Trump rolls out novel ‘armed fort’ defence in latest rant on classified documents

Donald Trump has rolled out his latest attempt to explain why so many classified and top secret documents were discovered at his Florida home 18 months after his presidency.

In posts online, the former president claimed yet again to have done nothing wrong, while attacking President Joe Biden for the discovery of classified papers at his home and an office he used in Washington DC.

While there are similarities between the two cases, the number of documents, the circumstances in which they were discovered, and the reaction from the respective Trump and Biden teams are all very different.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, Mr Trump took to his social media platform Truth Social to post a three-part rant — oddly tagged by page number — in which to lay out his grievances and demand the case against him be dropped.

He began by complaining about the appointment of Special Counsel Robert Hur to investigate the Biden papers: “What Biden did was wrong, but he was given a reasonable and stable Special Counsel who is sane, inclined not to make waves, friendly with RINOS, and is not known as a flame-throwing lunatic or a Biden hater.”

Mr Trump continued by laying out a novel argument that Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach home, is so secure that it didn’t matter that classified documents were taken there after his presidency.

“What I did was RIGHT, Secured documents in a secured place, lock on the doors, guards and Secret Service all around, security cameras working. Mar-a-Lago is essentially an armed fort, and was built that way in the 1920’s, with High Walls & structure to serve as the Southern W.H…”

He continued on “Page 2”: “I was President of the U.S. and covered and protected by the Presidential Records Act, which is not criminal and allows and encourages you to talk to the NARA, which we were, very nicely, until the FBI, who it is now learned has been after me for years without pause or question, RAIDED Mar-a-Lago, a stupid and probably Illegal thing to do.”

Mr Trump claimed: “As President, I have the right to declassify documents, Biden did not.”

President Biden has made no such claim that he declassified any of the documents found at his home and at the Penn Biden Center in Washington. A “small number” of documents were found, dating from Mr Biden’s time as vice president to President Barack Obama.

Mr Trump finished his rant, first by complaining about the special counsel assigned to investigate him: “Special "Prosecutor" Jack Smith, however, is a Trump Hating political Thug…” and then concluding on “Page 3” with: “The Boxes Hoax Case against me should be dropped immediately. I have done nothing wrong!”

Some 300 classified documents with classification markings, including some marked “top secret”, have been retrieved from Mr Trump’s home since he left office in January 2021.

In January 2022, the National Archives told the Justice Department that boxes of documents they had already received from the former president contained a lot of classified material. This led to the August 2022 search of Mar-a-Lago by the FBI in which agents discovered 33 boxes containing some 11,000 documents including 10 marked classified.

While the Biden team immediately alerted the White House counsel’s office, who in turn contacted NARA, when those documents were found, the Trump team was less forthcoming, with months passing by and a protracted battle to retrieve further documents.

There is no indication that Mr Biden had any knowledge of the existence of the documents and they were quickly turned over without any attempt to delay or hide the discovery.

Mr Trump has engaged in an extended argument that he had declassified the material and had every right to hold on to them. He could face potential charges relating to obstruction and is not immune from prosecution now that he has left office.

Mar-a-Lago was indeed built in the 1920s as a Winter White House, but no president used it as such until Mr Trump, who has owned the property since the 1980s and operates it as a private members club.