, their respective party leaders will happily guide them through the process. Wait until they accuse a future president of violating the poll tax amendment (the 24th) for suggesting placing vending machines at polling places.

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