Connect with us


Trump faces biggest challenge yet to ‘Teflon Don’ persona



Former President Trump – long deemed Teflon Don for his ability to dodge legal matters – is facing a series of serious criminal charges brought by the Justice Department, which unsealed a 37-count indictment on Friday related to his handling of classified documents.

The indictment is Trump’s second this year, but it’s his first time facing federal charges, itself a history-making status for a former president.

The classified records case brings weighty charges that, should Trump be convicted, could carry jail time for the 76-year-old presidential candidate.

The inclusion of Espionage Act charges alone is remarkable, putting Trump in the company of those accused of mishandling or even leaking state secrets. 

He’s also facing six other charges, including for obstruction of justice and concealing records.


The indictment is a sign the Justice Department plans an aggressive trial of the former president after the government spent nearly two years seeking the return of the records. 

“He took extremely dangerous national defense information to which he had no right and refused to return it. And when he was busted, he lied and covered up and obstructed in order to hide that. So illegal removal and an illegal cover up is a very simple one-two punch,” Norm Eisen, the counsel for Democrats in Trump’s first impeachment, told The Hill.  

“No one case is by itself is sufficient to end Trump’s lawlessness,” Eisen said, listing off three additional prosecutors currently probing Trump’s behavior, adding, “although no one case can do it, this may be the most precarious of the four horsemen of the legal apocalypse that he’s facing.”

Special Counsel Jack Smith, in his first public appearance since being tapped to lead the investigation, asked the public to review the filing in full “to understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged.”

The case is the second major Espionage Act prosecution filed by DOJ this year after a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman was accused of posting classified intelligence to a website popular with gamers. 

The 31 counts on the Espionage Act charge alone show prosecutors decided to pursue a case based on some of the most highly classified records found among the trove of more than 300 classified records, detailing in a breakdown the classification status of each while categorizing the topic. The majority dealt with intel collected on other foreign powers or reviewed U.S. military capabilities – information of high value to U.S. adversaries. 

The indictment explains the documents were kept in various parts of Trump’s Florida home – shuffled around the residence between numerous unsecured locations, though it was a photo of boxes stacked high in a Mar-a-Lago bathroom that captured the most attention. 


Brian Greer, a former attorney with the CIA, said the sheer number of Espionage Act counts “shows that DOJ will be pursuing a very aggressive strategy in this case.”

At the same time, he said the prosecution is in line with how the department has handled other instances of employees leaving with classified information. 

“If the Justice Department didn’t indict Trump, it would have no leg to stand on the next time a federal employee recklessly retained classified material and then attempted to cover that up,” he told The Hill. 

“Unless one thinks former presidents are above the law, DOJ had no choice but to bring charges.”

The indictment also spells out other key evidence for securing a conviction on Espionage Act charges, one of the few laws on the book that requires prosecutors prove a defendant had knowledge their conduct was criminal.

The filing lists two instances in which Trump appeared to show or describe documents to those without a clearance, including a transcript of a conversation first reported by CNN where Trump explains how he did not declassify a document relating to military action in Iran and therefore should not share them.

Trump described the information as “highly confidential” and when noting he can’t share then a staffer responds after laughing, “Now we have a problem.”


Beyond demonstrating Trump’s knowledge of the declassification, the discussion undercuts his claim he declassified the records in his possession. Regardless, the Espionage Act focuses on whether information in key to the national defense rather than whether it is classified.

Greer noted that historically defendants have faced steep penalties under the law, with many receiving sentences closer to the 10-year maximum.

Eisen put it another way.

“People go to jail for a long time for this kind of conduct,” he said. 

The indictment answered another question lingering since the FBI secured a warrant to search Trump’s home expecting to find evidence of obstruction of justice: Would prosecutors be able to directly tie Trump to that crime?

The filing breaks down numerous instances in which Trump directed either his staff or his attorneys to take efforts to hide or withhold the documents, relying heavily on notes from one of Trump’s former attorneys in the probe as well as text messages.

Evan Corcoran, who is no longer representing Trump in the matter, was compelled to testify before the grand jury in the case and turn over his notes after a judge determined Trump may have misled his attorney. A judge can pierce attorney-client privilege if they determine legal advice was used in furtherance of a crime. 


Trump suggested his attorney claim to authorities that he did not have any records that were responsive to a May 2022 subpoena demanding the return of all records with classified markings. 

In another instance he suggested his attorney “hide or destroy” the records in question.

When Corcoran did seek to comply with the subpoena, Trump gestured for him to “pluck” out anything bad from the pile.

The indictment also used surveillance photos and texts to piece together a timeline showing aide Walt Nauta, also indicted alongside Trump, moving boxes ahead of Corcoran’s trip to Florida to assemble them. Nauta moved 64 boxes from the storage room Corcoran planned to search.

Trump will appear in court in Miami at 3 p.m. Tuesday to be arraigned on the charges, though next steps in the case will be left to a newly formed legal team. Trump’s attorneys on the matter resigned Friday morning – a departure that did not appear to be previously in the works given attorney Jim Trusty’s early morning defense of the former president on NBC.

He also remains under investigation on other matters, including for his actions related to the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the Capitol, both by Smith and a Georgia-based prosecutor.

Republicans have largely defended Trump, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) who said the Mar-a-Lago prosecution would “disrupt this nation because it goes to the core of equal justice for all, which is not being seen today.” 


But a few GOP senators did not offer support for Trump.

“No one is above the law but every American is innocent until proven guilty. Still, the charges in this case are quite serious and cannot be casually dismissed,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who voted for Trump’s conviction in his second impeachment, said in a statement.

“Anyone found guilty – whether an analyst, a former president, or another elected or appointed official – should face the same set of consequences.”

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Source: The Hill


Follow us on Google News to get the latest Updates