New Jack Smith filing suggests DOJ identified Trump’s “motive” in classified docs case: analysis

Special counsel Jack Smith suggested that the government knows “what Trump intended” to do with the classified documents he took home to Mar-a-Lago in a Monday filing highlighted by Washington Post reporter Aaron Blake.

Smith’s team in the filing pushed back on the former president’s bid to delay his Mar-a-Lago trial until after the 2024 election, arguing that Trump’s lawyers had not provided any sufficient reason for such a delay. But the filing also suggested that prosecutors may be ready to prove why the former president took the documents.

“That the classified materials at issue in this case were taken from the White House and retained at Mar-a-Lago is not in dispute,” the filing said, adding that “what is in dispute is how that occurred, why it occurred, what Trump knew, and what Trump intended in retaining them — all issues that the Government will prove at trial primarily with unclassified evidence.”

That suggests the Justice Department may be ready to prove Trump’s intent at the upcoming trial.

Smith’s team “might not necessarily need to prove Trump’s intention or his motive in the case,” Blake pointed out, noting that retaining classified documents is a crime regardless of motive and that the indictment did not make any direct claims about a potential motive.

“But that doesn’t mean proving Trump’s motive wouldn’t be helpful. Indeed, establishing a motive would seem to drive home the intention of Trump’s actions and combat any arguments that this was all a misunderstanding — or that Trump somehow didn’t know what he had,” he added.

Blake also highlighted some of the theories around why Trump may have stashed classified documents at his resort, noting that some Trump allies have claimed that he’s just a “pack rat” who inadvertently mixed the documents with personal mementos he took home from the White House — despite reports that Trump had a high interest in the contents of the boxes and the indictment’s allegation that he took repeated steps to prevent their return.

But the indictment also cites an exchange between Trump and former chief of staff Mark Meadows’ ghostwriters, in which Trump was recorded citing a classified document that he acknowledged he was not allowed to show others because he hadn’t declassified it. Trump cited the document, an Iran war plan drawn up by the military, to push back on former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley’s claim that he sought to stop Trump from attacking the country.

“I just found, isn’t that amazing?” Trump said in the recording. “This totally wins my case, you know.”

“To the extent Trump used a classified document to go after a critic, that could suggest he saw value in the documents beyond just keeping them or showing them off to burnish his ego,” Blake wrote. “Whether other evidence points in this direction, we don’t yet know. But Smith’s team has clearly shown an interest in whether Trump used the documents for his personal advantage,” he added. “In April it subpoenaed information about the dealings of Trump’s businesses with foreign countries, for instance, apparently in search of a possible financial motive. But such a motive wasn’t referenced in Trump’s indictment, and as of November 2022 it hadn’t been established.”

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