In the last month almost all the headlines have focused on former President Trump’s mishandling and concealing classified documents belonging to the government. Until very recently, it seemed like an open and shut case. Trump knowingly took the documents that belonged to the government. When he was asked to return them, he claimed he had. But a court-ordered search of Mar-a-Lago revealed that he still had many such documents in his possession in violation of federal law.
To no one’s surprise, Trump devised a scheme to delay the DOJ’s prosecution of this case. He got one of his hand-picked judges, U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon, to order that a special master examinethe seized documents, telling prosecutors they cannot use the material until it is reviewed. While legal experts believe the judge had no legal support for her ruling and the Justice Department immediately appealed Cannon’s decision, it is an open question as to the extent Trump’s maneuver will hamper the wheels of justice.
Though many are dismayed by his latest ploy, Trump is still in a heap of trouble. Former high ranking Justice Department lawyer Peter Keisler noted, “If the department concludes that the former president or others in his circle intentionally sought to deceive the government in order to obstruct its investigation, that would significantly elevate the seriousness of this already very serious matter.”
From what we now know, it sure looks like Trump intentionally sought to deceive the government and obstruct justice. Nevertheless, his duplicity could unfortunately delay prosecuting him in this matter for some time.
Regardless, Trump is sinking deeper into troubled waters and his legal jeopardy will not go away. In fact, the DOJ’s continuing investigation into the January 6 insurrection and the conspiracy to have alternative electors overturn the 2020 election in a number of states will likely now receive greater scrutiny due to the delay in the concealment of government documents probe.
Former Trump White House lawyer Ty Cobb (not the baseball hall of famer) contends that the chances of Trump being indicted by the Department of Justice are “very high.” He recently explained that Trump’s “interfering with Pence…trying to persuade him in a very aggressive effort not to certify the election, and to send certain electors back, I think that was criminal.” He believes Trump’s most serious legal problems are due to the obstructive activity he took in connection with the Jan. 6 proceeding…and the attempts to interfere in the election count in Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania and perhaps Michigan.”
Still, there will be no resolution of any of this until after November’s election. Neither the DOJ nor the states’ prosecutors will want any hint that their actions are politically motivated. Yet Trump’s obsession with being in the limelight will clearly color this year’s elections as well as those in 2024. Sink or swim, Trump just can’t help himself.
Bruce Berlin, J.D.
A retired, public sector ethics attorney, Berlin is the author of Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America (See breakingbigmoneysgrip.com.), the founder of New Mexicans for Money Out of Politics, a former U.S. Institute of Peace fellow, and the founder and former executive director of The Trinity Forum for International Security and Conflict Resolution. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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