It all started with a self-important official at the National Archives and Records Administration. Or at least that’s the official story.
In May 2021, William Bosanko, NARA’s chief executive officer, noticed two presidential documents were missing from the Trump Administration: the letter Barack Obama wrote to Donald Trump and correspondence between Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.
In addition, Bosanko told members of the House Intelligence Committee earlier this year, “there were multiple high-visible items” that Trump’s team did not turn over to the archives. “There was a whole list of items that we were telling them, the administration, that we don’t have this. It must exist somewhere.”
When pressed by U.S. Representative Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to disclose the list that allegedly violated the Presidential Records Act, a civil statute, Bosanko’s mind went blank.
“There were a couple other items that I am not recalling,” he said. “But these were very obvious things that, given our role as the nation’s record keeper, we went back very informally to representatives of the former president and said: Might you have these?”
Seems innocuous enough. Unfortunately, Trump’s advisors yielded to Bosanko’s inquiry, which now appears to have been just another in a series of bureaucratic traps set to sting Trump. Instead of simply producing the letters—or better yet, telling the archives to pound sand—Team Trump gave Bosanko 15 boxes of materials.
And that’s when the games began.
The eagle-eyed Bosanko said he “knew that there was a problem within the first 24 hours” after receiving the boxes. Some of the files, Bosanko claimed, contained classified documents.
Bosanko insisted it was “readily apparent” the boxes included verboten papers. He also told committee members he did not know who packed the boxes at the White House prior to Trump’s departure and admitted that assembling presidential materials after one term in office is “usually a hurry-up” job.
But rather than carefully check his work before tattling to authorities on the former president of the United States, Bosanko facilitated a criminal referral to the Department of Justice just a few days later—a request Attorney General Merrick Garland was only too happy to consider.
Garland, of course, wasted no time. The FBI opened an investigation into the unlawful possession of classified documents on March 30, 2022. In response to a subpoena, Trump’s team continued to search for files with “classified markings” per the order. Contrary to reports that Trump and his lawyers did not cooperate with federal authorities, Trump welcomed Jay Bratt, counterintelligence chief of the department’s National Security Division, and three FBI agents when they visited Mar-a-Lago on June 3, 2022.
According to court filings, Trump delayed his plans to settle in New Jersey for the summer to greet Bratt and his group. “Whatever you need, just let us know,” Trump told them. His legal team then turned over an additional 38 records with classified markings to Bratt.
That level of cooperation—unimaginable from any other former president who undoubtedly would have filed one legal challenge after another rather than invite the sworn enemy into his own home—wasn’t enough for the Justice Department. An agent with the compromised Washington FBI Field Office sought and received a search warrant to raid Mar-a-Lago last August. The overly broad warrant, similar to the overly broad subpoena, authorized agents to abscond with anything in the vicinity of a file with classified markings, which resulted in a haul of 13,000 pieces of “evidence” from the raid.
Of that, only 102 documents contained “classified markings”—that is, if one is inclined to believe anything out of the Justice Department.
For months, Bratt fought the appointment of a special master while refusing to allow Trump and his lawyers to view the alleged documents in question. Judge Aileen Cannon, the Florida district court judge now handling the case, appointed a special master in September citing misconduct in the investigation’s early stage.
Her order, unfortunately, was reversed on appeal in December—a big win for the regime.
Trump now will be subjected to a new level of gamesmanship from Special Counsel Jack Smith, the longtime federal prosecutor with a dubious record handpicked by Garland last November to give his department’s dual criminal investigations into Trump a false patina of independence. On June 8, Smith indicted Trump on 37 counts, including the “willful retention” of 31 national defense records in violation of the Espionage Act. (Trump’s valet, Waltine Nauta, who handled many of the 80 boxes stored at Mar-a-Lago, faces five counts, including conspiring with Trump to obstruct justice.)
But the journey to indictment also involved much legal gamesmanship by both Garland and Smith. Nearly the entire investigation was conducted in the Trump-hating cauldron of Washington, D.C., not in southern Florida, the scene of the alleged crimes. Why? So a grand jury comprised of voters living in the most Democratic city in the country working with an Obama-appointed chief judge who routinely expresses open contempt for Trump and his supporters could grant the Justice Department’s every wish.
In one of her final acts before stepping down as chief judge of the D.C. District Court in March, Beryl Howell, who also oversaw the Robert Mueller investigation into imaginary Trump-Russia election collusion, took the unusual step of piercing attorney-client privilege between Trump and his lawyer, Evan Corcoran, at Smith’s request.
Concluding that evidence existed to justify the rare “crime fraud” exception, Howell forced Corcoran to produce his records and testify before the D.C. grand jury. That move, according to the New York Times, “gave prosecutors a road map to building their case.”
Would Judge Cannon, or any judge on the district court in southern Florida, or any judge outside a deep blue cesspool like Washington, had done the same? Highly doubtful.
Right before Smith closed up his grand jury investigation in D.C.—hauling in everyone from Mar-a-Lago servers to Secret Service agents—to seek a criminal indictment, he moved the entire operation to Miami so as not to create a legitimate venue argument from Trump. Smith’s trick was revealed by the Times the day before Trump announced his pending indictment on Truth Social.
And how did Smith’s bait-and-switch game go down? “Prosecutors would simply have to read the early grand jury transcripts to the new grand jurors or have federal agents offer them a summary of the most important points,” Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, and Ben Protess reported on June 6.
Smith asked—and was granted—a protective order that will require Trump to have a legal chaperone to view “sensitive” non-classified discovery materials. If Trump takes notes on the evidence, “such notes shall be stored securely by Defense Counsel or a member of Defense Counsel’s staff in the same manner as the Discovery Materials,” the motion reads.
And that motion doesn’t address the handling of alleged national defense information; one can only imagine what Smith’s next decree will involve.
Of course, Smith and his vultures won’t abide by their own rules. A steady stream of leaks has fueled the Justice Department’s public framing of the charges. Judge Cannon, to her immense credit, scolded Bratt during a court hearing last year for government disclosures to the news media. “I see the same things in the press that other people do. It’s bad. People are talking,” Bratt told Cannon while insisting the leaks were not from his end.
But no one should believe Bratt. Or Merrick Garland, Or Jack Smith. Unfortunately, the country has no choice but to sit as idle spectators in the Justice Department’s reckless game to put Donald Trump in prison.