More bad news for Donald Trump in document probe: Special Counsel Jack Smith reportedly has new evidence contradicting one of former President Donald Trump’s main arguments about the documents he took to Mar-a-Lago.
Former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, in which he may have not only taken documents with him to Florida after he left office but obstructed efforts to get them back, represents one of the main areas in which Trump is facing legal jeopardy.
Now, a new report says there’s new evidence in the case of the document.
According to CNN, the National Archives has informed Trump in a new letter that it is set to hand over to Special Counsel Smith 16 records that “show Trump and his top advisers had knowledge of the correct declassification process while he was president.”
The records will be handed over on May 24, unless a court blocks the handover.
“The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records,” acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall wrote to the former president, in a letter obtained by CNN.
The records were subpoenaed earlier this year by Smith’s office. They may be significant if they can show that Donald Trump knew he was disregarding protocols that were in place.
Trump had claimed “constitutionally based privilege” to block the release of the records, but the letter said that the National Archives is “prepared to demonstrate with specificity to a court, why it is likely that the 16 records contain evidence that would be important to the grand jury’s investigation.”
Trump has also, in the past, referred to at least some of the items as “a cool keepsake.” “By the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them,” Trump said earlier this month when he appeared at the CNN town hall.
According to a separate CNN analysis, the revelations “deepen a sense that a grave political moment is approaching.” The revelations could show that Trump had “criminal intent” in regard to the case of the document.
“Possible evidence that Trump knew that his claims that he could simply declassify material on a whim were false highlight his characteristic belief that laws and codes of presidential behavior do not apply to him,” analyst Stephen Collins said in the article. “This is a factor that made his White House term a daily test of America’s democracy and legal system and may become even more acute if he wins the 2024 election.”
Attorney Ty Cobb, who represented Trump for a time during the Mueller investigation, said on CNN this week that “I think that this case is ready to go.”
Trump has already been indicted once, in New York, for falsifying business records in connection with the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. He also faces Special Counsel investigations into both the documents and his role in attempts to overturn the election, plus the state case in Georgia about his actions in trying to overturn the election results in that state.
That’s on top of the recent civil verdict in New York which found that Trump abused and defamed journalist E. Jean Carroll, as well as the civil suit filed by the state Attorney General of New York.
How will this affect Trump, as he seeks the presidency again? The CNN analysis weighed in on that question.
“It may be contrary to the national interest to ignore huge affronts to the rule of law by a previously sitting president – including alleged mishandling of classified information – since questions fundamental to American democracy are in play,” Collins wrote. “But a prosecution could again create a political inferno that could further damage confidence among millions of Americans about the country’s legal and election systems.”
Other top politicians, including President Biden and former Vice President Pence, have also been found to have classified documents in their possession, although neither appears to have committed any form of obstruction in handing them back.