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Attorneys for former president Donald Trump have admitted that the twice-impeached ex-president could face federal criminal charges as a result of his hoarding more than 100 classified, government-owned documents at his Palm Beach, Florida home.
In a filing before Raymond Dearie, the New York-based federal judge who has been appointed to review the more than 11,000 documents seized during the 8 August search of Mr Trump’s property and determine whether any are privileged, the ex-president’s lawyers said they would object to Judge Dearie’s plan for determining whether any of the 100 documents which bear classification markings are privileged because it would require them to say whether Mr Trump actually declassified them.
“The Draft Plan requires that the Plaintiff disclose specific information regarding declassification to the Court and to the Government. We respectfully submit that the time and place for affidavits or declarations would be in connection with a Rule 41 motion that specifically alleges declassification as a component of its argument for return of property,” they wrote. “Otherwise, the Special Master process will have forced the Plaintiff to fully and specifically disclose a defense to the merits of any subsequent indictment without such a requirement being evident in the District Court’s order”.
The reference to “any subsequent indictment” is the first acknowledgment from Mr Trump’s side that the Department of Justice investigation into whether he violated laws governing the proper care and storage of national defence information or prohibiting obstruction of justice could place him in significant legal jeopardy.
The ex-president and some of his allies have claimed on numerous occasions that he issued sweeping declassification orders which negate the classification markings on the myriad documents which have been recovered from his home and office in a court-authorised search. But Mr Trump’s attorneys have not specifically raised that defence in any court filing or appearance thus far, which legal experts say is an indicator that no such order was ever issued or carried out. If an attorney makes a knowingly false statement in court, he or she could lose his or her law license.
Mr Trump has also repeatedly described the Department of Justice probe as a politically-motivated witch hunt by partisan actors in his successor’s administration. Although the ex-president has said an indictment would not prevent him from mounting a third bid for the presidency in 2024, he strongly hinted that his supporters would react violently were he to face any criminal charges.
During an appearance on the Hugh Hewitt show last week, Mr Trump threatened ‘big problems’ for the US if he ever appears in the dock.
“I think if it happened, I think you'd have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps, we've never seen before. I don't think the people of the United States would stand for it,” he said.
Asked what kinds of problems he was predicting if he were to be charged with a crime, Mr Trump added ominously: “I think you’d have big problems — big problems”.
“I just don’t think they [his supporters] would stand for it. They will not,” he said. “They will not sit still and stand for this ultimate of hoaxes”.