Criminal law

Trump’s indictment revealed – a criminal law researcher explains what the charges mean, and what prosecutors will now need to prove


Federal Prosecutors June 9, 2023, reveal the indictment This illustrates the government’s case against former President Donald J. Trump, who is accused of violating national security laws and obstructing justice.

the A document of 49 pages It details how Trump kept classified government documents — including papers relating to US nuclear capabilities — strewn in boxes across his home in the Florida resort of Mar-a-Lago, long after his presidency ended in 2021 and the government has tried to retrieve them.

The indictment also shows that Trump Exchange of confidential national defense information With people without any security clearance, including someone in the political action committee.

There are 38 criminal charges against Trump – 31 of which relate to withholding national defense information. Five counts related to concealing possession of confidential documents, and two related to making false statements.

“My office will seek a speedy trial of this matter, consistent with the public interest and the rights of the defendants,” said US Special Attorney Jack Smith, who has been appointed to oversee the investigation into Trump’s retention of the documents.

The conversation spoke to Criminal legal scholar Gabriel J. Chen at the University of California, Davis School of Law on the most important lessons learned from the exposed indictment–and the new open questions it poses about Trump’s alleged criminal activity.

Why is it significant that the Justice Department disclosed the indictment on June 9, before Trump turned himself in to authorities?

In the federal system, indictments are not automatically sealed, so either the United States Special Counsel did not require them to be sealed or the judge refused to seal them. I suspect it is probably the first. This is not a case in which active elements of the investigation are still ongoing. The case was ready to move forward and there is no difference from the government’s point of view whether the indictment was revealed today or not, because the case is in the box.

What stands out in the indictment?

One thing that really stood out was the extensive personal involvement of Donald Trump himself in this alleged activity. Usually, when a large corporation is sued, the CEO doesn’t drop everything and start reviewing the documents. This is what many other professionals do. The details of Trump’s alleged direct personal involvement in this case were striking.

Secondly, one of the challenges here is that prosecutors are trying to hold Trump responsible for murder An affidavit signed by the attorney Which included incorrect statements that Trump did not have the documents the government had asked him to return. For this case to succeed, the plaintiffs will have to show that Trump himself was involved in this case.

Section 32 of the indictment focuses on conspiracy and charges against Trump and his aide Walt Nauta, as well as “others known and unknown to the grand jury.” The US Attorney reserves the right to say that other people were conspirators, and that will have consequences. Who are these other people? Is the government’s theory that Trump’s lawyers were innocent dupes and he fed them false information, or that they knew participants in this crime? No one else is named, but we are told – by “others known and unknown” – that there are certainly others.

Why did the indictment focus on the movement of boxes containing classified information in Mar-a-Lago?

The main reason is that all counts require some kind of intention. None of these charges apply to anyone who tries to obey the law. The Public Prosecution Office has to prove that what was happening here was an intentional and calculated act.

Another reason goes back to the previous one Secretary of State Hillary Clinton , Former Vice President Mike Pence And President Joe Bidenwho faced their own investigation into possession of classified documents.

As former FBI Director James Comey said in 2016 He wasn’t accusing Clinton To use her personal email for government work, there were considerations that prompted him to do so. People who make honest mistakes and cooperate in good faith are not charged because, first, it is difficult to prove wrongdoing. And there’s a level of fairness if you say you don’t want to make the public service a booby trap, where if you let your guard down for one second, you could end up in jail.

In this indictment, prosecutors take pains to tell the full story and explain why the actions detailed were wrongful. They seem to want to explain why the circumstances in this case justify the charges, and that this is not a “Grab!” The case where someone keeps 200 carefully checked document cases and accidentally overlaps one or two documents.

What is the significance of the numerous criminal charges facing Trump?

Under sentencing guidelines, which are usually followed, a conviction on all counts is likely to result in a relatively short sentence or no imprisonment at all. However, it is important to note that, in theory, Trump could be sentenced to the maximum on each count. The sentence can be carried out on all counts consecutively, which could result in a sentence of up to 400 years. I don’t think that will ever happen, but it underscores the authority of the judge to pass judgment in a case like this.

Gabriel J ChenPresident of the Edward L. Barrett Jr. and Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Law, University of California, Davis

This article is republished from Conversation Under Creative Commons Licence. Read the The original article.


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