I have to wonder whether there’s something I’m misunderstanding about these recent ongoing controversies regarding classified information.
My impression has long been that SCI documents were under the second-highest classification level ( Confidential – SECRET – TOP SECRET – SCI – Code-Word. There could very likely be even higher levels whose existence we aren’t supposed to even know about.)
It is a violation of the Espionage Act of 1917 to have private control of documents under even the least sensitive of the classifications, “Confidential,” but SCI documents are a VERY big super-sensitive matter.
What I’m getting to is the apparent weakness of the criticisms being levied against Biden (quite different from Trump — more on that later.) The very fact that classified documents were resting in a private space of which Biden had authority makes him — as I understand it — guilty of one count for each classified document (classified at any level) discovered. There is no possible excuse for a current or former US Senator, or Vice President, or any other person to control those documents.
The ONLY person who may control those documents in private spaces is a sitting US President. What this implies to me is that the most likely way for Joe Biden to have gotten his hands on classified documents in a place where there was reasonable opportunity for him to surreptitiously gain possession of them, was the Oval Office, under either or both of Clinton and Obama. (Note “surreptitious.” I don’t claim Clinton or Obama would have had to have known.)
Regarding Trump: He has one real and one superficial escape clause. The superficial escape is that every President takes a large volume of documents when leaving the White House, for the intended purpose of having curators evaluate them for inclusion in a planned Presidential library. It is inevitable that some classified documents will be among those retained in the President’s possession while in office and will be inadvertently (or intentionally) removed during clean-out/departure. It is a virtual certainty that every President has been guilty of possessing classified documents after the final day of his term, but usually [*wink wink*] those are discovered by curators and handed over to the National Archives where there are SCIFs (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities.)
The [*wink *wink] is the superficial escape clause derived from the traditional overlooking of these [*wink *wink] inadvertent short-term crimes.
Trump’s “real” escape clause MAY [*wink *wink] require that Trump be untruthful. As long as he was President — until the very moment that Joe Biden told John Roberts “Mother may I?” — he had the unchallengeable authority to classify or declassify ANY document(s). All he has to do now is say that before removing any documents from the White House he declassified them. No one can conclusively dispute him.
As I understand it, doing so does not declassify any existing copies of those documents, or other documents containing the same or similar information, but declassifies all those copies in his possession. Doing so would make all documents declassified in that manner that are or were in his possession at Mar-a-Lago or elsewhere, entirely within his lawful ability to hold.
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