How long in prison could President Trump get?Past incidents have resulted in severe penalties for archivists

When FBI agents searched Harold Martin’s Maryland property in the fall of 2016, they found classified documents, including top-secret level material, scattered around his home, car and warehouse.

The former National Security Agency contractor did not dispute the allegations and eventually pleaded guilty in 2019, calling his actions “wrong, illegal and highly questionable.” Admitted. But his statement of repentance and guilty plea for a single charge of willful retention of defense intelligence did not escape the harsh penalty of nine years in prison.

The resolution of the case looms as an ominous signpost to a legal crisis. playing cards It could face 37 felonies, 31 of which are espionage enacted in the same century it was used to prosecute Martin and other defendants for allegedly illegally retaining classified documents. It is based on law. Even many who pleaded guilty and took responsibility, like Martin, have been sentenced to years in prison.

“When they decide to pursue cases of willful mismanagement, it’s to send a message that we take these cases very seriously,” said defense counsel and former attorney Michael Zweiback. said Mr. Department of Justice Prosecutor. “They are almost always seeking a prison sentence.”

It is not known how long the former president could face prison sentences if convicted, and such decisions would ultimately be up to the trial judge, but this In that case, a judge appointed by President Trump who has already indicated his willingness to rule in his favor will decide. It’s also difficult to know how much other factors, such as the logistical and political complexities of imprisoning a former president, play a role.

Violations of the Espionage Act are punishable by up to 10 years in prison, but first-time federal offenders rarely come close to the maximum. But besides storage, prosecutors have also identified multiple exacerbating factors in Trump’s alleged conduct, enlisting the help of others, including lawyers and aides, to hide records from investigators and to visitors. He accuses them of trying to show part of the record. Other charges on the indictment carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, including conspiracy to obstruct justice.

In recent years, Justice Department prosecutors have applied espionage law provisions against various defendants, including a West Virginia woman who kept NSA documents related to foreign government military and political affairs. Elizabeth Jo Shirley pleaded guilty to willful imprisonment charges in 2020 and was sentenced to eight years in prison.

Earlier this month, a retired Air Force intelligence officer named Robert Burcham was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to keeping classified files in his home, overseas officers’ quarters, and a storage pod in his driveway.

Many of the defendants have pleaded guilty without going to trial, but not all have gone to prison. President Trump, who also faces hush-money-related charges in New York state court, has shown no signs of a plea bargain and has vigorously maintained that he is innocent, accusing the Justice Department of special counsel. is personally attacking jack smith Hours after appearing in Miami federal court on Tuesday.

Despite the details of the indictment, Trump has several avenues to challenge the charges.

For one thing, he was elected as a judge Eileen CannonLast year, he sided with Trump on the former president’s proposal to appoint a special master to conduct an independent review of seized classified documents. Citing the “stigma” associated with the FBI’s search of Trump’s home, he said any “future indictments” based on items that should be returned to Trump “will obviously cause reputational damage of an order of magnitude.” rice field.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit unanimously overturned her ruling, which was widely criticized by legal experts as unusual and unusually broad.

Over the next few months, Cannon will make decisions that will shape the trial, including how expeditiously it will go and whether evidence will be concealed.

Prosecutors also face the challenge that even Florida, where the Republican Party has been steadily gaining ground in recent years, is likely to have more jurors in Trump’s favor than if he were tried in predominantly Democratic Washington, D.C. are doing.

Still, “I think it’s quite possible that Jack Smith would welcome a jury in Florida, because once you get a conviction, it’s much harder to say, ‘That jury was somehow anti-Trump.'” said Steven Saltzberg. George Washington University Law School professor and former Department of Justice employee.

Experts say Trump’s lawyers echoed the former president’s public statements, dismissed the lawsuit, arguing he had the right to the documents and was a victim of prosecutorial overreach. I expect that you will try to Trump could also try to keep key evidence unavailable to prosecutors, such as a lawyer’s memo detailing conversations with the former president.

If the case goes to trial, experts say Trump’s lawyers will attempt so-called “jury overruling,” or even if Trump believes he has committed a violation of the law, that violation will be prosecuted. He said he may try to convince jurors to acquit him because it’s not serious enough to warrant a citation. are selected.

“The defense’s themes may include suggestions of injustice and selective prosecution, and basically any of that, even if the former president did what the government said. We’re trying to convince the jury that it shouldn’t have led to criminal charges,” said attorney and former Justice Department attorney Robert Mintz.

Washington criminal defense attorney Robert Kellner said he was unlikely to be acquitted given the amount of evidence, but Trump’s attorneys have absolute powers to declassify information even with one juror. If he can be persuaded of his innocence on the grounds of what he has done, he said, there is a path to miscarriage of justice. .

That power ended the moment Trump left the presidency, but even so, “some jurors formerly had absolute power simply because Trump failed to turn in the correct papers.” “It would be difficult to rationalize convicting him for what he did,” Kellner said.

Faced with a mountain of evidence and the prospect of years in prison, the most hopeful for President Trump may ultimately be a tactic he often pursues: late, late, late and a former federal prosecutor. Sherrill Bader, an officer and chief of criminal investigations at Fordham Law School, said: defense clinic.

“The best way to protect him might be to survive the election cycle, get elected president, and become head of the Justice Department before the trial begins,” she said.


Mr. Richer reported from Boston. How long in prison could President Trump get?Past incidents have resulted in severe penalties for archivists

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