It’s not worth spending too much time on any single one of the litany of shifting excuses Republicans have come up with for Donald Trump having top secret classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. There are so many of them and they are so blatantly dishonest, you just can’t get distracted. But every now and then, it’s also worth pausing to say, “Really, guys? That’s what you’re going with?”

So it is with the claim that Trump had declassified all those documents, possibly with the power of his mind and without having told anyone he had done it. Or automatically by having moved them from one location within the White House to another.

John Bolton, briefly Trump’s national security adviser and now a critic of Trump when it serves him to be, pointed out one of the big problems in the declassification claims.

RELATED STORY: Republicans advance new theory: If Trump even thought about doing it, it is legal

The claim that Trump had a standing order that anything he took from the Oval Office to the White House residence was “almost certainly a lie,” Bolton said, and such an order would have required significant documentation. But it’s not just that:


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Former Trump adviser Peter Navarro actually did make the argument that Trump was trying to get those documents out to the public by having declassified them. “The reason why you declassify stuff you don’t need to classify is the American public need to know. It’ll keep us out of wars and it’ll keep our jobs here if you do that,” he told Steve Bannon. Here we are apparently supposed to ignore that Trump didn’t release these documents to the American public. He had them at Mar-a-Lago, where whoever he was showing them to, he wasn’t making them broadly available.

And, of course, most of the Republicans claiming that Trump declassified the documents would not even pretend to believe they should be publicly available. But anyone who makes that argument needs to be hit with the immediate follow-up: “Do you believe those should be put on the internet and printed in the newspapers for everyone to see?”

Bolton’s follow-up quote in The New York Times is—despite the fact that Bolton is a terrible, evil person—equally accurate: “When somebody begins to concoct lies like this, it shows a real level of desperation.”

And when somebody and their allies concoct well over a dozen lies, excuses, and deflections in less than a week … well, that’s a lot of desperation. What those desperate lies can’t do, though, is change the facts of the matter, and it’s those facts that the FBI and the Justice Department are looking into.

Trump and his followers proved on Jan. 6 how dangerously close they came to overturning our democracy. Help cancel Republican voter suppression with the power of your pen by clicking here and signing up to volunteer with Vote Forward, writing personalized letters to targeted voters urging them to exercise their right to vote this year.


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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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