Legal experts weighed in Friday on the unsealed indictment of former President Donald Trump, some called it “damning,” while others said the indictment was “political.”
The 49-page indictment revealed the former president was charged with 31 counts of alleged violation of the Espionage Act, or “the willful retention of national defense information,” along with one count each of “conspiracy to obstruct Justice,” “withholding a document or record,” “corruptly concealing a document or record,” “concealing a document in a federal investigation,” “a scheme to conceal” and “false statements and representations.” Legal experts weighed in on various aspects of the indictment after it was released Friday, with George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley saying it is “extremely damning” on Fox News, arguing the biggest issues were the obstruction and false statement charge.
“The special counsel knew that there would be a lot of people who were going to allege that the Department of Justice was acting in a biased or a politically motivated way,” Turley said. “This is clearly an indictment that was drafted to answer those questions. It’s overwhelming in details.”
Mike Davis, founder and president of the Article III Project, disagrees: he told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the document “confirms Garland’s indictment of Trump is political,” noting that “the Presidential Records Act, not Espionage Act, controls a former president’s handling of his presidential records.”
“Today’s indictment, the day after we learned the FBI covered up evidence since 2017 then-Vice President Biden and his family took at least $10 million in foreign bribes and changed U.S. policy, confirms Garland’s indictment of Trump is political,” he said.
“Generally, per a binding 2019 Justice Department legal opinion, it’s legally impossible to obstruct an investigation into a non-crime,” he continued. “The theory the President of the United States can declassify information and still get charged for espionage–under a ‘national defense information’ theory—will not survive Supreme Court review.”
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton tweeted that the document “dishonestly ignores the U.S. Constitution, the Presidential Records Act, legal precedent, and the DOJ’s/Archives’ previous position that WH records a president takes with him when he leaves the White House are presumptively personal and not subject to review by partisan Biden appointees at DOJ or Archives.”
“Under the Constitution, federal law and precedent, none of the documents are currently ‘classified’ or ‘national defense information’ that restricts Trump’s handling of them,” he said. “They are ALL his personal records and, frankly, should be returned to him. If justice prevails, this indictment won’t survive scrutiny by honest, constitutionalist judges and will be thrown out.”
Ted Frank, director of litigation and senior attorney at the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute, noted on Twitter that “the decision to bring the indictment in S.D. Fla. instead of trying to forum-shop this to D.D.C. where it would be difficult for a Republican to get a fair jury trial independently suggests a great deal of confidence in the strength of the case.”
“[W]hy have a venue fight if you can win anywhere?” he asked. “I’d be more open to the idea that this was a political hit job if it were in D.D.C., or if Trump had actually used the last two years to follow the law and cooperate with DOJ like the cases of other politicians and inadvertent retention and they still charged him.”
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