The U.S. Justice Department is considering an obstruction charge for the former president as the investigation into documents stored at Mar-a-Lago continues.
There’s no indictment for Donald Trump yet, but a former FBI official says that he sees no reason not to expect it before the end of the year, and describes a conviction on that charge as a “slam dunk.”
On the other hand, others connected to the Department of Justice say that the decision will be a difficult one, because, while the evidence is there, the political connections in the case mean that the evidence will need to be airtight and all in line before there’s any action taken.
The obstruction charge would, if leveled, center around Trump’s failure to return documents when the National Archives requested them, even to the extent of defying subpoenas for the material, and, through his legal representation, claiming that all the items had been returned, before the FBI hauled a dozen boxes out of his Mar-a-Lago storage space.
“Of all the things Trump is being investigated for around the country, obstruction of justice is a slam dunk and I think he’s going to be indicted,” said Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence. “I don’t see why a charge of obstruction of justice couldn’t be filed by the end of the year.”
However, there are other factors that could cause delays, including the process of a special master going through documents for which Trump asserts privilege. That review is due to be completed on December 16th, Forbes reports, potentially pushing any further actions out nearly two months from now.
An analysis (PDF) of the initial search warrant, via Congressional Research Service, describes the alleged crimes cited by the warrant as the espionage act — specifically citing a section of the act that does not require the documents to be classified, only to be relevant to national defense; a law prohibiting “willfully and unlawfully concealing, removing, mutilating, obliterating, or destroying” government documents; and the aforementioned obstruction.
Trump has repeatedly claimed — although never in court or under oath or penalty of perjury — that he declassified the documents, but all three crimes laid out in the warrant would apply equally to declassified material.
At this time, though, Trump has not been formally charged.
Steph Bazzle covers politics and theocracy, always aiming for a world free from extremism and authoritarianism. Follow Steph on Twitter @imjustasteph.