At CFIF, the issue of improving taxpayer privacy and protection against persistent abuse by the Internal…
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Quote of the Day: Taxpayer Privacy and IRS Abuse

At CFIF, the issue of improving taxpayer privacy and protection against persistent abuse by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) remains among our most important missions.  Among the abuses that we've chronicled is the case of convicted criminal Charles Littlejohn, who rejoined the IRS in 2017 with the specific purpose of illegally breaching and leaking the private tax returns of Donald Trump and other Americans to radical left-wing organizations like ProPublica.

In The Wall Street Journal this week, one of those victims speaks out on his own experience and the need for greater taxpayer protection against this recurring problem that should terrify all Americans of every political persuasion.  Ira Stoll, whose tax information was passed to ProPublica, even helpfully details how…[more]

May 29, 2024 • 11:28 AM

Liberty Update

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Why Did Trump Do It? Print
By Byron York
Wednesday, June 21 2023
Trump's accusers are not going to give up their accusations just because the evidence points elsewhere.

There are a lot of questions surrounding the federal indictment of former President Donald Trump, which alleges that after leaving the White House, Trump kept secret national defense information he was not legally allowed to possess. Questions like: Did Trump, as president, have the authority to decide what to keep and what to give to the National Archives after leaving office? And just how sensitive were the documents he kept? And even if Trump lacked the specific authority, and the papers were sensitive, has the Justice Department overreached by charging Trump with 37 felonies?

Underlying all those issues is a more fundamental question: Why did Trump keep all that stuff in the first place? Whether it was legal or not, why did he do it?

As they always do, Trump's adversaries have leaped to the darkest explanation possible. Some have theorized that he is selling the nation's secrets to foreign governments. Saudi Arabia, China, Russia, somebody  Trump is selling out the United States. Unfortunately for those critics, special counsel Jack Smith, in a detailed indictment, made no allegation at all about Trump selling the information or in any way disseminating it for profit. 

Now, there is growing agreement that the answer  why Trump did it  might be much simpler. Trump kept the documents alongside copies of newspapers, magazines, internet printouts, pins, hats, jackets and other stuff because he is a pack rat. Or, to put it more diplomatically, because he likes to collect things.

In a June 13 appearance on Fox News, I suggested that Trump kept that materials in part because they were "souvenirs." "He really liked mementos," I said. "His office in New York is filled with them." Among the things that Trump would want to keep, I said, were the letters that North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un had written him.

That drew the expected ridicule from the left, but there is, in fact, growing evidence that Trump kept documents because he has had a habit of keeping stuff his entire life. "He was kind of a collector of things that he thought were of interest to him for some reason or another  clippings, mementos, classified documents," former Trump national security adviser John Bolton said recently on MSNBC. Bolton said he found Trump's habit "very disturbing" and that he and his staff tried to get classified material back from Trump as often as they could. "Obviously, we failed in many cases," he said.

On June 15, the New York Times reported that Trump had a lifelong habit of throwing stuff in boxes and keeping it. The White House staff, recognizing Trump's ways, referred to the boxes as "beautiful mind" boxes, which the Times said was "a reference to the title of a book and movie depicting the life of John F. Nash, the mathematician with schizophrenia ... who covered his office with newspaper clippings, believing they held a Russian code he needed to crack." In addition, the Times reported that Trump's aides "employed [the phrase] to capture a type of organized chaos Mr. Trump insisted on, the collection and transportation of a blizzard of newspapers and official documents that he kept close and that seemed to give him a sense of security."

The Times continued: "One former White House official, who was granted anonymity to describe the situation, said that while the materials were disorganized, Mr. Trump would notice if somebody had riffled through them or they were not arranged in a particular way. It was, the person said, how 'his mind worked.'"

Indeed, the Justice Department indictment of Trump contains a quote from one Trump staffer to another concerning the movement of boxes at Mar-a-Lago. "Can we move them from one place to another?" a staffer asked. "Anything that's not the beautiful mind paper boxes can definitely go to storage," the other staffer answered.

So, there seems little doubt that Trump kept the classified materials, among thousands of other things, at least in part because he liked to keep stuff. Now, that does not address the reason he would pick each item. Perhaps he thought something was funny. Perhaps he just thought it was interesting. Perhaps he thought, as I also suggested on Fox on June 13, that he could use a particular document to get back at former associates who accused him of this or that misdeed. But the bottom line is, Trump kept stuff because that is what he does.

It's an entirely believable explanation. But it has not satisfied the Trump-sold-out-America accusers. MSNBC's Joe Scarborough, for example, said, "If you're trying to figure out Donald Trump's motive, whatever it is we've been saying for eight years, it's all about money. ... There's every reason to believe, given his past, that there would be a possibility that he might trade this information, if not dramatically for money, maybe for access, maybe just so he can make contacts and built a hotel in this place or that place. Not saying he did it, but we would be foolish to be thinking he's just keeping all of this information because he's just a weird, quirky dude."

Trump's accusers are not going to give up their accusations just because the evidence points elsewhere. They have too much invested in many years of Trump resistance to change their minds now, even on one specific issue. But as far as the reason Trump kept documents is concerned, it seems increasingly clear that it might have been far less nefarious than the critics imagined.

Byron York is chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner


Notable Quote   
"Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger says Democrats have tipped their hand to their desire to unleash noncitizen voting by opposing his state's citizenship verification in court and he is urging elections chiefs in other states to fight such lawsuits.Georgia's citizenship verification system has prevented noncitizens from getting on state voter rolls, but the state had to defend it in court…[more]
— Natalia Mittelstadt, Just the News
Liberty Poll   

Which would be the most useful for voters: a televised presidential debate that only includes Trump and Biden or one that adds Kennedy?