Trump reportedly told aide, ‘You don’t know anything about the boxes’

By any fair measure, all of the criminal cases against Donald Trump are serious, though one seems like it’ll be the easiest to prosecute. As Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana recently put it, the former president’s classified documents case looks like “a slam dunk.”

And while that assessment seemed more than fair under the circumstances, that doesn’t mean the scandal can’t get worse. ABC News reported that the Republican’s longtime assistant, Molly Michael, told federal investigators that he “repeatedly wrote to-do lists for her” on documents marked as classified.

As described to ABC News, the aide, Molly Michael, told investigators that — more than once — she received requests or taskings from Trump that were written on the back of notecards, and she later recognized those notecards as sensitive White House materials — with visible classification markings — used to brief Trump while he was still in office about phone calls with foreign leaders or other international-related matters.

In other words, according to ABC News’ reporting, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, Trump had a habit of using classified materials as effectively scratch pads.

But as remarkable as these allegations are, there was another element in the story that stood out for me:

The sources said Michael also told federal investigators that last year she grew increasingly concerned with how Trump handled recurring requests from the National Archives for the return of all government documents being kept in boxes at Mar-a-Lago — and she felt that Trump’s claims about it at the time would be easy to disprove, according to the sources. Sources said that after Trump heard the FBI wanted to interview Michael last year, Trump allegedly told her, “You don’t know anything about the boxes.”

Just so we’re all clear, “the boxes” referred to the containers filled with sensitive materials that Trump improperly took to his glorified country club after leaving the White House. His longtime assistant was almost certainly familiar with “the boxes,” which makes it all the more notable that the former president allegedly told his aide, “You don’t know anything about the boxes” after learning that Michael was poised to speak to the FBI.

It’s almost as if Trump was concerned about his assistant telling law enforcement the truth, so he took the legally dubious step of subtly encouraging her to play dumb.

Indeed, it’s reminiscent of former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson being told, “The less you remember, the better,” as part of her Jan. 6 testimony.

Last month, after Trump tried to publicly discourage Georgia’s former Republican lieutenant governor from testifying before a Fulton County grand jury, New York magazine’s Jon Chait noted, “What can certainly be ascertained, without any legal training, is that this is not the behavior of an innocent man.” Similarly, innocent people — who have no idea that they’re engaged in wrongdoing — generally don’t feel the need to tell assistants, “You don’t know anything about the boxes” before they talk to the FBI.

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