Attorney and former U.S. Army prosecutor Glenn Kirschner said that former President Donald Trump is potentially facing a “five-year felony” over allegations that he took classified national security documents from the White House when he left office last year.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) confirmed in a Friday letter to the House Oversight Committee that some 15 boxes Trump returned last month after being requested to do so, contained classified national security documents. “NARA has identified items marked as classified national security information within the boxes,” archivist David Ferriero wrote.
Previously, The New York Times reported that classified documents were included with the records Trump was required to return. The Washington Post further reported that some of the documents were classified as “top secret.”
Kirschner commented on the scandal during an MSNBC segment on Friday evening, predicting that Trump could face multiple indictments in the near future. Specifically when it comes to the documents issue, the legal expert contended that anyone else would already be indicted given the information currently available.
“That is a five-year felony. The National Archives has reported and referred to the Department of Justice for investigation the fact that Donald Trump removed classified national security information from the White House and he whisked it away to Mar-a-Lago,” he said.
The legal expert appeared to be referring to 18 U.S. Code § 1924, which addresses “unauthorized removal and retention of classified documents or material.” The law penalizes the crime with a fine or imprisonment “for not more than five years, or both.”
He told MSNBC host Jonathan Capehart “if that were you or me…you can bet we’d already be indicted.” The attorney said he was “really disturbed to hear—that the way our federal government handled that, knowing it was improper, knowing it was a likely crime—was that they took about a year to negotiate and cajole and convince Donald Trump to, ‘Hey give us back those documents that you probably unlawfully removed from the White House.'”
“That’s troubling,” he added, noting that we can see other examples of individuals being “promptly prosecuted” for less severe violations.
Trump dismissed the scandal, arguing that what happened was normal. “The National Archives did not ‘find’ anything, they were given, upon request, Presidential Records in an ordinary and routine process to ensure the preservation of my legacy and in accordance with the Presidential Records Act,” the former president said in a Friday statement.
He argued if the scandal involved anyone else “there would be no story here.” Trump said that “the Democrats are in search of their next Scam” and that “the Fake News is making it seem like me, as the President of the United States, was working in a filing room.”
Many other legal experts and former federal law enforcement officials urged the Justice Department to open an investigation into Trump over the classified documents.
“DOJ, this ball is in your court,” former FBI Assistant Director Frank Figliuzzi tweeted on Friday. He included a link to The New York Times reporting on the NARA letter confirming the classified documents were included with the records.
“The discovery of classified material in 15 boxes illegally taken by Trump should supply probable cause for the issuance of search warrants of Trump’s homes/offices for other public records. Of course, that would require @TheJusticeDept to actually do something aggressive,” Richard Signorelli, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, tweeted.
Polling data from The Economist/YouGov released on Thursday showed that a large majority (79 percent) of Americans believe Trump’s actions regarding the records are more “wrong” than “right.” That included 61 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of Democrats.
Newsweek reached out to Trump’s press office for comment.