Trump’s obsession over the classified documents is even weirder than I thought

I have mentioned before that I just did not get serial sex abuser Donald Trump’s (SSAT) weird obsession with holding on to the classified documents that ultimately led to his indictment. I can (sort of) understand that he took some with him during his chaotic final days before he left the White. House. But why was he so obsessed with holding on to them even after he was told that he had to return them? What value could they possibly have for him?

But clearly he wanted them very badly, to the extent that he even defied his own lawyer’s advice to hand them over. His lawyer Evan Corcoran warned him that of he did not do so voluntarily, the FBI would get a search warrant from a judge for Mar-a-Lago, and that is precisely what happened. But of course, then SSAT expressed outrage at this utterly predictable outcome.

Cochran’s report of his discussions with SSAT are astonishing.

Former President Trump was warned by his attorney that the FBI could search Mar-a-Lago if Trump refused to comply with a subpoena for classified documents, according to contemporaneous notes reviewed by ABC News.

Trump’s lawyer Evan Corcoran met with the former president last May at Mar-a-Lago to discuss their response to a subpoena from the Justice Department, which believed Trump was still hanging on to classified documents even after he reluctantly returned 15 boxes.

“We’ve got a grand jury subpoena and the alternative is if you don’t comply with the grand jury subpoena you could be held in contempt,” Corcoran recalled telling Trump, according to a voice note the lawyer made memorializing the conversation.

Corcoran’s notes indicated Trump repeatedly suggested it might be better if they did not cooperate with the subpoena, insisting he did not want anyone looking through his boxes.

Another Trump lawyer, Jennifer Little, warned Corcoran that Trump would “go ballistic” if he was pushed to comply with the subpoena — “that there’s no way he’s going to agree to anything, and that he was going to deny that there were any more boxes at all,” Corcoran recalled.

Voice memos and other detailed notes by Corcoran were turned over to special counsel Jack Smith after a judge found Trump likely used his lawyer in furtherance of a crime, piercing standard attorney-client privilege.

Corcoran found it hard to get SSAT to even focus on this very serious issue.

When Corcoran joined Trump’s legal team in April last year, the FBI had already launched a criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of classified information. Nearly 200 classified documents had been found in 15 boxes that Trump reluctantly returned to the National Archives “after months of demands,” as the indictment stated.

But Justice Department officials believed Trump was holding onto even more classified documents in other boxes at Mar-a-Lago and refusing to return them — so on May 11, 2022, the Justice Department issued a federal grand jury subpoena demanding the return of any and all classified documents.

Corcoran and another Trump attorney, Jennifer Little, flew to Florida to meet with Trump. “The next step was to speak with the former president about complying with that subpoena,” Corcoran recalled in a voice memo the next day.

But while sitting together in Trump’s office, in front of a Norman Rockwell-style painting depicting Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and Trump playing poker, Trump, according to Corcoran’s notes, wanted to discuss something else first: how he was being unfairly targeted.

As Corcoran later recalled in his recordings, Trump continuously wandered off to topics unrelated to the subpoena — Hillary Clinton, “the great things” he’s done for the country, and his big lead in the polls in the run-up to the 2024 Republican presidential primary race that Trump would officially join in November. But Corcoran and Little “kept returning to the boxes,” according to the transcripts.

Corcoran wanted Trump to understand “we were there to discuss responding to the subpoena,” Corcoran said in the memos.

Still, as depicted in Corcoran’s recordings and in the public indictment, Trump repeatedly suggested it might be better if they refused to cooperate.

The indictment says that although Corcoran — who ABC News believes to be “Attorney 1” in the indictment — and Little — believed to be “Attorney 2” — “told Trump that they needed to search for documents that would be responsive to the subpoena and provide a certification that there had been compliance with the subpoena,” Trump still insisted to them, “I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes,” and, “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?”

The report discusses how SSAT went to great lengths to prevent his own lawyer from seeing the boxes.

Corcoran’s recordings suggest he was told by others that the only location at Mar-a-Lago that contained classified documents was the basement storage room. “I’ve got boxes in my basement that I really wouldn’t want you to go through,” Corcoran recalled Trump telling him.

And sources told ABC News that, when speaking to investigators, Corcoran explained that he checked with many people about where classified documents could be found, and everyone, including Trump, created the impression that any classified documents would be in the boxes in the storage room.

Over the next two weeks, before Corcoran returned to Mar-a-Lago to search for classified documents in the storage room, Trump’s two co-defendants in the documents case, Mar-a-Lago staffers Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, allegedly removed dozens of boxes from the storage room — all “at Trump’s direction” and with the goal “that many boxes were not searched and many documents responsive to the May 11 Subpoena could not be found,” according to the indictment.

Corcoran ultimately found 38 classified documents in the boxes that remained in the storage room, and he handed them over to the FBI, along with a certification — allegedly endorsed by Trump — that the former president had now fully complied with the subpoena.

But when FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago three months later, they found 102 more classified documents in Trump’s office and elsewhere.

There is something about SSAT’s behavior about the boxes and his eagerness to lie to even his own lawyer about “his boxes” that deeply puzzles me, even allowing for the fact that SSAT is a deeply weird person.


  1. birgerjohansson says

    Maybe he saw an opportunity to convert information into $$$, but in that case it would have been enough to make copies and give back the originals.

    His actions seem illogical and self-destructive.
    I am no mental health professional. I speculate that he just refused to give up something he had laid his sticky fingers on because that is how he always operates.
    And he has been getting away with it all his life.
    Extreme narcissism plus a whole set of other personality disorders.
    Why did Boris Johnson refuse to apologise for the government party during lockdown?
    Why did Al Capone refuse to listen to his lawyers?
    Dysfunctional minds just do stupid things.

  2. Pierce R. Butler says

    Over the next two weeks, before Corcoran returned to Mar-a-Lago to search for classified documents in the storage room…

    More than a little questionable that he didn’t say, “Let’s go see those boxes right now!”, dontcha think?

  3. JM says

    @1 birgerjohansson: I think the idea that he just refused to give up items has some truth to it. In addition to the classified documents some of the gifts to the President that are supposed to go into the Presidential library have not been turned over and even some items loaned to the White House temporarily have not been returned.
    I think there is also an element of the classified documents being a symbol of status. This is why he kept on showing them to people. It wasn’t enough for him to have the documents hidden away someplace or keep copies of them. He had to have them on his desk and wave them in peoples face.

  4. says

    His Gollum-like obssession over his precioussssss is symptomatic of early dementia.
    It’s hard to pick these things apart, though, since he’s also a narcissist, an asshole and potentially an abuser of stimulants.
    Throw it all in, it’s a great big dumpster fire!

  5. says

    I am not convinced that the average sane, rational individual can discern with great accuracy what motivates someone who lives in a world of their own. Trying to figure out what motivates this person is like trying to deduce what the next winning lottery number will be. Everybody has their guess, but that’s all they are; guesses. Not the best use of your time.

  6. says

    Consider the fact that this lunatic is the overwhelming favorite to be the FP (fascist party) nominee and that he is running neck and neck with a person who is, while far from perfect, at least not a deranged wannabe dictator. What a country….

  7. John Morales says

    But why was he so obsessed with holding on to them even after he was told that he had to return them? What value could they possibly have for him?

    But clearly he wanted them very badly, to the extent that he even defied his own lawyer’s advice to hand them over.

    I can imagine he doesn’t particularly care about the documents themselves, but rather that he is being forced to relinquish them on the basis that he was not entitled to them. That is, they’re a bit of a trophy at most or even a McGuffin.


  8. Acolyte of Sagan says

    It seems obvious to me:

    […] insisting he did not want anyone looking through his boxes.[….] Trump still insisted to them, “I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes,”

    He’s a selfish child who’s never been made to share anything in his entire life. They were ‘his’ boxes so by (his own) definition everything in ‘his’ boxes belonged to him and nobody else had the right to look inside them.

  9. flex says

    There are a number of non-exclusive possibilities, and the speculations about Trump’s motives sometimes reveals more about the person making the speculations than Trump. Because, as mentioned above, we don’t know what Trump’s motivation was, and even if Trump declared his reasons for retaining these documents he had lied so often that we we couldn’t trust his own statement. But just for fun, I’m going to list a few of the possibilities I see as motivation for retaining documents which are classified or otherwise government property.

    Manchurian Trump: Trump is beholden to a foreign power, financially or in some other way, and was told to retain documents which would be damaging to the USA if leaked. Given the subject matter of the documents we have seen already, this seems unlikely, and there are better ways of getting any information like this. Like taking photographs of the documents while he was in office. Retaining them doesn’t help, but in fact hurts, this type of operation. On the other hand, Trump is apparently hard to handle and very lazy, so retaining a few hundred until he had the chance to copy them isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility.

    Patriot Trump: Trump was retaining documents in order to personally reveal to the world the perfidy of USA intelligence operations. Looking to be a hero, like Ellsberg and Snowden for blowing the whistle on illegal and immoral intelligence operations. I find this highly implausible, as Trump doesn’t appear to care about anyone aside from Trump. What I find interesting about this option is that even his supporters haven’t suggested it. Which indicates that even his cheerleaders think this would be completely out of character for the former president.

    Greedy Trump: This one is interesting in that it suggests Trump was looking for the main chance even while in the White House. I don’t doubt that he was, but again, given the nature of the documents we know about the odds are pretty slim that he was retaining them to sell later. Yes, an outline of how the US forces would take over Iran is interesting, and would be interesting not only to Iranians but to other governments who want to learn how the US command/control operations work. However, it’s not quite the type of document you would imagine a foreign government would pay top dollar for. Maybe Trump was grabbing everything he could, and the couple hundred of classified documents are all he ended up with. But again, if this was a motivation at the time he was in office, photographs would be a better solution.

    On the other hand, while Greedy Trump doesn’t really explain why he took them in the first place, it might explain why he was reluctant to return then. It may also explain why he was apparently getting them out of his storage location and reviewing them in his office. He may not have figured out they had any value while in office, but once the subpoenas started rolling in, he might have figured out they had value and was trying to figure out what that value was.

    Grabby Trump: What I hold I keep. There are lot of people with this trait, albeit normally not as well-expressed as Trump. In most people this trait hasn’t been leavened with an understanding that society has established limits on what a person is allowed to keep, and has authorized people to come and take away those things they are not entitled to keep. Trump may not understand that there are limits, which is not a rare trait in extremely wealthy people. Although even most wealthy people know not to antagonize the government. Note: from what I see, this is the trait that most of his supporters admire. The willingness to tell society to fuck-off and get away with it on a large scale. Most of his supporters do that on a small scale on a regular basis, but are afraid to defy the rules of society to the extent which would put them in prison. Trump gets away with it.

    Campaign Trump: 5D-Chess Trump has calculated that he would gain more, and more ardent, support from voters for retaining documents than he would lose. Being able to claim any attempt to recover the documents is a politically-motivated attack on him personally was better for his campaign than handing them over without mentioning it. For it’s pretty clear that had he done so there would have been no case, and I’m certain his lawyers told him so at the time.

    Arrogant Trump: The “I Can Do No Wrong” Trump who cannot admit that he broke the law. So the law must be wrong, it cannot be enforced on him. He is all-powerful, an ex-president, and should not only be above suspicion but honored for the role he played in US history.

    Ignorant Trump: He didn’t know what he took. Only later, once people started asking Trump to return the documents he took advertently in the rush to pack, did he start realizing what he had.

    Trophy Trump: He knew what he took, but either didn’t think they were important or didn’t really care. But holding on to secret documents was cool, and was something to brag about when wandering the halls of Mar-a-Lago interrupting weddings. This is not inconsistent with Ignorant Trump, assuming he only figured out what he took after the first request to return them.

    There are probably others, I didn’t even mention Amnesia Trump, but my reconstruction of the events is as follows:

    Trump didn’t pay much attention to what he (or rather his packers who may not have been trained to recognize or handle classified information) was doing when he moved out of the White House. It was apparently a very chaotic move, made without any preparation from Trump, possibly even hindered by him. So lots of documents were shoved into boxes, moved to Mar-a-Lago without being inspected. Trump didn’t care.

    Trump would have left the documents in the basement, would not have bothered going through them, until he got a notice that records which were supposed to be retained by the government under the NRA, or were classified, may be in those boxes and could he please go through those boxes and return them. Trump ignored that request, he couldn’t be bothered and he didn’t care.

    Eventually the requests became so insistent that Trump’s lawyers got involved. They told him how serious the problem was. Trump still didn’t care, but agreed to go through the records and send back what was required. At that point he wandered down to the storage room and looked at the number of boxes. He thought to himself, “This looks like a lot of work. I’ll just grab a few things from the first couple boxes and send them along. That should satisfy them.” So that’s what he did.

    The government says, “Thanks for what you sent, but there is a lot more missing. Are you certain you looked everywhere?” Trump’s lawyers ask the same question. Petulant Trump shows up and says, “Yes. I told you I did. Everything has been looked through. No. I’m not going to allow anyone else to look at this stuff. It’s mine. I tell you everything has been inspected and there is nothing left. You need to trust your client.”

    A few days later Speculative Trump thinks, “You know, I didn’t really go through all those boxes. It wouldn’t be too hard to go through and pull out all the red envelopes, just to see what I’ve got after all. I’m not certain what I would do with them, but they probably shouldn’t be sitting in a storage area. I’ll only mention it to my lawyers after I’ve gone through all the boxes. I might as well see what I have first.” And he directs people to start shifting boxes, one at a time, to his office for him to go through.

    Then the raid occurs. Boxes were taken, dozens of documents were found. Trump immediately, without taking any advice from anyone, complains to the world that “Someone Touched My Stuff!!!”

    The entire drama really started at that point. Trump could have gotten a lot of mileage by claiming that he had been working with the government to identify documents which shouldn’t be in his personal possession, but the government was unwilling to give him the time needed to go through millions of documents. But instead he made the claim, probably made in the heat of the moment, that those documents were really his. Everything else we’ve seen has followed, almost inexorably, from Trump making the claim that those documents were his. And his inability to admit that he made a mistake.

    Once again, an enormously long comment. Which is why I generally don’t post most of the comments I write. Writing comments helps to solidify my views, but I try not to inflict them on others too often. There really isn’t much of a point.

  10. outis says

    @9 flex -- nice analysis, it Trumps much of what I see on regular newspapers.
    @4 M.Ranum -- not a doctor, but it does look really likely. Not-so-early dementia brings with it an exxageration and simplification of character traits, so this is exactly what would be expected from Orange Gollum while losing whatever he was using for a mind.

  11. JM says

    @9 flex: Interesting analysis and a good point about Trump not having a single motivation over what was several years. The time line needs a couple of tweaks. Trump was showing off what he said were classified documents before the FBI got involved. So the step of Speculative Trump going through the documents must have happened earlier. Possibly as early as Trump still being the President and just sticking anything that looked interesting in the documents to go to MaraLago.
    There is also a step in the middle where the lawyers say that he needs to turn the documents over because the government is just going to get more insistent. So Trump agrees to have one of his lawyers go through the files and hand over classified documents. But before the lawyer has time to do it, Backstabbing Trump has the staff move some boxes of files* out of the storage where the rest are and hides them from his own lawyer. He still signs the document with the lawyer saying that to the best of their knowledge every file has been searched. This step is important because it turns Trump’s actions into active obstruction of justice.
    * Classified and non-classified documents had been mixed into those storage boxes, as far as I have heard essentially randomly. It isn’t clear if these boxes contained particularly interesting classified documents, were mostly non-classified documents that Trump didn’t want anybody to see or if he was so angry about other people looking through his documents that he just grabbed some at random to hide.

  12. KG says


    Interesting list. One more possibility:
    Delusional Trump: He actually believes he is still President, and therefore is entitled to possess classified documents.

  13. prl says

    Delusional Trump: He actually believes he is still President, and therefore is entitled to possess classified documents.

    But if that’s true in his mind, then that would also make him ineligible to run in 2024. However, logical consistency isn’t one of his strong points, either

  14. flex says

    @JM, #11,

    To the point about Trump showing off documents before the FBI got involved. I’m not certain that we know exactly when the NARA people, and then the FBI got involved. My impression was that the NARA team started asking fairly soon after Trump left the White House, and the FBI only got involved after A) The NARA was getting nowhere and B) the NARA told the FBI that some of the records which were missing could be classified. Which gives ample time for Trump to realize he might have classified documents, and have located a couple for show, but still before the demands from the FBI became insistent. But your point is well made. (And my apologies for using NRA rather than NARA in my first comments.)

    On the second point, I’ve heard a number of different stories about a lawyer(s) looking through boxes and then certifying that all had been returned. The story I like best is that Trump didn’t suggest the lawyer looks through the entire storage room, but gave the lawyer a couple boxes to look through, assured the lawyers that there could be no other place where classified documents might reside, and the lawyers took his word for it. They then certified that they looked everywhere classified documents could have been stored. It could even be that the boxes the lawyer looked through were boxes Trump had previously had brought to his office and already removed any incriminating material. That narrative meets my expectations of human nature, both of the lawyers and of Trump.

    A lawyer charging high fees to his client generally does not want to go through thousands of documents themselves, they hire people to do that. But if there was classified material in those documents they would either have to hire a specialty team, which already have clearances, or do the work themselves. They clearly did not hire a specialty team, and their client probably wouldn’t have paid for one even if they suggested it. So they took the lazy way out and accepted Trump’s word. We’ll see what comes out at the trial, but I suspect that it will be revealed that the lawyers only took a cursory glance over Trump’s files and didn’t go through all the boxes in the storage room.

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