A new report connects a case involving tapes made by former President Bill Clinton with the FBI’s raid on former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
“Judge’s ruling over audio tapes hidden in Bill Clinton’s sock drawer could significantly impact Donald Trump’s effort to contest FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago,” journalist John Solomon tweeted Thursday.
Judge’s ruling over audio tapes hidden in Bill Clinton’s sock drawer could significantly impact Donald Trump’s effort to contest FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago | Just The News https://t.co/MBCisbJ1rg
— John Solomon (@jsolomonReports) August 18, 2022
The ruling involved audio tapes Clinton stashed in a sock drawer that he used for his autobiography and that were also mined by writer Taylor Branch in Branch’s book, “Wrestling History: The Bill Clinton Tapes,” about Clinton, according to CBS.
The tapes became controversial when the watchdog group Judicial Watch went to court to demand the tapes be given to the National Archives and Records Administration, so the American people could hear them.
U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson rejected the suit in March 2012.
In a report for Just the News, Solomon pointed to a few paragraphs of the 27-page ruling as significant because they indicated a president had wide latitude concerning documents under the Presidential Records Act.
“Under the statutory scheme established by the PRA, the decision to segregate personal materials from Presidential records is made by the President, during the President’s term and in his sole discretion,” Jackson wrote.
“Since the President is completely entrusted with the management and even the disposal of Presidential records during his time in office, it would be difficult for this Court to conclude that Congress intended that he would have less authority to do what he pleases with what he considers to be his personal records,” the judge wrote.
The ruling also indicated seizing such records was not appropriate.
“Because the audiotapes are not physically in the government’s possession, defendant submits that it would be required to seize them directly from President Clinton in order to assume custody and control over them,” Jackson noted. “Defendant considers this to be an ‘extraordinary request’ that is ‘unfounded, contrary to the PRA’s express terms, and contrary to traditional principles of administrative law.’ The Court agrees.”
So how does that connect to Trump? As Solomon noted, the former president has said records that were seized were both declassified and personal.
Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, said the connection between the cases is profound.
“The government, the lawyer for the Archives, said, ‘You know what? If documents are in the former President’s hands, where they’re presumptively personal, we just, you know, we presume they’re personal,’” Fitton said, Just the News reported.
“The Justice Department previously had told us in response to a question about Bill Clinton: ‘Tough luck, it’s his.’ But they changed their mind for Donald Trump?” he said. “The law and court decision suggests that Trump is right. And frankly, based on this analysis, Trump should get every single document they took from him back. It’s all personal records.”
As noted by Politico, Fitton felt differently at the time.
“We respectfully disagree with the Court,” he said then. “The idea that a president could spirit official recordings and documents out of the White House and that there is nothing that can be legally done about it is a misreading of the Presidential Records Act. It is ironic that a law passed in response to the Nixon tapes controversy would allow Bill Clinton to keep tapes of his official actions secret and unavailable to the American people.”
Kevin Brock, former assistant FBI director for intelligence, said the search warrant used by the FBI was faulty and over broad, according to Just the News.
“Specificity is important in order to protect Fourth Amendment rights from exuberant government overreach designed to find whatever they can,” he said.
The warrant “apparently makes a novel legal assertion that any presidential record kept by a former president is against the law,” Brock said.
“You have to wonder what the other living former presidents think about that. They have the right and, apparently, clear desire to remain silent.”
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