Dan Crenshaw's defense of Trump is a talking point in search of facts
The FBI asking Trump nicely to return classified materials wouldn't have solved anything because they already tried that.
Dan Crenshaw began his appearance Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union by trying to portray himself as some sort of maverick, proclaiming he’s “not one to withhold criticism and even make my own side mad.” He then spent the rest of the interview withholding criticism of Donald Trump.
Crenshaw didn’t exactly defend Trump’s mishandling of classified material, which led to the former president’s Florida home being raided by the FBI on August 8. Instead, like almost all Republicans, Crenshaw is trying to portray Trump as an innocent victim of a politicized FBI (never mind that the bureau’s director was nominated by Trump and confirmed by Senate Republicans). But a quick examination of the facts shows Trump has nobody to blame but himself for his legal troubles, and it’s absurd to suggest otherwise.
Crenshaw told host Jake Tapper “I still haven’t seen any evidence that Trump was even asked to give these documents back” — the implication being that if the feds just would’ve asked nice, he would’ve given back the 11 sets of documents that were seized (materials about nuclear weapons were among the documents sought).
But Crenshaw apparently isn’t reading the New York Times, which on August 11 reported that, months before the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Trump received a subpoena for documents he had failed to turn over to the federal government.
Months before the F.B.I. arrived at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump had received a subpoena this spring in search of documents that federal investigators believed he had failed to turn over earlier in the year, when he returned 15 boxes of material to the archives, three people familiar with the matter said.
In short, the government already trying asking politely, and it didn’t work out.
Not only that, but after the FBI paid a previous (and, by all accounts, relatively cordial) visit to Mar-a-Lago in early June in which they left with some of the classified materials they were seeking, at least one of Trump’s lawyers signed a written statement “asserting that all material marked as classified and held in boxes in a storage area at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence and club had been returned to the government,” the Times reported on August 13. Turns out that also wasn’t true.
So Crenshaw didn’t have a leg to stand on when he told Tapper things like “it’s hard to justify what the Department of Justice did here.” Not only did the government ask nicely repeatedly and not get what it needed, but Trump’s lawyers misled authorities. And it’s also worth remembering that Trump was impeached for trying to extort a foreign government to interfere in a presidential election on his behalf — does anybody really believe he’s above doing something similar by using nuclear secrets or other sensitive information as leverage?
Tapper, to his credit, pushed back on Crenshaw, pointing out that the government tried to work with Trump but didn’t get all the classified documents it sought, and furthermore was misled by Trump’s lawyers about it. The exchange in the clip below actually encapsulates many of the reasons why the DOJ likely felt it had little choice but to resort to a search warrant. Put it all together and my description of Crenshaw’s performance as “shaky” is probably an understatement.
But his was not the worst Republican defense of Trump’s conduct offered on the Sunday shows. Not even close.