Trump in hot water over claims he kept top secret documents in the shower
Donald Trump is expected to face court over claims he violated US national security.
A 37-count indictment against former US President Donald Trump has been unsealed in a federal court in Florida. Trump’s valet, Walt Nauta, has also been indicted on related charges.
The charges against Trump relate to his retention of classified information, particularly that related to national defence, after he left office. The Presidential Records Act required the return of such documents, but it was alleged that Trump repeatedly refused to return them, instead storing them insecurely in various locations at his private clubs.
The indictment further alleges that. Trump then showed the highly sensitive classified information to those without security clearance.
He also allegedly obstructed the FBI by moving boxes of documents to hide them from the FBI and his own lawyers, by submitting a false certification that he had returned all the documents, and even asking his attorneys to lie to the FBI or destroy documents, which the attorneys refused to do.
Trump has vociferously denied all of these allegations.
31 of the counts against Trump relate to charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 - specifically, the offence of ‘willfully retaining’ information relating to American national defence which a person possesses without authorisation.
Each count relates to a single document. It is likely that these particular documents, which are only some of those Trump is alleged to have retained, were chosen because their existence, if not their contents, can be publicly revealed and examined in court without jeopardising national security concerns. This is not too dissimilar to decisions made about the evidence presented in Ben Roberts-Smith’s case.
Each of these counts carries a maximum sentence of 10 years’ imprisonment. However, because they are overlap, involving the same criminal conduct, the US federal sentencing guidelines would group them together.
Trump was also charged with conspiring to obstruct justice, for the alleged concealment and false statements and certification mentioned above. This carries a maximum sentence of 20 years.
For allegedly moving boxes to hide them from his attorneys making an inventory of documents, Trump and his valet were also charged with withholding a record used in an official proceeding, which likewise carries a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment.
For then allegedly concealing the same document and leading to a false certification being given to the FBI, both were charged with two further offences, also with a 20 year maximum sentence. They are also further charged with scheming to conceal material from the federal grand jury, which carries a 5 year maximum.
Finally, the two have been charged with making false statements Trump allegedly
caused false information to be in the certification, while Nauta allegedly denied he knew of any boxes in a voluntary interview with the FBI. This also carries 5 years’ imprisonment.
The case will now proceed through preliminary stages, with Trump to surrender to authorities to be arraigned, or formally informed of the charges, on June 13. As Trump has indicated he will fight the charges, there will eventually be a jury trial, which, depending on timing, may overlap with the 2024 election.
There is no constitutional rule against convicted criminals running for the president; a century ago, Socialist candidate Eugene V Debs ran for president from prison in 1920 and garnered nearly a million votes.
The national security elements of the case, which will likely lead to disputes over what evidence about the nature and contents of the documents can be safely put to the jury, may be a cause for delay.
Trump is also facing charges relating to falsifying business records in New York, which he denies, and is facing investigations into alleged election interference in Georgia, where he may be charged later this summer.
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