Lock him up?
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asked the Justice Department to look into former President Donald Trump's handling of classified information after discovering what it believes to classified documents among the 15 boxes of records it retrieved from Mar-a-Lago last month, The New York Times and The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening. The Justice Department told the National Archives to have its inspector general examine the matter, the Times adds.
The inspector general would be required to alert the Justice Department if any classified material was discovered in the records and mementos Trump took home from the White House, in pretty clear violation of the Presidential Records Act, the Times reports.
Prosecuting Trump for mishandling classified information would be politically and perhaps legally difficult. But if Trump did take classified documents back to his club in an insecure cardboard box, that's "much more serious" than violating the Presidential Records Act, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) told CNN Wednesday night, and "the Justice Department, in my view, will have to investigate,"
"It would be, I think, intolerable for the department to have investigated Hillary Clinton over handling of classified emails and ignore allegations that Donald Trump may have brought classified documents" to Mar-a-Lago, Schiff argued. He called Trump's alleged actions actions "jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, grab-you-by-the-throat hypocrisy" after years of calling for Clinton to be locked up.
If you were wondering whether Clinton is following this story, the answer is yes.
Along with taking boxes of presidential records to Mar-a-Lago, Trump also had a well-documented habit of ripping up papers, despite warnings about preserving records from lawyers and two chiefs of staff. His aides picked up some of the ripped documents, but others are believed to have been destroyed. Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, both senior Trump White House advisers, used personal email and texting apps for official business.
Among the challenges that prosecutors would face bringing charges against Trump, when he was president, he had the power to declassify any information. If he did not declassify documents in his possession before that power expired with his presidency, prosecutors would still have to prove he intentionally mishandled the classified documents he took or was grossly negligent.
In a statement Wednesday, Trump called "the media's characterization" of his relationship with the National Archives "Fake News," adding, "It was a great honor to work with NARA to help formally preserve the Trump Legacy."