As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Donald Trump is expected to surrender to the Manhattan district attorney’s office on Tuesday, to be arraigned on charges related to paying porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 in a 2016 hush money deal on the eve of the election. Given the timing of the case, it’s probably at the front of Trump’s mind re: his legal problems. However, it’s far from the only matter that could ultimately result in him being convicted of a crime and sentenced to prison. For instance, there’s the Justice Department’s investigation into his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House—which appears to have taken a new and not great turn for the former guy, unless he’s trying to set a record for most indictments by an ex-president (a title he in fact clinched last week).
The Washington Post reports that DOJ and FBI investigators have “amassed fresh evidence pointing to possible obstruction by former president Donald Trump in the investigation into top secret documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home,” which special counsel Jack Smith is said to be examining to try and determine if he can ask a grand jury to charge the former president (and current presidential candidate).
What kind of dirt has the government uncovered? According to the Post, investigators have “gathered new and significant evidence that after the subpoena was delivered, Trump looked through the contents of some of the boxes of documents in his home, apparently out of a desire to keep certain things in his possession.” (That evidence has reportedly come from witness statements and security footage, among other things.) In addition, people working on the probe are said to have found evidence suggesting that Trump told people to mislead government officials in early 2022, during the period in which the National Archives was working with the DOJ in an attempt to recover documents Trump had taken with him when he left the White House. Oh, and prosecutors have also reportedly learned that Trump “ignored requests from multiple advisers to return the documents to the archives…that he asked advisers and lawyers to release false statements claiming he had returned all documents, and that he grew angry after being subpoenaed for the documents.”
But wait, there’s more!
All of which is to say, it appears that there is a good chance that Trump not only took documents from the White House that weren’t his to take, but also committed a crime in his attempt to keep them out of the government’s hands. Which the ghost of Richard Nixon could tell you is never something you want to do.
Of course, most people had an inkling that Trump might have obstructed justice when the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago last August, which it presumably would not have had to do if the ex-president had turned over the documents the government had requested from him on numerous occasions. As the Post notes, when seeking judicial authorization for the raid last year, the FBI said it believed that “evidence of obstruction will be found at the premises.” In October, the Post reported that Walt Nauta, Trump’s valet, had told investigators that he moved boxes at Trump‘s request after the subpoena was issued, and, unluckily for the former president, Smith apparently has “video surveillance footage corroborating that account….and considers the evidence significant.” Speaking of current and former people in Trump’s employ, investigators have reportedly obtained the text messages and emails of Molly Michael, who worked in the Trump administration and later in Florida until leaving her job last year. Those digital communications are said to have given the government “a detailed understanding of the day-to-day activity at Mar-a-Lago at critical moments.” Like, say, what the former guy was doing in between receiving the subpoena and the August raid.
Earlier this year, a judge ordered Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to appear before the grand jury investigating the documents case, which Corcoran had previously tried to dodge. As The New York Times reported in October, it was Corcoran who asked lawyer Christina Bobb, after Trump received the subpoena for the documents, to “sign a statement” saying that “the Trump legal team had conducted a ‘diligent search’ of Mar-a-Lago and found only a few files that had not been returned to the government.” That statement, of course, turned out not to be true.
In a statement, Trump spokesman Steven Cheung told the Post: “The witch hunts against President Trump have no basis in facts or law. The deranged special counsel and the DOJ have now resorted to prosecutorial misconduct by illegally leaking information to corrupt the legal process and weaponize the justice system in order to manipulate public opinion and conduct election interference, because they are clearly losing all across the board.” He then apparently referenced Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents and Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. “President Trump is the only leader fighting for the Constitution and to protect the American people from being abused by those who want to destroy our system of government,” he added.
Anyway, all in all, not great news on the legal front for the former president!