Donald J. Trump has got to be ruing the day he let infighting among his team of lawyers get so bad that one of them resigned. Appearing on Lawrence O’Donnell’s “The Last Word” last night, Tim Parlatore gave Special Prosecutor Jack Smith one hell of a lot to work with. What’s the Trump defense in the matter of the classified documents he took from the White House and kept from the government for more than 18 months?
Trump’s former lawyer had his answer ready: Trump didn’t know what was in those boxes! Nobody knew what was in those boxes! They just loaded them up and took them down to Mar-a-Lago because they were part of Trump’s stuff!
You had to see it to believe it. O’Donnell kept firing questions at Parlatore, and he answered like he was on a college debate team. Well, I have an answer for that point! And for that point, too! He kept steepling his fingers, because debaters are taught it makes you look serious. When he wanted to make more than one point, he arched his hands in front of him and moved them side to side, like, we’ll take care of this point over here, and that point over there! Now, see! We’ve got them all covered!
O’Donnell asked him why the FBI found a classified document in Trump’s desk at Mar-a-Lago, because, as O’Donnell pointed out, this wasn’t a document that some aide had mistakenly put in a box back in the White House and accidentally moved to Mar-a-Lago, where it had sat in a storage room that Trump had no knowledge of. It was in his desk.
Parlatore’s answers were classics. Well, I’d have to know what the document was. No, you wouldn’t, O’Donnell said. You don’t need to know what it says, only that it belongs to the government. Well, it could have been a photocopy. But the letter from Kim Jung Un wasn’t a copy. It was the original letter, and under the Presidential Records Act, it belongs to the government. The law the government used to get the search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, 18 US Code 1519, had nothing to do with classification. “Whoever…conceals or makes a false entry with intent to obstruct or influence the investigation or the proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of the United States…shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
O’Donnell went on to point out that Trump had to know classified documents were in his desk, because he was served with a subpoena for them on May ll, 2022. The subpoena caused Trump and his team of lawyers—and Parlatore was on the Trump team of lawyers at the time he was served—to conduct a search for the documents demanded in the subpoena, because that’s what you do when you’re served. You look for what the government is asking for.
And then the Department of Justice came down to Mar-a-Lago and was handed 38 classified documents along with an affidavit that says, we’ve conducted a “diligent search” and this is what we’ve got. At that moment, O’Donnell tells Parlatore, Trump has broken the law by obstructing the investigation because he knows that there are documents in his office…in his own desk drawer, in fact, that were not turned over.
Parlatore says, well, er, ah, it wasn’t really an affidavit. It was a “standard form” you use for these things. It’s a “custodian of documents” certification, the kind of thing you fill out 20 or 30 times as a defense attorney. You don’t sit there and open up a brand new Word document, what you do is, you take one for which you’ve done for a search warrant before, and you fill in the new details, and you hand it over. “What you’re saying is, everything we found during that diligent search is attached. No lawyer is going to say…no other documents exist.”
O’Donnell couldn’t keep himself from grinning as he called that answer “loophole language.” He shook his head and said, no, that’s not what the certification said.
So what does Parlatore do? He employs his college-debater big gun. He points his finger at O’Donnell and tells him Trump asked for more time because “he wanted to do a more complete search” but he was denied the additional time. Trump had only “a few weeks” to look for the documents the DOJ asked for.
“No, he had a year and a half,” responded O’Donnell.
But…but…ordinarily, Parlatore tells O’Donnell, a prosecutor will give more time, or he’ll tell the person who has been subpoenaed to “keep looking,” but “Jay Bratt didn’t do that.” Jay Bratt, was the DOJ official who flew down to Mar-a-Lago on June 3 to pick up classified documents Trump’s lawyer Evan Corcoran said he had found.
OMG! Jay Bratt was mean to us!
Which wasn’t true, even in the least. Evan Corcoran, the Trump lawyer in charge of responding to the subpoena, called Jay Bratt on June 2 and told him he was ready to respond to the subpoena, and could Bratt and his team fly down to Palm Beach tomorrow to meet at Mar-a-Lago? Bratt did. Corcoran handed over the folder of classified documents and told him they hadn’t found any others. Then Corcoran took Bratt and three FBI agents to the storage room and showed them the 60 boxes and told him that neither he, Bratt, or the FBI agents could look through any of the boxes.
Well…if Corcoran and Parlatore needed help finding more classified documents, the FBI agents were right there. They could have helped him look for them. But Parlatore didn’t mention that, nor did he mention whether or not he and Corcoran had searched Trump’s office, because they hadn’t. O’Donnell asked if Parlatore had searched the office. No. Did he ever visit the office, walk in there and look around? Well, er, ah…no. Wouldn’t a lawyer representing a client want to at least look in the client’s office where he might keep some of the stuff that had been subpoenaed, O’Donnell wanted to know?
Another stunned silence.
The whole thing was so embarrassing, it’s a wonder that we haven’t heard Trump has sued Parlatore today, not for breaching attorney-client privilege, but for dumb.
Well, at least we know now why Trump had his lawyers accuse the DOJ of carrying out a “lawless” investigation of him. It was all Jay Bratt’s fault. Parlatore must have mentioned Bratt’s name a dozen times. He’s not a regular DOJ prosecutor. He’s the head of the Counterintelligence Division, that’s why he made all those mistakes, like not giving Trump enough time to respond to the subpoena. It was prosecutorial misconduct,” Parlatore said.
So along with waving his arms and saying it was all just a big mistake, that he just accidentally took all those classified documents to Mar-a-Lago and some of them accidentally ended up in his desk, Trump is going to use as his defense that it wasn’t him who broke the law, it was the Department of Justice, because Jay Bratt was mean to him.
Boy, is this going to be fun watching the man who told 30,573 lies and never made a mistake he couldn’t conceal with a Sharpie point his finger and accuse the Department of Justice of committing every crime he’s ever been accused of. It’s not the dog ate my homework defense. It’s the Dog? What dog? Homework? What homework? defense.
And Tim Parlatore, who just gave us a preview, had better start looking for a buyer for his house and car and setting up a garage sale to get some cash for the rest of his stuff because his phone ain’t going to be ringing with clients wanting to hire him after Lawrence O’Donnell used him for a mop and wiped the floor with him last night.
Republished with permission from Lucian K. Truscott IV.
Lucian K. Truscott IV
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist and screenwriter. He has covered stories such as Watergate, the Stonewall riots and wars in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels and several unsuccessful motion pictures. He has three children, lives in rural Pennsylvania and spends his time Worrying About the State of Our Nation and madly scribbling in a so-far fruitless attempt to Make Things Better.