Friday, June 9, 2023

As Donald Trump becomes the first former president to face federal indictment, his peculiar history with "untimely flooding" takes on a whole new meaning

The Mar-a-Lago pool that flooded

A senior editor at one of the nation's most widely read legal blogs wrote earlier this week about Donald Trump's odd history with flooding, especially when he's being investigated and sensitive documents or equipment allegedly are stored in the area of "flood waters."

Joe Patrice, of the Above the Law (ATL) blog, wrote a piece (dated Tuesday, June 6, 2023) under the headline "Donald Trump Keeps Losing Files To 'Flooding' Whenever Investigators Start Looking; Floods? Near key evidence? Right when investigators show up? What are the odds?"

As you can tell from the headline, Patrice took a bemused, maybe even snarky, approach to the subject. But in a sense, he proved to be prescient -- and any humor went out the door last night when The New York Times posted its story, at 10:46 p.m. ET, about Trump's indictment in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. The Orlando Sentinel posted an Associated Press version of the story at 10:05 p.m. ET, noting the historic nature of the article as Trump became the first former U.S. president to face federal indictment.

Above the Law (ATL), despite its light-hearted approach to the story, provided fascinating background to the tale of presidential intrigue, especially once word of the indictment came down. Floods? Near Key Evidence? What are the odds, indeed? As it turns out, Joe Patrice was not talking about floods in the natural sense. "Water damage, apparently caused by human intervention" might be a more appropriate term, But the events, and their implications, are very real.

On a personal note, Above the Law holds a special place in our hearts here at Legal Schnauzer. When our little blog earned a spot among "The Top 50 Independent Law Blogs in North America for 2012" -- per a survey by Cision, a Chicago-based firm that describes itself as "the leading global provider of media relations software services and solutions for public relations professionals" -- it was an unexpected treat for us; we had no idea this was in the works. We came in at No. 37, while the No. 1 spot went to . . . Above the Law, which was founded by attorney David Lat, and in its early days, was essentially a "gossip sheet" for the legal profession -- an idea that, thanks to Lat's wit and off-center take on all things legal -- became immensely popular.

Above the Law apparently has graduated from the blogosphere and now calls itself "A Legal Web Site" -- but we know, and appreciate the fact, its roots are deeply planted in blogging.

What about Joe Patrice and his take on the Trumpian propensity for "flooding"? It's based in the ATL tradition of mixing bizarre facts with sharp humor. Writes Patrice:

Some people have the absolute worst luck. Like Donald Trump, who suffered an unfortunate incident at Mar-a-Lago last year when a pool flooded and ended up spilling into the server room. That just happens to be where the club kept all the surveillance video logs that might include information about the comings and goings around the pool locker where the former president apparently kept some of the nation’s most delicate secrets. Thankfully, CNN reports that prosecutors were told that the flood did not damage any of the equipment.

And it’s particularly rotten luck, because it’s deja vu all over again for this guy! Decades ago, when New York City auditors launched a probe over allegedly delinquent payments from the then-Trump-owned Grand Hyatt, key documents that Trump’s lease obligations required him to maintain and turn over got lost… in a flood.

As Raw Story notes:

“In September, 1988, the Hotel informed us that it could not locate seven of the twelve monthly general ledgers, because they ‘were discarded after they were severely damaged by water when the room in which they were stored was flooded,’” the report said.

Imagine having to deal with devastating water damage… and whenever investigations zero in on key materials in your possession!

From a CNN report:

Prosecutors for special counsel Jack Smith have been asking questions in recent months about the handling of surveillance footage at Mar-a-Lago resort and discussions Trump’s employees had about the surveillance system after the subpoena last summer for the footage, according to multiple sources.

Recently, investigators have asked questions indicating they are trying to determine if workers at Mar-a-Lago received specific direction from above, particularly from Trump himself, to obstruct the investigation.

Patrice concludes with a touch of legal analysis. After all, he is a lawyer:

Summer subpoena… October flood. Terrible timing to suffer Superstorm Clogged Drain.

From the perspective of prosecutors, who are reportedly focused on possible “gaps in the surveillance footage,” the 1988 flood must raise an eyebrow or two. But is it something they could take to court? Rule 404(b) would typically bar evidence of prior acts to prove conformity, but there’s an exception to prove absence of accident.

That said, raising an event over 10 years old — indeed 35 years old at this point — is generally frowned upon as too remote in time. Assuming these are the only floods, of course.

Just terrible… luck.

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