Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) joins host Brianna Keilar on CNN on Sunday, August 14, 2022.Courtesy CNN

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After a week of devastating news about former President Donald Trump, Republicans who braved the Sunday morning talk shows had a hard time defending the man who remains the leader of their party. Turns out it takes a little imagination to excuse taking top secret classified information and refusing to return them in accordance with the law, as Trump did.

Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, tried to downplay Trump’s actions by questioning whether boxes seized from Trump’s home labeled top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information really contained information at the highest secret classification. “These are labeled that,” Turner acknowledged on CNN’s State of the Union, but “we don’t know whether these are classified and rise to that level.” But when host Brianna Keilar asked Turner if he would take home documents marked as such, he had a one word answer: “No.”

Trump has deftly turned Monday’s raid on his home, the Palm Beach club Mar-a-Lago, into a story of political persecution, and is raising money off of his tale of political retribution. His fans accept this narrative, one going so far as to storm the FBI office in Cincinnati, resulting in his death in a shootout, while threats against the FBI around the country are soaring. But when pressed on TV, the events of the last week have stack up against the former president: an FBI raid that turned up boxes of classified material, the revelation that some of the documents may contain information on nuclear weapons, and the news that Trump is being investigated under more than one federal statute, including the Espionage Act. 

Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) defended Trump on Sunday by suggesting that the issue was whether Trump had declassified everything found at his home before he took it. “It appears that a president can classify or perhaps declassify information,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press, though he believed that question would be litigated going forward. The classification issue, however, is not the center of Trump’s possible innocent or culpability. He is under investigation under statutes that do not require taking classified information in order to be violated. 

Despite the awkward defenses mounted by his allies, the seriousness of Trump’s legal situation seems to have gotten through to some Republicans. When asked whether he would support Trump if he runs for president in 2024, Rounds demurred. “I’ll keep my powder dry with regards to [that] question,” he said.

On Sunday morning, Trump made a request that may be even harder for his allies to defend. In a post on his social media site, Truth Social, the former president said some of the seized documents were taken improperly and requested that “these documents be immediately returned.”

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