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GOP Claims Docs Safe at Mar-a-Lago Because Bathroom Door Had a Lock

The former president was formally indicted at a courthouse in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday.

Former President Donald Trump delivers remarks on June 10, 2023, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Former President Donald Trump baselessly suggested on his Truth Social account on Tuesday that the documents he improperly transferred from the White House were planted at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate as a result of orders to the DOJ from special counsel Jack Smith.

In social media posts only days after his indictment, Trump shared a link discussing Smith from a disreputable right-wing website. He then described the special counsel as a “Thug…that Biden and his CORRUPT Injustice Department stuck on me.”

Using Department of Justice (DOJ) investigators, Smith “probably ‘planted’ information in the ‘boxes,'” Trump claimed, without evidence.

Such claims aren’t just unfounded — they also directly contradict Trump’s public statements in the almost year since the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago and the public became aware of the extent to which the former president was hoarding documents. Trump has consistently stated, for example, that he did take the documents in question but somehow declassified them automatically by removing them while he was president.

The DOJ also has a recording in which Trump, speaking to people interviewing him for a book, describes a specific document in his hand as a possible Department of Defense war plan against Iran. “This is secret information,” Trump says in the audio recording — again, dispelling the notion that it could have been planted by the DOJ.

Trump’s Republican allies have also been attempting to defend his actions in light of his recent indictment.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin), for instance, has tried to say that Trump’s actions were equivalent to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton using a private email server when she was in office last decade. (Recent media fact-checks of this comparison have demonstrated that the situations are worlds apart, as Clinton has been investigated and found not to have acted with criminal intent in her storage of emails.)

“President Ford decided it was best for America not to pursue prosecution against President Nixon. President Trump pretty much made the same decision and decided not to pursue any kind of prosecution of Hillary Clinton,” Johnson said.

The statement by Johnson ignores a plethora of evidence demonstrating that Trump did not, in fact, move on from Clinton’s emails.

Chants of “lock her up” became an infamous feature of Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, and when the chant returned during his rallies in 2020, Trump told his audience he “100 percent” agreed with pursuing charges against her. Trump also used the presidency to attempt to influence the DOJ to go after Clinton, reports at the time indicated. When he tried to get his White House counsel or other officials to go along with the idea, they refused to do so.

Other Republicans have made statements defending Trump’s storage of emails that border on the absurd. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Florida), for example — responding to images from the indictment filing that showed boxes of documents in one of Trump’s bathrooms at Mar-a-Lago — said in a recent interview on CNN that such storage techniques were secure enough for the kinds of material that Trump had in his possession.

“There are 33 bathrooms at Mar-a-Lago,” Donalds said during the interview. “So don’t act like it’s just in some random bathroom that the guests can go into.”

His comments echoed a defense given by Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-California). “A bathroom door locks,” McCarthy said when asked about documents being stored in the bathroom.

Hundreds of the thousands of government documents found at Mar-a-Lago over the course of 2022 are classified — some so sensitive that their classification can’t even be discussed publicly.

These kinds of documents are typically stored and can only be viewed within a sensitive compartmented information facility, or a SCIF. These small rooms are built separately into government buildings and have numerous barriers to access. Aside from having special deadbolts and other access controls to prevent people without proper security clearance from entering, SCIFs are insulated in a manner that counters electronic eavesdropping and stops others from listening in from the outside.

SCIFs also have motion sensors to alert security personnel when someone is inside, and armed guards standing at their entry points to respond to breaches. Cell phones and other technology are strictly banned.

Put bluntly, SCIFs are much, much more secure than the typical bathroom door lock, most models of which can be unlocked from the outside.

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