A legal representative for former President Donald Trump has asserted that it is not a criminal offense for a former chief executive to possess even highly sensitive documents. Trump announced on Thursday that his legal team had been informed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) about his indictment by a federal grand jury in Miami, Florida.
According to The New York Times, President Joe Biden’s DOJ is accusing Trump of mishandling classified documents that he retained after leaving office and obstructing the government’s attempts to retrieve them.
During an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show on Friday, attorney Jim Trusty argued that Trump is being charged with an act that was never considered a crime for any previous president. He claimed that the DOJ had weaponized an issue that was not anticipated to be a criminal violation under the Presidential Records Act (PRA).
Trusty emphasized that the PRA, which was enacted in 1978, does not include any criminal statutes that prohibit the possession of such documents, even if they are highly sensitive. The primary purpose of the PRA is to ensure the preservation of official White House records.
In cases where a former president and the National Archives and Records Administration have differing opinions on whether a document should be classified as presidential or personal, Trusty explained that the PRA stipulates that a civil suit, rather than a criminal case, could be pursued.
Trusty revealed that Trump’s legal team had recently learned about a Florida grand jury receiving testimonies. Previously, it was believed that a grand jury in Washington, D.C., was involved in the case. Trusty suggested that the creation of the Florida grand jury may be an acknowledgement by the DOJ of potential venue issues or an attempt to reframe the case for a South Florida audience.
Regarding the indictment, Trusty stated that Trump’s legal team believed it to be the sole indictment related to the classified documents case and did not anticipate an indictment from the D.C. grand jury.
Trusty confirmed that Trump is scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday, expressing that it was challenging to counsel a client who firmly believed in his factual innocence. Trusty described Trump as a resilient fighter who would vigorously defend himself, expressing confidence in his ability to withstand the legal proceedings.