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Former President Donald Trump Spends Midterm Election Night At Mar-a-Lago

Source: Joe Raedle / Getty

If history is any indication, former President Donald Trump has a fairly good chance of being locked up if he is found guilty of the felony charges stemming from his latest criminal indictment.

It’s been confirmed that a grand jury indicted Trump on at least seven charges alleging he mishandled classified documents following his departure from the White House. But that’s putting it mildly, especially since it’s the first time in history a former president has ever been federally indicted.

Trump indicted again

The indictment reportedly accuses Trump, the current front-running Republican presidential candidate, of seven crimes. While all of the charges were not immediately clear, some of them include “willfully retaining national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, conspiracy to obstruct justice, and making false statements,” according to the New York Times, citing confidential sources.

The indictment was handed down Thursday night in Florida, and Trump said he was expected to surrender in Miami on Tuesday to formally face the charges.

The indictment came more months after Trump, apparently in violation of the Presidential Records Act, initially refused repeated requests to turn over classified documents he took with him from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where the FBI was compelled to raid in order to finally recover the government property.

A special counsel was subsequently appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, culminating in Thursday night’s indictment.

There is a legal precedent for mishandling classified documents

Two notable cases, in particular, show how past prosecutions for similar cases resulted in defendants being sentenced to prison time.

Just last week, an Air Force intelligence officer was sentenced to prison for willfully retaining top-secret national defense information. In that case, which was also in Florida, Robert L. Birchum was sentenced to three years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $25,000 fine for crimes that nearly mirror Trump’s allegations.

According to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Birchum “knowingly removed more than 300 classified files or documents, including more than 30 items marked Top Secret, from authorized locations” and kept them “in his home, his overseas officer’s quarters, and a storage pod in his driveway.”

In Trump’s case, the FBI recovered 15 boxes of classified information from his residence at the Mar-a-Lago resort he calls home. Fourteen of those boxes contained classified documents, including his infamous written correspondence — described as “love” letters that Trump stole — with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. It’s not clear what other classified information was contained in the boxes.

Separately, last year, a former Department of Defense employee was also sent to prison for removing and keeping classified information from a U.S. embassy in the Philippines. After being fired for her offenses, federal investigators raided Asia Janay Lavarello’s home in Hawaii and found “handwritten notes” that “contained facts and information classified at the CONFIDENTIAL and SECRET levels,” the DOJ said in a press release.

More from the DOJ:

Investigators determined that Lavarello did not send the classified notebook via secure diplomatic pouch from the U.S. Embassy Manila to Hawaii, as required. Instead, she personally transported the documents to Hawaii, unsecured, and kept the classified notebook at an unsecure location until at least April 13, 2020. Subsequently, Lavarello made false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service in response to questioning about her handling of the classified material.

Lavarello was sentenced to just three months, but the message from the U.S. government is clear and consistent: If someone, anyone, knowingly and illegally removes and stores classified documents, they will be held accountable and likely get locked up for their crimes.

Not Trump’s first indictment rodeo

It was barely two months ago when a New York City grand jury indicted Trump on more than two dozen felony counts centered on alleged hush money he’s accused of paying to adult film actress Stormy Daniels to prevent her from speaking publicly about their relationship during his 2016 presidential campaign.

In that case, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felonies.

And it is widely anticipated that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will prosecute Trump for his repeated attempts to overturn and invalidate the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. A grand jury in March recommended criminal charges against Trump over possible perjury. The grand jury found that at least one witness lied under oath. However, it was neither immediately apparent who was accused of committing perjury nor what the lie was.

Before that revelation, Willis suggested that a decision on whether to seek indictments was “imminent.”

Aside from indictments, last year in New York, the state’s attorney general, Letitia James, sued Trump, his children and his company for $250 million in a suit alleging “intentional and deliberate fraud” as “part of his efforts to generate profits for himself, his family and his company” for 10 years from 2011 to 2021.

James claims that as a result, Trump violated multiple state and federal laws. She said she would refer evidence of bank fraud to the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service, something that seemingly increases the likelihood of criminal charges.

Trump’s presidential campaign

Thursday’s indictment against Trump creates an unrivaled scenario in which the Republican presidential candidate will be prosecuted by a DOJ that is led by a person appointed by President Joe Biden, the very person Trump hopes to beat in the 2024 election.

Those unique circumstances have already prompted unfounded accusations from Trump loyalists and other conservatives that Biden initiated the criminal probes to discredit his political rival. What those Trump supporters are not acknowledging in those accusations is not just how Trump admitted to taking and keeping classified documents but also how a secret, independent grand jury of U.S. citizens was empaneled without Biden and returned an indictment of their own volition.

This is America.


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