Democrats in a fury as Trump docs revive trauma of Clinton emails
Accusations that former President Trump improperly took government documents are stirring outrage among Democrats and resurfacing years-old political trauma stemming from the GOP’s attacks on Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
Democrats say the revelation that Trump took boxes of official documents with him upon his departure from the White House last year carries the markings of a political double standard.
Republicans — and Trump, in particular — criticized Clinton relentlessly during the 2016 presidential race over her document retention practices at the State Department, yet many in the party have remained silent on the recent accusations against the former president.
“The hypocrisy is not surprising at all given President Trump has always had a different set of rules for himself than he has for other people,” said Patti Solis Doyle, who served as Clinton’s campaign manager during her 2008 White House bid.
Trump handed over 15 boxes of presidential records and other materials that he had taken with him to his Palm Beach, Fla., Mar-a-Lago resort to the National Archives last month. Some of those boxes were believed to include classified information, a violation of federal record-keeping laws.
On Thursday, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, sent a letter to David Ferriero, the archivist of the United States, seeking information about Trump’s handling of the White House records, including reports that he “repeatedly attempted to destroy presidential records.”
According to a forthcoming book by The New York Times’s Maggie Haberman, White House staff also suspected that Trump had tried to flush certain materials after finding wads of paper in a toilet. Trump denied that account on Thursday.
“Another fake story, that I flushed papers and documents down a White House toilet, is categorically untrue and simply made up by a reporter in order to get publicity for a mostly fictitious book,” Trump said.
He also claimed that the handover of material to the National Archives was “routine and ‘no big deal,’” insisting that he was “under no obligation to give this material based on various legal rulings that have been made over the years.”
Solis Doyle said that she is hopeful Trump’s handling of White House documents will receive the same level of scrutiny as Clinton’s use of a private email server, arguing that federal rules governing the handling of confidential information “can’t really be shrugged off.”
“The rules set on confidential information are set by U.S. law enforcement and can’t really be shrugged off,” she said. “So I believe the proper authorities will investigate as they rightly did HRC’s emails. And I hope equal media attention will be paid in Trump as was in Hillary.”
Other Clinton allies, however, aren’t as optimistic that Trump will face the same scrutiny as Clinton did, noting that the former president repeatedly bucked government rules and norms throughout his time in the White House.
“What’s the point anymore?” said Philippe Reines, a longtime senior adviser to Clinton. “People either see the distinction between his intentional and systemic circumvention of every law of man and God warranting prosecution of not only him but those complicit around him — and our Olympically stupid mistake our Democracy paid for dearly — or they don’t.”
For Clinton and her allies, the investigation into her use of a private email server during her tenure as former President Obama’s secretary of State stands as a painful reminder of her 2016 electoral loss to Trump, who spent much of his campaign raising damaging questions about Clinton’s conduct.
Many Democrats still blame the probe — particularly former FBI Director James Comey’s announcement weeks before the 2016 election that his agency was reopening its investigation — for helping propel Trump to victory. Adding to Democrats’ exasperation is the fact that the investigation into Clinton’s emails cleared her of wrongdoing.
“The two-year frenzy over emails was a political Rorschach test, where everyone saw something different in what was ultimately nothing,” said Nick Merrill, a spokesperson for Clinton, in a statement. “Call it sexism, Republican depravity, ratings-hungry media, it’s time we acknowledge it was bullshit, and write that into the history books.”
In a nod to the alleged hypocrisy, Clinton tweeted links to merchandise on her political group’s website emblazoned with the slogan “But Her Emails,” a reference to critics’ repeated attempts during the 2016 presidential race to keep the focus on the investigation into Clinton’s document-retention practices.
Trump’s allies have sought to ward off any comparison between his actions and those of Clinton. Former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows said that, unlike with Trump, “there was actually an investigation” into Clinton’s email practices.
He also insisted that Trump would ultimately be cleared of any wrongdoing, saying that the White House was “very diligent” in its record retention.
“What they’re doing with Donald Trump is trying to look backwards and attach some kind of relative comparison, which there is no comparison,” Meadows said on the right-wing news network Newsmax. “When you really purposely go out to destroy documents like Hillary Clinton did … I can tell you there is not a comparison.
“We were very diligent in making sure we preserve those documents, and ultimately I think the record will show that,” he added.
For Trump, who is eyeing another bid for the White House in 2024, the political ramifications of the controversy are unclear. The former president has faced numerous scandals before only to retain the support of an ultraloyal voter base. At the same time, the 2024 presidential election is still years away.
“He really has a remarkable ability to brush things off, and if you’re talking about something that’s going to happen two years from now, that’s an eternity in politics,” one former Trump campaign aide said.
Still, for many in Clinton World, the email investigation has staying power.
“The extraordinary nothingness of ‘but her emails’ will never not astound me,” said Tracy Sefl, a Democratic consultant who served as an aide to Clinton. “Even more extraordinary is that just when we think we’ve heard the weirdest or worst about Trump, someone unearths a soggy pile of paper from a White House toilet.”