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Trump should have returned documents, but Congress has questions for investigators: Sen. Blunt

082822 Abcnews Royblunt
ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., conceded on Sunday that former President Donald Trump should have returned the sensitive and classified documents that the government says he took home with him after leaving office, which led the FBI to raid Mar-a-Lago earlier this month.

In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” Blunt was repeatedly pressed by anchor George Stephanopoulos before he answered a question about how he felt about what the Department of Justice said Trump did.

Initially responding to Stephanopoulos’ question, Blunt drew comparisons to Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey for their past conduct related to records.

But Stephanopoulos pushed back, noting that it wasn’t the same.

“You’re still not answering the question. You are critical of Secretary Clinton, who actually turned over what she had … what we have here is a situation where the president did not turn over these documents,” Stephanopoulos said. “Can you say whether this was right or wrong?”

“He should have turned the documents over,” said Blunt. “I’ve had access to documents like that for a long time. I’m incredibly careful,” he said.

But he took issue with the timing of the probe.

“What I wonder about is why this could go on for almost two years and less than 100 days before the election [and] suddenly we’re talking about this rather than the economy or inflation or even the student loan program you and I were going to talk about today?” he said.

“Well, it went on because the president didn’t turn over the documents, correct? He was asked several times,” Stephanopoulos said. “He didn’t turn them over. He was subpoenaed, he didn’t respond to the subpoena.”

“I understand he turned over a lot of documents,” Blunt claimed of Trump, seemingly referring to classified papers that were returned to the government in the months before the FBI search, after a protracted back-and-forth.

“He should have turned over all of them,” Blunt said. “I imagine he knows that very well now.”

But the Missouri lawmaker also said that the Senate Intelligence Committee, on which he sits, had questions that needed answers from federal investigators — such as why they weren’t aware of this case.

“Why haven’t we heard anything about this if there was a national security problem?” Blunt said, adding, “The oversight committee should have been told.” He said that the committee expects to soon hear from the director of national intelligence.

Blunt was also asked to react to President Joe Biden’s federal student loan forgiveness plan for borrowers earning less than $125,000 per year in 2020 or 2021. White House officials told reporters last week that they believe “43 million federal student loan borrowers will benefit, and of those, 20 million will have their debt completely canceled.”

“I just thought it was monumentally unfair,” Blunt said. “Unfair to people who didn’t go to college because they didn’t think they could afford it, unfair to people who have paid their loans back.”

“It’s just bad economics, with long-term devastating effects on the student loan program,” he added.

The White House’s loan forgiveness program has faced vocal opposition from Republican lawmakers who argue, in part, that it will exacerbate historically high inflation.

But “most economists said it’s not going to increase inflation,” Stephanopoulos said. An analysis last week by Goldman Sachs reached such a conclusion, finding that the restart of other loan payments would likely offset the money forgiven.

“Most economists are wrong,” Blunt responded. “We’ve got to do everything we can to slow the economy down. You don’t slow the economy down by forgiving debt and giving people another $24 billion to spend that they would have spent paying off the student debt.”

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