George Washington University professor and Fox News contributor Jonathan Turley said that if the federal government proves just one count against former President Donald Trump, it could be a “terminal sentence” for him.
Last week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) indicted Trump on dozens of charges in connection with whether he allegedly mishandled classified documents. Trump has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence and recently said he would not drop out of the 2024 race no matter what.
“The problem is, he’s got to run the table—he’s 76 years old,” Turley told Fox News over the weekend. “All the government has to do is stick the landing on one count, and he could have a terminal sentence. You’re talking about crimes that have a 10- or 20-year period as a maximum.”
The indictment alleged that Trump violated the Espionage Act, made false statements, and obstructed justice. Trump, who polls show is far and away the leading Republican 2024 candidate for president, is scheduled to be arraigned at a Miami court on Tuesday amid reports that he departed his New Jersey residence and is now heading to Florida.
“Now, we have not heard their other side. Generally, the indictments are a lot stronger on the day they are issued than on the next day, so they may be able to knock down some of these issues,” Turley said, referring to Trump’s possible defense arguments. “But some of the evidence is coming from his former counsel, and these are very damaging statements made against him. It may be hard to move those.”
Trump is the first former or current president to face criminal charges, but legal experts say that does not prevent him from running for president or taking office, even if he is found guilty. Legal experts, including Trump’s former attorney general, William Barr, say the case is a strong one.
The indictment also alleges that Trump stored the documents in a haphazard manner at his home in Palm Beach, Florida, refused to give them back to the government, and tried to hide them from the FBI, and even his own attorney, after a grand jury issued him a subpoena demanding that he turn over all records bearing classified markings.
His attorney Alina Habba, who is not representing him in the case, told “Fox News Sunday” that Trump is innocent of the charges and plans to vigorously defend himself in the case.
“He has every right to have classified documents that he declassifies under the Presidential Records Act,” Habba told Fox News Sunday.
Trump has previously defended his retention of classified records, saying that he declassified them while in office. Trump and his allies argued that the records at the heart of the case are personal in nature and covered by the Presidential Records Act.
“He said time and time again he declassified all this,” House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) told CNN on Sunday. When asked about evidence of declassification, Jordan said that “I go on the president’s word, and he said he did.”
Trump “said he declassified this material,” Jordan added. “He can put it wherever he wants and handle it however he wants.”
Trump Fires Back
The former president made multiple campaign stops over the weekend, criticizing the DOJ for bringing charges against him. He noted that other Democratic politicians never faced any charges for their alleged misdeeds.
“The ridiculous and baseless indictment of me by the Biden administration’s weaponized department of injustice will go down as among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country,” Trump told the crowd of Republican Party officials over the weekend. “This vicious persecution is a travesty of justice.”
President Joe Biden “was not indicted. And what he did is terrible,” Trump said. He also referred to Jack Smith, the special counsel who indicted him, as a “thug” and called for the removal of officials investigating him. “This is a sick nest of people that needs to be cleaned out immediately. Get ’em out,” Trump added to applause.
Trump told the audience in Georgia that the “joke of an indictment” would further bolster his support within the party, similar to how charges in New York in March elevated his ranking in primary polls.
“The only good thing is it’s driven my poll numbers way up,” he said.
In another interview with Politico, Trump also said that he won’t take a DOJ plea deal in the case. Meanwhile, Habba made a similar statement to a Fox program on Sunday.
“I’ll never leave,” Trump told Politico Saturday. “Look, if I would have left, I would have left prior to the original race in 2016. That was a rough one. In theory that was not doable.”
“Nobody wants to be indicted,” Trump added to Politico. “I don’t care that my poll numbers went up by a lot. I don’t want to be indicted. I’ve never been indicted. I went through my whole life, now I get indicted every two months. It’s been political.”