The “Aha” Moment: The Trump Indictment Could Prove Revealing for Either Trump or the DOJ

Below is my column in the New York Post on the Trump indictment.

There are legitimate questions about the independence and integrity shown by the Department in past investigations from the Russian collusion allegations to the Hunter Biden scandal. The Justice Department cannot ignore those widespread concerns in these cases.

There is now word that the indictment may be released today. The public is likely to have an “Aha” moment in an indictment that will make either the case against Trump or the Department itself.

Here is the column:

“I am an innocent man!”

The words of former President Donald Trump would ordinarily be a good start for any criminal defendant.

But Trump is no ordinary criminal defendant.

He was speaking to millions of people who have already made up their minds on an indictment that has not been released, let alone read.

Indeed, the specifics of the indictment seem entirely immaterial to most people.

For roughly 30% on both ends of the political spectrum, any inquiry into these charges will begin and end at the caption: “United States v. Trump.”

Those four words either sum up a prosecution or persecution in the minds of most citizens.

This case, however, is different. In New York, Trump is facing a clearly political prosecution by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a case that easily fulfills Trump’s narrative of the weaponization of the criminal justice system.

In Georgia, another Democratic openly anti-Trump prosecutor is pursuing a case of election interference that many have questioned.

Yet, for roughly two years, I have said that there was one torpedo in the water that was a serious threat: an obstruction charge out of Mar-a-Lago.

That torpedo just hit.

Trump has long maintained that he and his staff viewed this as a civil matter under the Presidential Records Act.

They disagreed with the National Archives about Trump’s right to possess the documents.

Some documents were returned to the Archives and some were retained.

The FBI asked for and was given access to the storage room for the documents and, when it asked for additional security, the Trump team agreed.

They believed that they were still cooperating when the raid occurred on Mar-a-Lago.

The FBI has offered a strikingly different account.

From the very start, they described the conduct of the Trump team as “obstructive” — a line that many of us immediately flagged as ominous.

There are allegations of the movement of documents, false statements, and even the possible destruction of documents.

In the end, however, there is the mind of Donald Trump.

This case will turn on mens rea: did he know what he was doing was wrong, and what was his intent?

The actions are largely established, it is the motivation that will occupy a jury.

As in so many past controversies, Trump’s intransigence seems inexplicable and self-defeating.

However, to be criminal, it must be a knowing or willful violation of specific provisions.

There still remain key details that could blunt this defense.

We know that prosecutions forced Trump attorneys to go before a grand jury.

While that may create an appellate issue, there may be a cooperating witness who could offer damaging evidence of Trump’s knowledge or intent.

There are also rumors of video or audio tapes of the movement of documents or Trump discussing the material.

What is clear is that Trump is facing charges called “the darlings” of federal prosecutors: false statements to federal investigators and obstruction of justice.

Those charges represent a double threat.

First, the Justice Department has a long record of winning these cases.

They tend to be straightforward propositions for a jury.

They are the charges that criminal defense attorneys tend to loathe because they can come down to insular allegations that come with a ten to twenty-year potential sentence.

Second, and most seriously, these charges are secondary to the original basis for Trump removing or retaining the documents.

These are crimes that concern how Trump responded to the investigation.

The false statements charge is particularly damaging because it is a stand-alone offense.

Everything Trump has alleged can be true, but he could still be convicted if he falsified or misrepresented a fact in a discussion with the FBI.

And while there are legitimate concerns over the FBI’s past bias and hostility toward Trump, it is extremely hard to prevail on such selective prosecution claims in court.

Courts tend not to delve into the motivation of prosecutors if they have stated an otherwise valid legal and factual basis for charges.

Even if a court did entertain selective prosecution claims, it would not excuse false statements or obstruction charges.

The Trump team will not be the only ones uneasy in anticipation of these details.

The inclusion of mishandling charges is likely a concern for the Biden legal team.

After all, Biden is accused of repeatedly moving classified material to different locations, including his garage.

Some documents have reportedly been traced to removal from a secure location while Biden was still a senator over a decade ago.

If the indictment charges the possession and mishandling crimes, it could make it more difficult for his own special counsel to avoid charging Biden.

On the other hand, if the charges are crafted to avoid those crimes, there will be a concern over prosecutors seeking to nail President Trump but miss President Biden.

The Justice Department can argue that Biden did not claim that he had a right to take the documents and did not knowingly, stubbornly hold on to the documents after they were demanded.

While Biden’s account seems implausible on some points, the Justice Department could distinguish the cases as a matter of intentional versus negligent conduct.

In the end, whatever is found in this indictment is not likely to change many minds about Donald Trump or Joe Biden.

However, the credibility of the Justice Department is on the line.

The Special Counsel should not have taken this historic action without an overwhelming case.

We will all, therefore, be waiting to see if the indictment contains the type of “Aha” revelations that would justify this action.

Indicting a former president and the leading candidate for the presidency should not be a close call.

Jonathan Turley is an attorney and a professor at George Washington University Law School.

224 thoughts on “The “Aha” Moment: The Trump Indictment Could Prove Revealing for Either Trump or the DOJ”

  1. Prof Turley, Et Al;

    We’re not in Kansas anymore, we’re 3rd World Coup Land.

    About 10 minute opinion piece:

    Deep State Coup Now Live! Alex Jones Responds To Trump Indictments


    ·Jun 9, 2023
    The Alex Jones Show
    The Alex Jones Show

    Alex Jones responds to Trump’s 37 Indictments on June 9, 2023

    1. The Dimo/Rinos/Commie/Fascist types already have many false flags ops planned to blame it on us 150 million + Pro America Trump supporters.

      Trump most supporters know we have to be as peaceful as doves unless under threat of our lives.

  2. The 14th amendment to the Constitution requires that Americans receive equal treatment under the law. The FBI, however, has repeatedly turned a blind eye to serious violations of federal law by Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and others. Violations that surely would have been met with severe consequences had they been committed by Trump. The Democrats’ day of reckoning, peaceful and lawful reckoning, will be here soon.

    1. The chance for ‘peaceful’ reckoning grows slimmer each day… but a reckoning is indeed on its way.

  3. Section 793(e) willful mishandling of national defense information, that is the section Trump is charged under. (31 counts)
    Section 793(f) negligent mishandling of national defense information, that is the section Biden should be charged under if it is hard to prove he has “will”.

    It is my understanding that we got 793(f) after a prosecution for mishandling of classified material got hung up on proving intent. It makes the negligent mishandling itself a crime, no intent required. “Gee I screwed up when I left my briefcase full of classified documents on the Metro. It was just a coincidence that the Chinese agent picked it up.” was no longer a defense.

    1. Lefty665… how about: ‘Gee I left many of my boxes full of classified docs in the garage with my corvette… in the house where Hunter was living and conducting business….’

  4. Professor Turley… this line: ‘The Special Counsel should not have taken this historic action without an overwhelming case’ indeed highlights fact that the Dems only want to tie Trump up for good with Any case.. they were down to their last option since all the other stuff wasn’t doing the trick.. they were forced to play their last hand on the day that Joe Briben was fully exposed with Absolute Clarity as a criminal against The State.. even though all his own scattered Classified Docs were handled in obscurity, off limits to all.. rather like the Hillary Clinton emails………

  5. If I remember right, the US Civil War went down the road of some arrests of high level officials and partisans.
    So it appears the DOJ has decided it wants to trigger such things yet again.
    The Democrats just might get the prize for starting two US Civil Wars. (Blame the cabal – Clinton, Biden, Bush, Obama and all their surrogates. I HATE Bush with a passion too. Neocon-neoliberal BS can end in flames.)
    If they win, this time, well, you can bet the losses will be egregious. Like worse than World War II.

    But I suspect the more plausible outcome will be: USSA for about 10-20 years until it completely collapses.

    China gets its superpower status.
    Klaus gets his GREAT RESET!
    And DC gets their pound of flesh from what is left of the MAGA resistance.

    Good job LEFTIES! You won, but you will lose. There is always unintended consequences….from such actions.

    1. Excellent comment Jason. Don’t expect the myopic Leftists to agree. They just think this is a game of musical chairs and conservatives don’t have a seat.

      We could look back a bit further to the causes of the revolutionary war and find synchronicity with the list of grievances in the DoI. The very first on that list is:
      He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good. Others include:
      He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
      He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
      He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

      This doesn’t end well.

    2. Lots of democracies prosecute politicians without it ending in civil war. It’s ridiculous to suggest that the DOJ wants to trigger a civil war.

      1. Surprisingly ATS is correct. Democracies can do crazy things. That led to Hitler gaining power and all the petty dictatorships around the world.

        It is this type of illegal behavior that keeps ATS alive. A lack of morality is the greatest danger to America’s freedoms.

  6. Must SeeTV! Can’t wait to see the CCTV footage of the Maralago raid! Rumor is it exists. Zealous agents wouldn’t be seen planting anything, would they? Or foolishly saying things stupid, for all of us to hear.

  7. Like a mob run town, our “Just-Us” justice system has completely changed the rules of citizens and their relationship with the justice system: From here on out the DoJ and specifically the FBI will always be presumed to be lying and at odds with “Truth and Justice”.

    1. From here on out the DoJ and specifically the FBI will always be presumed to be lying and at odds with “Truth and Justice”.

      Chuckiechan, while that’s absolutely true, when the mob does its business, we look to the FBI and DOJ to bring justice. So who do we go to when the FBI and DOJ are the mob?

      It was Ronald Reagan that gave this warning that has now come to fruition: If we lose freedom here, there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.

  8. Just record the precedent, and move forward. Whatever the outcome of Trump’s cases, precedents have been set that the Democrats will regret.

  9. Does anyone know (HRC?) the best method for acid washing subpoenaed docs? Would there be any “willful intent” in such a thing? What if you were say, a fmr sec of state, and they were “accidentally” on purpose acid washed? To the average person this double standard, weaponization of law enforcement, selective justice is very plain to see. The good news it’ll cost some people eternal life

    1. According to one of Trump’s attorneys, Trump said that “the 30,000 emails, … they basically dealt with her scheduling and her going to the gym and her having beauty appointments.”

      Trump has been indicted for retaining national defense information and sharing it with people who lacked security clearances.

      1. 30,000 emails the DoJ ordered be maintained.
        The act of destroying them generates a judges direction the Jury, the Jury is allowed to see the destruction of evidence as an admission of guilt.

          1. No indictment, no judge or jury.
            Captain Obvious, to the rescue.

            I just provided a data point, evidence, of the political weaponization of the Federal Govt. Something you welcome, as you too, are losing your freedom and liberty. Only, you willingly abdicate your rights,

  10. The charges are:
    18 USC 793(e): willful retention of national defense information — 31 counts
    18 USC 1512(k): conspiracy to obstruct justice
    18 USC 1512(b)(2)(A): inducing someone to withhold testimony
    18 USC 1512(c)(1): corruptly concealing documents
    18 USC 1519: concealing documents
    18 USC 1001(a)(1): scheme to conceal a material fact
    18 USC 1001(a)(2): false statements
    18 USC 2: punishable as a principal

    1. The main issue I see here is not whether Trump can be convicted of some or all of these charges. The main question is whether it is a good or bad thing that they are being brought at all. There is no allegation here that anything Trump did caused any actual harm. In the absence of that, is it a prudent use of Federal prosecutorial power to seek to imprison a former President and leading contender for the Presidency in the 2024 election? I believe many, and not just Trump supporters, would say no. I believe many, and not just Trump supporters, will see this as partisan warfare of an unprecedented kind that will lead to more of the same.

      1. I think it’s a very good thing that the DOJ is telling everyone that if you knowingly and willfully retain NDI when that’s illegal, and you show it to people who lack the clearance to view it, and you conspire with others to engage in obstruction and try to induce others to lie about it for you, then you’ll be prosecuted.

        That’s not “partisan warfare.” That’s refusing to put a former President above the law.

        And if Biden does this when he leaves office, I want him prosecuted too. No former President should be doing this.

        1. As for Biden, the House should launch impeachment investigations immediately for bribery.

  11. Not only has disloyalty among some of Trump’s supporters been exposed over the last couple of years, incompetence among some of Trump’s attorneys has also been exposed as well. It is good to see Trump clear the decks as the storm intensifies.

  12. Oh you snowflakes are making me laugh so hard today, please stop. Your, BUT…BUT…BUT….Hillary, Biden, Obama, is the best you got? Trump has, and will always be his own worst enemy. Trump’s own words will convict him. As for the others, the republicans had over 30 years, and they have nothing. Well, they might if they can “find” the witnesses. Meanwhile, the Cult’s whining and crying that the law is so unfair, shows just how un-moored they are from reality.

    1. So I guess we are supposed to ignore the fact that Garland/Monaco DOJ and Jack Smith investigated almost the entire case in regime-compliant DC court then basically read out all collected evidence to a FLA grand jury to indict?

      Is this not shady as hell?


    2. It’s almost hard to believe they actually went through with charging Donald Trump under the same degenerate 1917 law that was first used to imprison political enemies of Woodrow Wilson — then more recently Assange, Snowden, Manning, Ellsberg, and Pentagon leaker Jack Teixeira


    3. A federal indictment against a former president for crimes Hillary Clinton was given a free pass on, even though she never had declassification authority and Trump did, is real end-of-the-republic kind of stuff. @JeremyDBoreing

    4. By far the gravest case of “mishandling” top secret docs was Obama CIA chief David Petraeus. He gave some of the US’s most sensitive secrets to his mistress to let her write a hagiography about him.

      Got a slap on the wrist, then was wildly enriched.


    5. The US establishment hated and feared Trump from the start, largely due to the instability he poses to its hegemony. CIA/FBI concocted a bullsh*t scandal to sink his campaign and presidency, and now are desperately trying to make him ineligible.

    6. Speaking of the Espionage Act, are we supposed to just forget that multiple years were already consumed by elaborate fantasies of a non-existent Espionage plot between Trump and Russia. Because we’re now on year 7 of aggressively brazen Security State maneuvers to undermine Trump.


    7. A fascinating thing about the left’s psychosis is how they’ll do something corrupt, fraudulent, and aberrant- then see it as evidence that it means something. “We indicted Trump! We indicted Trump! That proves he’s a POS!”

      It’s like if an abuser beats his wife then says, “See?? Her black eyes prove that she deserved it!”.


  13. There’s something MUCH more dangerous for the country here. When it comes to trial, the prosecutor will need to show the evidence of the classified documents in question, at which point, one of two things will happen:

    A) The documents are read into open court, and if they can be read into open court, then they couldn’t have been all that classified to begin with and everyone looks like an idiot.

    B) The documents are declared too sensitive to read in open court. At that point, you will have an administration convict the leading candidate of the opposition party BASED ON SECRET EVIDENCE. Once an administration knows that they can do that, it’s the end of the republic. It will not stop with Trump. We will have to have another revolution.

    1. NOTHING compels either partiy to demand the documents be read aloud. The parties can merely stipulate that the markings on the document classifying them as Secret, as well as other official markings, are genuine. Reading them aloud would not prove or disprove that they are “really” secret—the classification is all that matters.

    1. They literally have him on tape admitting to showing people without security clearances national defense info that’s still classified.

      The election wasn’t rigged.

      1. “have him on tape admitting to showing people without security clearances national defense info that’s still classified.”

        Tell us what is new. When President, he like other Presidents, can do that. Post Presidency, the question is the classification status, but that doesn’t count based on the JW decision.

        All of these questions are confusing because there is no clear understanding of the law, and the rule of law is not being applied. If all Presidents could be incarcerated because of such disclosures, all would be in jail. That makes this entire prosecution political and a fraud.

  14. Whatever you think about the indictment in this case – it is clear Trump is not the type of guy that could qualify for a low level security clearance. He loves to talk about things, to brag about things, to hold information over people’s heads. You can’t give a guy like that classified information. He is also so compromised working with the Saudis now; that information is valuable to them and they are sending all kinds of money Trump’s and Kushner’s way.

    That is why a guy like that should not even qualify for a low level government job requiring a security clearance. He certainly should never have been President, and should not be again. Those who cannot see that are willfully blind.

  15. I’ve read the indictment, It’s all government baloney. This is a political prosecution engineered by people who will do anything to keep Trump out of the White House. If they keep it up, they’re going to see civil war.

  16. What is maddening to me, as I assume many others, isn’t that Trump is being indicted it is that Biden and Hilary aren’t. As a pretty conservative guy I feel free to say that Trump is an idiot, a narcissistic, juvenile, uninterested moron who is probably getting what he deserves, but to see Biden having documents in his garage and even worse in “think” tanks and schools that the CCP supports nd not get charged is blood boiling. To see Trump charged and Hilary not is ruinous for our country’s trust in the judicial system. Charge Trump, charge Biden, charge Hilary and probably Obama as well…or charge nobody. SICKENING!

    1. Biden will not be indicted while in office for the same reason that Trump was not indicted while in office: it’s the OLC’s opinion that a sitting President cannot be indicted.

      And I suggest that you read the indictment. You’ll see that they have a lot more evidence of Trump’s willful actions than they did for Clinton. Who even knows what you think Obama should be indicted for.

      1. ATS: “Biden will not be indicted while in office for the same reason that….”

        Is Hunter Biden in office? Is Hillary? Is Obama?

      2. Well there is an email showing Hillary telling a subordinate to remove the classified markings from a classified document and emailing the rest to her. That is very similar to something Trump is accused of doing. But they treated Clinton much more nicely than they treated Trump. Do you think they would have let Trump go through his subpoenaed documents and destroy the personal ones like they did Clinton and her emails? Who knows how many classified emails Clinton’s team “accidentally” deleted.

      3. “You’ll see that they have a lot more evidence of Trump’s willful actions than they did for Clinton.”

        ATS, Did I miss it? Did Trump have classified documents in his sock draw?

    2. As a pretty conservative guy I feel free to say that Trump is an idiot, a narcissistic, juvenile, uninterested moron who is probably getting what he deserves,

      hullbobby, my opinion is that anyone that runs for public office is a narcissist. Some more than others. Trump would certainly be in that category. What matters is how that affects or is effected by their other personality traits. Does it dominate their worldview? Or is it dominated by their worldview? Most importantly, what is that worldview? And how strong is their narcissism? Most recently we had Obama, an extreme Narcissistic Marxist, in that order. Compared to Obama, Trump is an extreme Constitutional Narcissist. This country could and did survive both of those presidencies. We were weakened by the politicization of our agencies under Obama. And while that bore fruit against Trump, the die was cast for where we are today as a government and a people. Biden is an extreme Narcissitic Sociopath. He has no discernable ideology other than protecting the Biden Crime family. His example is what the rest of the country sees. His agencies are what the rest of the country sees. Our enemies see that. The cartels see that. If Biden can have a functioning crime family, in the open and protected by his agencies, then why can’t they.

      Trump is no idiot. Not a moron. Juvenile, at times yes. His greatest weakness was his naiveté of just how deep the deep state was. They are narcissists too. However their ideology is just pure power. He wasn’t prepared for their attacks and he got hamstrung right out of the gate and really never got it back. He’s not naïve now and they know it. And they will do literally anything to prevent him from getting the power of the presidency back. Anything.

      1. Good post, Olly.

        “Trump is no idiot. Not a moron. “

        Of course, he isn’t, but even some who wish to end Democrat power lose their self-control and do not recognize they are doing the left’s bidding.

        Like Trump or hate Trump, he is the most likely candidate. Like DeSantis or hate DeSantis, he is a potential candidate today or in the future. Trying to destroy either of them isn’t something that helps defeat Democrats.

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