The Unthinkable, Pre-Donald, Must Command Our Attention After Highly Sensitive Secrets Recovered from Mar-a-Lago
Despite Donald Trump’s many campaign rally boasts that he knows “everything” about nuclear energy, he can’t tell you the difference between an atomic bomb and a hydrogen bomb. He’s a con artist, a know-nothing without even rudimentary knowledge of nuclear weaponry (the subject of Barack Obama’s senior college thesis) or national security.
What Trump does know is this: Foreign governments whose dictatorial leaders he admires–North Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia among them–would pay fortunes to acquire America’s most sensitive nuclear secrets. And what Donald knows is how to find buyers who will pay premium prices for whatever he has to unload.
What had been the unthinkable idea that any American president would sell our national security secrets is suddenly front and center. From private citizen Trump’s Florida home the FBI recovered extensive national security materials belonging to our government. No previous American president has been the subject of a criminal investigation, much less one that raises the question of disloyalty for profit.
Clearly, Donald Trump had no right to take any national security documents. He is now just another private citizen. His possession of these secrets is a federal felony.
We should view this week’s events and what follows remembering a 2019 congressional investigation that drew only momentary attention. A rich trove of evidence showed that the Trump administration was lackadaisical about Saudi and corporate efforts to obtain our government’s nuclear secrets.
Journalists covering the FBI and national security also report that signals intelligence materials were also recovered during the search, which adds to concern about what foul deeds Trump was doing.
Ask yourself this: What legitimate reason could Donald Trump possibly have to take to Mar-a-Lago what’s known in spy world as SIGINT or signals intelligence? Our National Security Agency silently gathers SIGINT from telephone calls, emails and heavily encrypted electronic messaging. No private citizen has any business holding such records.
Foreign powers, especially those hostile to the United States, would pay vast sums, potentially billions of dollars, to access our SIGINT. They would look for details about our capacity to intercept such signals and hints to help them identify our spies and human assets in those countries so they could be captured, tortured and liquidated.
The Right Question
We don’t know for sure what, if anything, Trump sold, attempted to sell or left open for his Mar-a-Lago guests to peruse. That’s what trial after indictment is for, although public hearings by Congress would also be a brilliant idea.
But the question to ask now is this: What in hell was he doing with these materials? And why didn’t he turn them over when he was issued a subpoena for them months ago?
It’s hard to imagine any other reason Trump would take from the White House government documents so vital to our national security that authorized officials can examine them only in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or SCIF (pronounced skiff). The same holds for even talking about them. These are documents that Trump has no intellectual capacity to understand and no conceivable legitimate reason to possess.
Trump believes that while in office he had the power to declassify any document. If he is brought to trial by our federal government, as I fully expect, he would almost certainly assert this as a defense. That would be a typical Trumpian effort to muddy the waters and sow doubt about criminal intent among jurors. The likely defense claim would be that he thought he acted appropriately and made an honest mistake.
Crucial 1946 Law
But what Trump almost certainly doesn’t know is that the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 governs nuclear secrets. Under that law, a president cannot unilaterally declassify materials. Any declassification involves a complex process requiring approval by experts in nuclear weaponry and national security.
Should a federal grand jury indict Trump under that 1946 statute, his ignorance of the law would be no defense.
Clearly, Donald Trump had no right to take any national security documents. He is now just another private citizen. His possession of these secrets is a federal felony. Prosecution is necessary if he held such documents, especially if any evidence exists showing Trump tried to sell out America for profit.
This is true even though Trump claims he is above the law.
Claim of Unlimited Power
“When somebody is president of the United States, the authority is total and that’s the way it has to be,” Trump said in 2020. He instantly rejected challenging questions from reporters who understand the limited and temporary power granted to presidents by Article II of our Constitution. He’s also wrongly asserted that our Constitution gives him “the right to do whatever I want.”
Keep in mind that at issue here are not mundane documents of no consequence but our most sensitive nuclear and intelligence secrets, which only a handful of closely vetted individuals are allowed to see. The FBI would never have conducted a raid over documents of little value. If these were mundane documents, Trump would be claiming that and showing the inventory of items taken, which FBI agents turned over as they departed Mar-a-Lago.
That 2019 congressional investigation, cited above, showed that Saudi Arabia was trying to buy our nuclear secrets. Astonishingly Trump wasn’t alarmed about this. Indeed, the report indicates that Trump viewed our relationship with that country entirely in financial terms, just as he does everything else.
Love and Facts
At campaign rallies, Trump repeatedly praised the Saudis. He declared his love for them because they had put so much money in his pocket by buying apartments for tens of millions of dollars each and staying at his hotels and golf resorts.
The little-noticed 2019 congressional investigation began after multiple whistleblowers came forward to warn about efforts inside the White House to rush the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.
Keep this in mind in the context of four facts:
- Trump’s refusal to sanction the Saudi regime for murdering an American journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in a Saudi consulate. Our government concluded the de facto dictator, Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, ordered his most trusted guards to kill.
- Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner developed a very close relationship with MBS, as the dictator is known, during the Trump era. They had hours-long, late-night telephone calls
- The $2 billion that MBS gave Kushner to manage despite warnings by numerous Saudi financial advisers that Kushner lacked competency in money management and charged outrageously high fees.
- Trump took the side of the Saudis and their friends in the United Arab Emirates against the government of Qatar, home to America’s most important military base in the Middle East, after the Qataris declined to extend a risky $800 million loan to Kushner.
That Donald Trump overrode the objections of national security experts and granted security clearances to his son-in-law Kushner and his daughter Ivanka, Kushner’s wife, assumes even greater importance in light of the events this week. They repeatedly revised the SF-86 forms that all candidates for security clearances must submit. A single omission or misstatement typically results in denying a security clearance. Trump approved his daughter and son-in-law despite many revisions and against the advice of security experts.
How these facts connect, if indeed they do, won’t be known for some time. But keeping these acts and connections in the forefront of your mind will help you understand what happens as this case progresses.
To be clear, we don’t know what the search warrant specified, a warrant that was calmly and professionally delivered on midmorning Monday by FBI agents wearing suits and in the presence of Trump lawyers. However, we know that this search was so vital to our national security that Attorney General Merrick Garland personally approved the search. A federal magistrate authorized the search after being presented with an affidavit showing probable cause that Donald Trump committed crimes against the United States.
The harsh reality is that what’s going on is worse than you think.
P.S.: An atomic bomb uses fission to create an explosion, while a hydrogen bomb momentarily uses fusion, which powers our sun, to produce a much more powerful blast.