“There is a myriad of federal crimes”: Experts predict Trump criminal charges will “keep coming”

Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 charges related to the falsification of business records in Manhattan — but legal experts say his legal woes are just getting started.

Investigators found evidence of potential obstruction by former president Donald Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents investigation, potentially making it a far more dangerous threat to his freedom than the indictment he faces in New York.

Justice Department and FBI investigators obtained emails and texts from a former Trump White House aide, whose messages provided “a detailed understanding of the day-to-day activity at Mar-a-Lago at critical moments,” according to The Washington Post

Investigators are examining what happened after Trump’s advisers received a subpoena in May demanding the return of all classified documents and whether Trump may have obstructed government efforts to collect and return all sensitive materials that he took home to Mar-a-Lago.

“There’s a potential for a number of federal offenses here from [the] dissemination of classified information to obstruction of justice, to potential false statements as well,” William “Widge” Devaney, former assistant U.S. attorney in the District of New Jersey, told Salon.

Federal investigators gathered new evidence Trump rummaged through documents in some of the boxes after receiving the subpoena, “apparently out of a desire to keep certain things in his possession”, people familiar with the investigation told The Post.

While looking through the boxes wouldn’t count as obstruction of justice, Trump’s efforts to hide or conceal materials that were subpoenaed by the grand jury and refusing to turn them over would, Devaney said. 

He added that the former president could also face potential prosecution for instructing his lawyers to make false statements, like misrepresenting that all the documents had been turned over. 

While Trump’s team handed over some documents, the FBI later discovered more than 100 additional classified items during an August search of Mar-a-Lago.

“I think the significance of his review of the evidence after receiving the subpoena is his knowledge that his response to DOJ was false when he said he had nothing more than what he was returning,” said former U.S. Attorney Barb McQuade, a law professor at the University of Michigan. “This is important evidence of a corrupt intent to obstruct justice by lying to DOJ.”

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Multiple advisers warned Trump that trying to keep the documents could get him into legal trouble, but even still, investigators suspect that boxes including classified material were moved from a Mar-a-Lago storage area after the subpoena was served based on witness statements, security footage and documentary evidence, the sources said.

“In any obstruction case, the issue likely boils down to the specific conduct and the person’s intent,” said John Kaley, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York. “There must be criminal intent.”

Prosecutors tend to rely on circumstantial or surrounding evidence to establish intent, Devaney pointed out. Evidence that reveals Trump intentionally held on to documents, like pulling material out of boxes would count as obstruction.

“We know that those materials then were not produced in response to the grand jury subpoena,” Devaney said. “Trump through his lawyers said we have searched and we’ve produced everything. Trump led them to say that, knowing that he had held documents back.”

Another significant development in the case is Trump’s lawyer Evan Corcoran being forced to testify before the grand jury under the crime-fraud exception, Devaney added. Corcoran drafted a document falsely stating that Trump had returned all classified documents before the FBI search.

“Before a lawyer can be forced to give up his client’s attorney-client privilege, a court needs to find that there is a likelihood that a crime was committed and that lawyer was used, either wittingly or unwittingly in furtherance of that crime,” Devaney said. “So that’s actually pretty significant from Trump’s standpoint not only because of what that lawyer might say, but it’s significant that there has been a judicial finding that yes, there’s been a crime. I think we can safely assume that the crime they’re talking about is obstruction.”

Trump could also face potential prosecution if he shared classified information with others. Investigators have asked witnesses if he showed maps to political donors, people familiar with those conversations told The Post.

“If Trump is showing classified information to people who aren’t entitled to see it, then there is a myriad of federal crimes, involving dissemination of classified information and that’s a federal offense,” Devaney said.

As prosecutors move forward with the legal process, one of the hurdles they may encounter could be dealing with “the world of public opinion,” he added, referring to a separate Justice Department probe into a smaller number of classified documents ending up in an insecure office of President Biden’s, as well as his Delaware home. 

“I think it could be hard for the public to sort out ‘why is Trump getting prosecuted for this when it’s not a big deal when other presidents have done it,'” Devaney said

However, there’s a “cavernous” difference between the two examples, one of which “equates to criminal activity,” he noted. Unlike Trump, Biden notified authorities and immediately authorized searches, which was “indicative of a mistake”.

Trump, who is the leading contender seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, faces four separate criminal probes.

Trump has been indicted by a New York grand jury related to hush money payments made to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 election. He is also being investigated by the DOJ and a state prosecutor in Georgia over efforts to block Biden’s victory in the 2020 election, which could indict Trump on a whole different slate of charges including “conspiring to end the lawful transfer of presidential power”, according to MSNBC.

“If the criminal charges keep coming, I think eventually the weight of those charges will really damage him,” Devaney said. “I can only imagine, and I think we’ve seen in some polling, that he’s being damaged among independent voters already. So while this might not hurt him, perhaps even help him in the primaries, I can only think that this is going to ultimately hurt him in terms of the general election.”

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