Former President Donald Trump revealed whether he will drop out of the 2024 race if he is convicted in connection to a Department of Justice case over whether he mishandled classified documents.
In an interview with Politico, the 45th president and current GOP frontrunner was asked about if he would drop out of the race if he is convicted in the case. Trump stated that he believes he won’t be convicted and doesn’t plan on taking a plea deal with prosecutors.
“I’ll never leave,” Trump told the outlet. “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.”
The indictment unsealed Friday charges Trump with willfully defying Justice Department demands that he return classified documents, enlisting aides in his efforts to hide the records, and allegedly telling his lawyers that he wanted to defy a subpoena for the materials stored at his residence. The indictment includes allegations that he stored documents in a ballroom and bathroom at his Mar-a-Lago resort, among other places.
The 49-page indictment centers on hundreds of classified documents that Trump took with him from the White House to Mar-a-Lago upon leaving office in January 2021. Even as “tens of thousands of members and guests” visited Mar-a-Lago between the end of Trump’s presidency and August 2022, when the FBI obtained a search warrant, documents were recklessly stored in spaces including a “ballroom, a bathroom and shower, and office space, his bedroom, and a storage room.”
The indictment claims that, for a two-month period between January and March 15, 2021, some of Trump’s boxes were stored in one of Mar-a-Lago’s gilded ballrooms. A picture included in the indictment shows boxes stacked in rows on the ballroom’s stage.
Special counsel Jack Smith, whose presented charges against Trump were approved by a grand jury, said in prepared remarks from Washington that “our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced” and “violations of those laws put our country at risk.”
He added, “We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone,” but added the caveat that Trump and others “must be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.”
Trump is due to make his first federal court appearance Tuesday in Miami. He was charged alongside valet Walt Nauta, a personal aide whom prosecutors say moved boxes from a storage room to Trump’s residence for him to review and later lied to investigators about the movement. Nauta traveled with Trump on Saturday, appearing by his side at a Georgia Waffle House stop where the former president signed autographs, posed for photos, and told supporters, “We did absolutely nothing wrong.”
“The ridiculous and baseless indictment 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 reporters in a campaign stop.
A legal analyst said that the federal government’s case against Trump “doesn’t meet what I call the Richard Nixon standard, which was very clear obstruction of justice, destroying evidence, paying bribes,” said Alan Dershowitz, a professor emeritus at Harvard Law School, during a Newsmax interview on June 9.
“This is too close a case to bring against the man running for president, against the incumbent president,” Dershowitz stated.
Trump “may claim he didn’t show it to them, just kind of waved it in front of them as part of bragging but that’s something that will have to be explained,” Dershowitz said. “When you have a tape in the voice of the defendant himself it’s hard to dispute, so I think this is a serious indictment on these two charges. Everything else I think was exactly what we expected,” the former law professor and high-profile criminal defense attorney also said.
Trump has said that he declassified documents before leaving office. Presidents have the power of declassification. His lawyers have not included that claim in court filings related to the case.
Other 2024 candidates have mostly publicly backed Trump after the indictment was unsealed, including his former vice president, Mike Pence, who on Saturday called on the Department of Justice to release more details about the unprecedented case against a former president.
“We also need to hear the former president’s defense so that each of us can make our own judgment,” Pence told attendees at a North Carolina GOP convention.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that, in response to the indictment, “I think there needs to be one standard of justice in this country.” He condemned what he described as a “weaponization” of federal agencies.