Politics

Trump Loses Mar-a-Lago Appeal on Grounds of Precedent Called Cobbledick v. United States

Among others. But LOL.

A page from the Supreme Court's decision in Cobbledick.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by Library of Congress.

On Wednesday, a three-person Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals panel ruled unanimously that the Department of Justice can continue investigating Donald Trump for having potentially violated the law by keeping presidential records, including classified documents, at his Mar-a-Lago residence and club in Florida. (One of the locations in which he allegedly stored such material was a closet near the Mar-a-Lago pool.)

Trump had moved to halt the investigation by arguing that an independent “special master” was needed to determine if any of the materials at issue are protected by “executive privilege”—the president’s right to keep certain records of internal deliberations private—and therefore lawfully his. A Florida district judge who Trump had himself appointed ruled in his favor, halting the DOJ’s work.

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The government then brought the case to the appeals court, arguing that it should at least be able to continue working with the classified materials that were recovered from Mar-a-Lago.

On Thursday, the appeals panel took the government’s side, unfreezing the investigation into the classified material. In doing so, it rejected a number of arguments that Trump’s legal team had made, and in the process cited one particular Supreme Court decision that the folks at home got a kick out of:

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That would be Lloyd Cobbledick—or at least his Bay Area-based glass company. And from what I could piece together with the help of Slate’s legal team and a Twitter account run by an individual pretending to be a bear that can talk and play hockey, here’s the story:

• Lloyd Cobbledick—who had a son and grandson who were also named Lloyd Cobbledick—founded a glass company in Oakland in 1891. (He also went on to serve on the city council.)

• Successive Lloyd Cobbledicks took over the company. In 1940, now called Cobbledick-Kibbe, it was one of several area glassmakers investigated by the Roosevelt administration for alleged price-fixing.

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• In the course of that larger investigation, attorneys representing the middle Cobbledick wanted to quash a subpoena that was issued to him. That effort was denied, and Cobbledick ultimately went all the way to the Supreme Court to appeal the denial. In 1940, the Court ruled, roughly speaking, that you don’t necessarily have the right to appeal a ruling against you if it’s just one part of a larger proceeding, the outcome of which you will be able to appeal. (This document appears to indicate that the larger case was ultimately settled with agreements to pay a fine.)

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• At some point, Cobbledick-Kibbe went out of business. (This April 2001 article in the trade publication US Glass blames “bean counters” for the firm’s demise, but doesn’t say exactly when it took place.)

• In 2022, Trump’s legal team argued that the “stigma” of potential prosecution, and the damage it could cause to his reputation, was a factor weighing against the government’s right to maintain possession of the material at issue in his case. The appeals court cited Cobbledick (and other cases) in ruling that the stigma associated with merely being investigated did not override the other principles at stake. In essence it said that because Trump will ultimately have other avenues available to him to clear his name—like Lloyd Cobbledick did—this piece of the investigation into him can proceed, even if it makes him look bad.

And that’s what we call Big Cobble Energy! LMAO.

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