Trump faces prison over classified files, obstructing investigation

Former US President Donald Trump faces criminal charges for the second time in recent months, this time concerning his handling of classified files after leaving the White House. Thousands of documents, including around 100 marked as classified, were seized in an FBI search at his Florida estate Mar-a-Lago last year. Legal experts suggest that Trump, who plans to run for president again in 2024, could face prison if convicted of mishandling the documents or obstructing the investigation into whether he did. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing and expressed disbelief that such a situation could occur to a former US president.

Trump stated on his social media platform Truth Social that he has been asked to appear at a federal courthouse in Miami on June 13. The US Secret Service was scheduled to meet with the former president’s staff and the Secret Service officers assigned to him to plan his travel to court in Florida and his arraignment appearance. The US Secret Service agents will perform threat assessments of the federal courthouse in Miami and its surroundings and work with court officers to form a security plan.

When Trump left office in January 2021, he was supposed to hand over all presidential records, which are considered federal property. It is illegal for officials, including former presidents, to remove or keep classified documents at an unauthorised, insecure location. However, months after Trump left the White House, the US National Archives discovered that some records were missing. These included some of Trump’s correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un and a letter that former president Barack Obama left for Trump when he left office.

Court documents show that Trump is facing 37 criminal counts of unauthorised possession of classified material, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to law enforcement. The charges include 31 counts of wilful retention of national defence information under the Espionage Act. The indictment notes that these charges carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years. Four other counts, related to conspiracy and withholding or concealing documents, each carry maximum sentences of 20 years. The last two counts – scheme to conceal and false statements and representations – carry sentences of five years each.

Trump announced his impending indictment on social media on Thursday night. The justice department has yet to comment. In a series of Truth Social posts and a video, Trump repeatedly said he was innocent and characterised the indictment as “political warfare” against him before the 2024 election. He has used various arguments to defend his handling of the documents, including that he declassified the documents before they were discovered. While presidents have previously declassified documents directly, there is no evidence that Trump did so or followed any existing procedure.

It is unclear what impact the new charges might have on Trump’s popularity with his supporters. His arrest in New York had negligible impact on his popularity, and he remained the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination for the 2024 general election. From a legal standpoint, experts believe that the indictment – or even a possible conviction – does not present an impediment to his bid to become president again. Under US law, nothing prevents an individual from running for office if they are facing criminal charges.

World News

Chris Hollingsworth

Chris studied journalism in the US and worked there for a few years before moving to Thailand in 2021, just as he thought Covid was coming to an end - sadly more lockdowns ensued as he came out of his 14 days of isolation! He now combines his passion for writing and journalism to cover US and global news for The Thaiger.

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