Newsmax host Greg Kelly assured viewers Wednesday night that their government is misleading them. He pointed to the photos of boxes of documents from Donald Trump’s indictment and zeroed in on one in particular: the spilled box that Trump aide Walt Nauta allegedly discovered in a Mar-a-Lago storage room and snapped a picture of in December 2021.

“A picture of what? A box with some papers coming out of it,” Kelly said. “Now, a lot of people thought this must be classified stuff or something like that.”

He went on: “There’s not one classified thing in there. It’s just a bunch of newspapers and pictures and stuff. Stuff!”

In fact, even as Kelly was uttering these words, smack-dab in the center of the screen was a document with a thick, black line on it. It was a line that doesn’t appear on the actual document itself, according to Trump’s indictment, because it was added to redact “visible classified information.” One of the 37 charges against Trump regards this document specifically, which the government says relates to the “military capabilities of a foreign country.”

As the country reckons with an unprecedented federal indictment of a former president, one of the most significant hurdles to a public resolution is arriving at a shared set of basic facts and priorities. And that’s particularly a challenge with the American right.

Multiple polls focused on the Trump classified documents case suggest that many, if not most, Republicans don’t particularly appreciate the potential gravity of the situation or its details. And it can’t simply be explained by mere partisanship.

One of the inescapable facts of the situation is that Trump got himself in trouble not because he took the documents in the first place, but because he declined to return them. The indictment only charges conduct after the government subpoenaed Trump’s documents in May 2022. After that subpoena, Trump only returned some of his remaining classified documents before the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago turned up more. The Washington Post recapped how Trump’s fateful decision not to return the documents resulted from rejecting his lawyers’ advice.

But despite it being readily apparent that Trump didn’t do what the government asked, a new YouGov poll shows Republicans, by and large, maintain that he did. It shows 53 percent say Trump “cooperated in returning documents,” with just 15 percent saying he didn’t.

Perhaps as stunningly, YouGov back in January asked the same question about President Biden and former vice president Mike Pence, both of whom had a smaller number of classified documents. Despite there being no evidence either of them declined to turn over the documents, significantly more Republicans said Biden didn’t cooperate (38 percent) than said the same of Trump (17 percent). Just 22 percent of Republicans said Biden had cooperated.

And in case you think this just boils down to partisanship, it doesn’t. In contrast to Republicans’ views of Biden’s supposed lack of cooperation, Democrats recognized Pence’s cooperation by a 50-12 margin.

Related to the above are views of intentionality. There is no public evidence that Biden knew he had classified documents and held on to them, and plenty that Trump did. That evidence long predates last week’s indictment. But a February Quinnipiac poll showed just 48 percent of Republicans believed Trump intentionally held on to the documents, compared to 71 percent who said the same of Biden.

We see similar findings when it comes to the gravity of the situation.

One of the most serious allegations in the indictment is that Trump had information that pertained to nuclear secrets. It’s perhaps the definition of the kind of information you would want to protect. But after the indictment, YouGov asked people whether it would be a “national security risk” for Trump to have such documents in his home. And remarkably, Republicans said it would not be, 54-46.

Similarly, a Monmouth University poll in January found just 14 percent of Republicans said they would be “very concerned” if the documents Trump had “fell into the wrong hands.” But 62 percent said the same of Biden’s documents. This despite Biden’s documents being significantly less voluminous and including far fewer “top secret” documents.

(And again, in the most analogous case to Biden’s, the Pence case, Democrats didn’t return the partisan favor. Just 20 percent of them would be “very concerned” if Pence’s documents fell into the wrong hands.)

That certainly points back to the information gap here. Regardless of Trump’s guilt, the known facts make it clear there’s simply no real comparison between his and Biden’s documents cases. But Trump has inoculated himself over the years by drawing his supporters — with the help of a compliant and siloed conservative media ecosystem — into waving away virtually anything bad as the latest lie from the “deep state” and the “lamestream media.”

So even months after the Mar-a-Lago search turned up the latest of more than 300 classified and even “top secret” documents that had been in Trump’s possession, a poll showed 66 percent of Republicans believed Trump hadn’t possessed such documents.

It’s almost as if certain people are looking directly at classified documents and pretending they’re not there.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

Comments are closed.