Why all these Trump documents exist in physical paper form

The FBI’s seizure of 11 sets of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago has raised a litany of questions about the presidential records. One of these questions: why, in the age of all digital, does the US government still rely so much on paper?

The answer: Much of the classified bureaucracy remains a paper world due in large part to security vulnerabilities associated with off-the-shelf commercial devices, national security attorney Bradley Moss told Axios.

  • Classified databases and email accounts that meet federal government cybersecurity requirements do exist, of course, but they generally require sitting at a terminal and viewing information on a screen. Paper can be much easier to use in a meeting.
  • The President’s Daily Brief – a comprehensive and highly classified written summary of US intelligence – was printed on physical paper every day until 2012, when it began to be administered via iPads that former President Obama and his entourage could roam in the Oval Office. .

That changed with Trump, a notorious technophobe with a short attention span who preferred to be briefed orally on a few intelligence issues.

  • “For the most part, Trump’s APB included three one-page articles outlining new developments overseas, as well as brief updates on ongoing crises in the Middle East,” according to an account published by the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence.
  • Despite his general resistance to the study of intelligence, Trump reportedly sought to keep some of the most fascinating documents of personal interest to him.

What they say : “Often the president would say [to intelligence briefers], ‘Well, can I keep this?’ And in my experience, intelligence informants most often said, “Well, sir, we’d rather take that out.” But sometimes they forgot,” former national security adviser John Bolton told CBS News.

  • Former acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney corroborated this account, telling CNN: ‘Once in a while the president would say, ‘Can I keep this? “”
  • The New York Times reported that when the National Archives sought to retrieve documents he had taken, Trump resisted, telling his advisers, “It’s not theirs, it’s mine.”

Between the lines: The administration’s turbulent final days, when Trump was consumed with the aftermath of Jan. 6 and his impending second impeachment, were a cornerstone for a president who had long circumvented the record-keeping procedure.

  • “When the rushed packing of the West Wing happened after Jan. 6, those documents were undoubtedly still sitting around the residence,” Moss said.

Why is it important: Former President Trump has survived a historic level of legal scrutiny over the past six years, fending off investigations that have ensnared many of his top aides and allies. His downfall may ultimately stem from an archaic practice – the retention of paper records – which he refused to tackle like his predecessors.

About Debra D. Johnson

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