Trump Could Easily Delete Incriminating Evidence He Has Hidden

October 7, 2019

 
Donald Trump ( Gage Skidmore )

Donald Trump (Gage Skidmore)

MARK KARLIN, BUZZFLASH EDITOR’S COMMENTARY

Many of Trump’s hidden documents are vital to the Congressional impeachment inquiry, particularly of his phone calls with the president of Ukraine and other foreign leaders. Transcripts of his meetings with foreign officials also are likely of significant importance.

For example, the original whistleblower indicated that the full transcript of the July 25 Trump-Zelensky telephone call is being kept on a top secret server, along with other incriminating phone calls Trump has made with foreign leaders. How convenient it would be if the full record of the Zelensky conversation, and others (including the leaders of Australia and China, along with transcripts of conversations with Putin). were submitted under subpoena to the impeachment inquiry committees.

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A prime example of how Trump masterfully plays the media was his assertion in his particularly unhinged news conference last week that the release of his phone call with Zelensky was a verbatim transcript. He even claimed that it included every comma. Outlets such as the Washington Post felt compelled to write articles re-litigating the edited call summary when even the White House called it a summary in its initial release. The headline of the WP article was, "Odd markings, ellipses fuel doubts about the rough transcript of Trump’s Ukraine call," as if this were a new discovery.

The release of the “classified” full July 25th transcript is essential to the impeachment inquiry. But will it be “accidentally” deleted?

BuzzFlash wrote a commentary on September 26 describing the factual basis for calling the White House release of the phone call an edited summary. We also pointed out that the "readout" was 1/3 the length of the real time of the phone call, given that the White House said it lasted more than 30 minutes. Trump is also managing by his lie about the edited summary to get even some outlets, such as some CNN articles, to return to calling the document a "transcript," which it is not.

Read, "As With, I Am Not a Crook. Nixon, It's the Cover-Up That May Be Trump's Downfall," for BuzzFlash's September 26 documentation about why the "readout" release was a doctored document.

As we pointed out, "BuzzFlash was one of the first sites to report that the media was, at first, treating the White House's alleged 'transcript' of Trump's conversation with the president of Ukraine as a complete transcript. In reality, the call was filled with gaps and appeared to be only about 1/3 the length of the actual call....

"In essence, the press and the public were initially duped by Trump's claim of releasing a 'verbatim' transcript. In fact, as BuzzFlash asked, 'what was left out, and why?’"

The September 26 BuzzFlash commentary followed a September 25 BuzzFlash alert that included a tweet about how the summarized, recounted transcript appeared to be dramatically abridged.

The Washington Post (which is to be lauded for breaking the Ukraine Trump betrayal story) and other news outlets should be ignoring Trump's lies and sticking to pre-established facts.

Trump cannot be allowed to own the news cycles by tossing out lies like bread crumbs for pigeons, with the media feeling compelled to follow up on his diversions. The media must stay focused on the truth and not on Trump's 12,000 documented lies and counting.

However, to debunk those lies completely, it will be necessary for the impeachment inquiry to receive corroboration from documents, such as the full transcript of the July 25 call, that could easily vanish.

Although only a blip on the torrent of impeachment and other news, as Trump continues to suck the oxygen out of the news cycles, a lawsuit that speaks to the possibility of vital White House documents disappearing was the subject of a federal court ruling last week.

Two DC watchdog organizations and a historian organization filed suit against the Trump administration in May (before the July 25 phone call) seeking a binding court order that the White House would preserve all documentation of Trump’s meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders. According to CNN, the plaintiffs also “asked the court to order the White House to keep all documents regarding policies, legal advice and investigations about record-keeping.” This would theoretically force the Trump administration to abide by the Presidential Records Act, which it is not doing.

CNN noted that “The groups had sued Trump and his executive office in May for failing to document at least five meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin and one with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.”

With the disclosure that Trump has personally asked at least three foreign leaders (Ukraine, China and Australia) to help him in his 2020 election campaign (although he calls it asking for help in reducing corruption, but the only fabricated corruption he mentions relates to the Bidens), the lawsuit took on a new urgency.

A CNN article last week stated,

A government transparency group and historical archivist groups have asked a federal court to intervene immediately in the Trump administration's record-keeping practices -- a move that seizes on new allegations that the White House has restricted access to some of President Donald Trump's conversations with world leaders.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, the National Security Archive and the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations asked DC-based federal Judge Amy Berman Jackson on Tuesday for a temporary restraining order that would force the White House to preserve all records of meetings, phone calls and other communications with foreign leaders. They also asked the court to order the White House to keep all documents regarding policies, legal advice and investigations about record-keeping.

Jackson spoke with the lawyers in the lawsuit in a phone call Tuesday afternoon. She sought assurances from the Justice Department that any presidential records would be safe as the groups' lawsuit continues -- setting aside recent allegations that the White House mishandled transcripts of Trump's calls with foreign leaders. That assurance would eliminate the need for Jackson to get involved by considering a restraining order on the White House.

On October 1, Judge Jackson decided not to issue a court order to the White House to preserve all pertinent documents, including key ones in the impeachment inquiry. She appeared to accept the Trump administration at its word that the documents would not be “at risk,” according to The Washington Post:

Justice Department attorneys promised a federal judge Wednesday that the White House will not destroy records of President Trump’s calls and meetings with foreign leaders while the court weighs a lawsuit brought by historians and watchdog groups.

In a two-page filing, Justice Department lawyer Kathryn L. Wyer told a judge in Washington that the Trump administration and executive office of the president “voluntarily agree . . . to preserve the material at issue pending” litigation.

However, on October 3, Judge Jackson, perhaps reflecting on the unscrupulous, ruthless and mendacious character of Trump, reversed herself and decided to issue a court order to preserve the records.

Perhaps it was because the DOJ attorney, according to CNN, “refused to say that the White House would preserve all records related to Trump's calls with foreign leaders, saying the administration's legal team hadn't gotten authorization from the White House to say so.”

As Politico reported,

A federal judge has ordered the White House to preserve a wide range of evidence about President Donald Trump’s dealings with foreign leaders, including his interactions related to Ukraine that have fueled an impeachment investigation in the House.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued the order Thursday, directing that White House officials not destroy records of “meetings, phone calls, and other communications with foreign leaders.”

The judge’s order also appears to specifically address reports that the Trump White House set up a special system to limit access to certain records of presidential conversations with foreign leaders.

Furthermore, Politico noted, “Another unusual aspect of the judge’s order is that it appears to cover Trump directly….It applies to the ‘defendants’ in the lawsuit of which there are only two: the Executive Office of the President and President Donald J. Trump.”

Although Judge Jackson backed up her ruling with the possibility of criminal charges or a contempt of court finding for violations, let's remember that Donald Trump plays by his own rules. In short, the possibility that he has had documents deleted or will make them vanish still looms.

After all, let’s not forget the 2017 Trump Oval Office meeting with senior Russian officials, in which he reportedly told them that he was not upset about Russia’s meddling (on his behalf) in the 2016 presidential election, because everybody does that.

According to a Washington Post September 27 article:

A memorandum summarizing the meeting was limited to a few officials with the highest security clearances in an attempt to keep the president’s comments from being disclosed publicly, according to the former officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters.

Consider that meeting account to be a prime candidate for “disappearing.”

After Note: Trump regularly violates the Presidential Records Act. A 2018 Politico story described how government employees are paid more than $60,000 a year try to Scotch tape back together routine documents that are required to be preserved. Politico’s sub-headline for the article is, “The president's unofficial 'filing system' involves tearing up documents into pieces, even when they're supposed to be preserved.”

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