Why Trump’s latest weird rhetoric about Obama matters

When Donald Trump sat down with Fox News’ Sean Hannity this week, he was clearly still looking for some kind of argument that might address the scandal surrounding the classified documents he took to Mar-a-Lago. The former president even tried to pitch a familiar claim:

“[A]ll the things that happened were incredible. Well, you could also say 33 million documents or pages with President Obama. That’s very questionable. Thirty-three million…. Thirty-three million, they’re fighting over ‘em or arguing over ‘em.”

If you recognize the rhetoric, it’s because you’ve heard it before. Three days after the FBI executed a court-approved search warrant, the Republican wrote on his social media platform, “I continue to ask, what happened to the 33 Million pages of documents taken to Chicago by President Obama?”

The next morning, Trump added, “President Barack Hussein Obama kept 33 million pages of documents, much of them classified. How many of them pertained to nuclear? Word is, lots!”

To be sure, the former president’s foolish rhetoric had all the sophistication of someone who generally writes with crayons, but he seemed quite animated by the idea that his predecessor could be accused of doing what he’d done.

The problem, of course, is that the whole argument was absurd. The Washington Post explained on Aug. 11:

As was reported back in late 2016, the Obama team was transferring the records to Chicago through the National Archives, which legally owns the documents once a president leaves office. Once the documents ultimately reached a warehouse in Chicago, the Obama Foundation was then due to pay the National Archives and Record Administration to digitize the documents. The lengthiness of that process aside, there isn’t the faintest hint of legal violations. There is no evidence that Obama has hidden anything from the National Archives or that he didn’t go through the processes required to share and protect those documents once they leave Washington.

A day later, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) itself issued a written statement, making clear that Trump was brazenly lying.

And yet, there was the former president, a full six weeks later, insisting that Obama and federal officials are “fighting over” and “arguing over” materials the Democrat took — referring to fights and arguments that exist only in Trump’s mind.

Why does it matter that the Republican is still pushing a lie about Obama that was thoroughly discredited a month and a half ago? Because it offers fresh evidence that when it comes to the investigation into this scandal, Trump isn’t just failing, he’s flailing.

He’s had since Aug. 8 to come up with some kind of coherent explanation for his decision to allegedly take sensitive materials, store them in his glorified country club, refuse to give them back, and obstruct the retrieval process. And yet, here we are, watching him recycle anti-Obama absurdities that he already knows aren’t true.

The lesson for Trump supporters, wondering how far out on a limb to go, couldn’t be more obvious: He can’t think of anything coherent.

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