Since taking office, Donald Trump has issued 109 Executive Orders. He has issued 42 Presidential Memoranda. He has issued 22 Presidential Notices, 12 Presidential Determinations, 7 National Security Presidential Memoranda, 1 Administrative Order, and even 1 Sequestration Order.
While it seems Donald Trump has spent much of the last three years trying to erase the presidency of Barack Obama, and while many of the documents Trump has signed further that effort, it appears he missed rolling back an important Obama-era rule.
On December 29, 2009 President Barack Obama issued Executive Order 13526, on Classiifed National Security Information.
Section 1.7a of that Executive Order reads:
Sec. 1.7. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations.
|(a)||In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to:|
|(1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;|
(2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;(3) restrain competition; or
(4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.
It sure seems like placing “perfect” telephone call transcripts into the National Security Council’s codeword system would run afoul of that order if the reason behind secreting the calls away were to conceal possible crimes or impeachable offenses President Trump may have committed, or to prevent Trump’s behavior on the call from embarrassing him, the Republican Party, or government agents (and agencies) working on Trump’s behalf, or to simply block records from becoming public when their release would not in any way endanger national security.
That is what Trump did, right, and WHY he did it?
Is what Trump did with the documents illegal? Not necessarily. After all, the Department of Justice holds that sitting presidents cannot be charged with crimes; they can only be impeached.
But we, as citizens, need answers.
We demand answers.
If this were a “perfect” phone call where nothing illegal was discussed, and nothing of a national security nature was discussed (basically one president calling to congratulate another president on an electoral victory), and there were perhaps a dozen or more people listening in on the call (and that’s just on the American side), WHY is the transcript of this telephone call locked away in possibly the most secure server our national security department has at its disposal?
Trump needs to answer that question AND he needs to release the full transcript of the Ukraine call.
While he is at it, maybe he can also release full transcripts of past calls, like the one with Mohammed bin Salman in the aftermath of the murder and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi?
If not, House Democrats need to subpoena those calls as part of the impeachment process.
Regardless of Department of Justice opinions on how Trump should be held accountable, no one is above the law.