Fact Check: Trump Responds To Special Counsel News With Debunked Claim About Obama And The Bushes



In the first expanded response by former President Donald Trump to Attorney General Merrick Garland’s announcement Friday that he had appointed special counsel to oversee the criminal investigation into Trump’s withholding of government documents after he left office, Trump he defended dishonestly, repeating his completely discredited and false statements. claims about how other former presidents handled official records.

Trump, speaking Friday night at a gala at his Mar-a-Lago resort and residence, asked why there isn’t an investigation into “every other president who came before me,” including, but not limited to, Republican George HW Bush and George W. Bush. He claimed that these former presidents “kept documents,” continuing: “In one case, they had it in a Chinese restaurant with broken windows. And in another case they had a Chinese restaurant connected to a bowling alley. This is where the documents were kept. They took documents with them. President Obama took documents.”

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First the facts: Trump’s claims are, again, false, and have been discredited by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) itself. As NARA explained in an august statement, Barack Obama did not take the presidential documents that Trump claimed Obama had taken. Rather, NARA itself moved Obama administration documents to a NARA-run facility in the Chicago area, near where Obama’s presidential library is being built. NARA similarly explained in a statement in october, after Trump added other former presidents to the unsubstantiated narrative, that none of the Bushes took the documents that Trump claimed they had taken. Again, it was NARA that brought the Bush presidential documents to the facilities that NARA managed near the future locations of its presidential libraries.

In other words, there is no equivalence between the Trump situation, in which he allegedly brought hundreds of classified documents, plus many other presidential records, to the Mar-a-Lago compound and residence, and the situations, or not really situations, of their predecessors.

Trump used Friday’s speech to offer a variety of other criticisms of Garland’s decision to appoint the special counsel, veteran prosecutor Jack Smith. Smith will also oversee a second criminal investigation involving Trump, one into whether someone “unlawfully interfered” with the transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election or with Congressional certification of Joe Biden’s Electoral College victory “in or about” January. January 6, 2021. (Smith will not oversee investigations or prosecutions of individuals who physically violated the Capitol that day.)

Trump’s suggestion that documents from past presidents were stored insecurely is also false.

The facility where George HW Bush’s presidential documents were temporarily stored, in College Station, Texas, was in fact an old bowling alley connected to an old Chinese restaurant. But by the time the Bush records arrived, NARA had turned the building into a professional archiving facility with extensive security and no more bowling alleys or equipment.

Although Trump has repeatedly claimed or suggested that the College Station facility was not secure, this time saying it had “broken windows,” this narrative is also unsubstantiated. In its October statement, NARA said that all the temporary facilities where he stored the documents of past presidents “complied with strict archiving and security standards.” NARA said that “reports stating or implying that those presidential records were in the possession of former presidents or their representatives, after they left office, or that the records were stored in substandard conditions, are false and misleading.”

You don’t have to take NARA’s recent word. The Associated Press reported in 1994: “Uniformed guards patrol the facility. There are closed-circuit television monitors and sophisticated electronic detectors along the walls and doors. Some printed materials are classified and will remain so for years; it is open only to those with top secret clearances.”

Finally, it’s not a revelation that the facility has had a colorful past as a restaurant and alleyway; NARA officials publicly joked about this at the time. It is normal for NARA to rent large buildings that previously served some other purpose. The Washington Post reported in 1993: “There are no lanes anymore. No gutters, no pins, no beer. Thanks to a rush remodeling job after last November’s election, there are a few simple offices, a massive fire-rated vault, and row upon row of steel shelves filled with cardboard boxes and wooden crates.”

Trump has continued to make these false claims about his predecessors not only despite NARA statements discrediting them, but despite numerous fact-checks by mainstream media. He also made the claim that Obama allegedly took documents in Tuesday’s speech in which he announced his 2024 presidential bid; CNN also verified it at the time.

PALM BEACH, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 08: Former United States President Donald Trump speaks to the media during an election night event at Mar-a-Lago on November 08, 2022 in Palm Beach , fl.  Trump spoke as the nation awaits the results of the vote in the midterm elections.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

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