EXCLUSIVE: Trump could be BANNED from holding public office if he is found guilty of mishandling classified White House records – and the legal saga will be a ‘huge’ development for his 2024 hopes, legal experts warn
- Donald Trump said his Mar-a-Lago home was raided by the FBI
- ‘These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents,’ he said in shocking statement
- The investigation is said to be focused on material that Trump brought with him to Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House
- In January, the National Archives removed 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago that they said Trump should not have taken with him from the White House
- The boxes reportedly included classified information, which the DoJ was probing
- Trump returned the records to Archives in January 2022
- Agents looking to see if Trump had even more records in his Florida home
- ‘They even broke into my safe!’ the former president said of the raid
Former President Donald Trump could be banned from holding public office if he is found guilty of mishandling White House records.
Federal law states prohibits someone convicted of mishandling documents from holding any office in the US, legal experts have warned could be a ‘huge’ development for Trump’s hopes to run for president in 2024.
‘If Trump is convicted under this federal statute, he would be prohibited from holding any office including the office of the president,’ former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told DailyMail.com. ‘That would be huge.’
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida was raided by the FBI Monday, reportedly as part of an investigation into whether he took classified documents with him when he left presidential office.
Trump, in his dramatic announcement of the raid, did not specifically say what the federal agents were looking for, just that his home was ‘under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.’
President Donald Trump could be banned from holding public office if he is found guilty of mishandling White House records. Trump is pictured leaving rump Tower in NYC on Monday
Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida was raided by the FBI Monday
Trump took 15 boxes of material with him in January 2021 after he left Washington D.C. The boxes were returned to the National Archives a year later in January 2022 but agents on Monday were looking to see if Trump had additional material; above workers move boxes out of the Trump White House on January 14, 2021
Trump could be facing ‘significant criminal exposure’ if the FBI raid determines he destroyed government records, Rahmani, who is president of West Coast Trial Lawyers, told DailyMail.com Monday night.
He said Trump would likely be charged under US Code Title 18, Section 2071 which involves concealment or destruction of US government documents.
The code states that anyone who ‘willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, or destroys, or attempts to do so, or, with intent to do so takes and carries away any record’ could be fined and sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison.
The provision also states that anyone convicted of records concealment or destruction ‘shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.’
‘His lawyers told him about the law requiring that he preserve White House documents, so he was on notice and that will bolster the case and help prove intent if prosecutors charge Trump.’
Trump took 15 boxes of material with him in January 2021 after he left office.
The boxes were returned to the National Archives a year later, in January 2022, but agents on Monday were reportedly looking to see if Trump had additional presidential records or any classified documents at his South Florida estate.
‘FBI agents, in an investigation like this, are not always going to find every missing document or even discover every instance where a paper went missing,’ Rahmani warned. ‘It’s not hard to destroy documents and in some cases investigators will never find any evidence that a document even existed.’
He added: ‘In other instances, investigators can figure out something is missing, if for example they have testimony from a government official who says he was tasked with writing up a transcript and he did that, but the document can’t be found anywhere. Then you know someone destroyed it. But figuring out who did that can be another mystery.’
Rahmani noted the raid of Trump’s home was likely carried out only by agents involved in searching for documents that should have been in the National Archives.
He said the agents investigating the January 6, 2021 insurrection at the US Capitol ‘may have nothing to do with this operation.’
‘But if evidence comes out from the raid that sheds light on Trump’s involvement in the Capitol Riot, then that will absolutely become part of the Jan. 6 investigation,’ the legal expert added.
President Donald Trump leaves Trump Tower in New York City on Monday night after he announced he FBI had raided his Florida home
Eric Trump is spotted leaving Trump Tower; he told Fox News that he was the one who got notice of the raid and told his father about it
New York City police officers keep watch in front of Trump Tower on Monday. The FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago, Florida home earlier on Monday
The former president was spotted leaving Trump Tower in New York on Monday night after announcing his Mar-a-Lago home had been raided by the FBI.
He waved and gave his signature thumbs’ up to the gathered, but didn’t comment on the investigation as he got into his SUV, surrounded by Secret Service agents.
Trump confirmed the raid in a dramatic announcement, stating his home was ‘under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents.’
‘They even broke into my safe!’ the former president complained, but failed to disclose what investigators were searching for.
Sources told The New York Times the investigation is focused on material that Trump brought with him to Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House, specifically if he has classified information in his private possession.
The search focused on the area of the club where Trump’s offices and personal quarters are, CNN reported, noting Trump’s personal attorney Christinia Bobb was present during the search.
And, during a meeting at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, Trump’s attorney showed federal investigators documents that were being kept on site, including some that were marked classified, the network noted.
Eric Trump, who was also spotted at Trump Tower on Monday, said he was the one that got the call on the raid and told his father about it.
‘I was the guy who got the call this morning and I called my father and let him know it happened, and I was involved all day,’ he told Fox News host Sean Hannity. ‘Welcome to politics in the 2020s.’
‘To have 30 FBI agents – actually more than that – descend on Mar-a-Lago, give absolutely, you know, no notice, go through the gates, start ransacking an office, ransacking a closet – you know, they broke into a safe. He didn’t even have anything in the safe. I mean, give me a break.’
Trump’s Florida home: Mar-a-Lago, where agents were reportedly investigating whether Trump took classified documents with him when he left the White House
Armed Secret Service agents stand outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday night
Secret Service agents stand at the gate of Mar-a-Lago after the FBI issued warrants at the Palm Beach, Florida estate on Monday
He charged President Joe Biden’s White House as the force behind the raid.
‘This didn’t come from a local FBI field office in Palm beach, Florida. You know this came from?This came from one place and one building, and that is the White House in Washington, D.C. They want to attack a guy who they view as his greatest threat, Biden’s greatest threat,’ Eric Trump said.
Biden’s White House had no heads up on the matter. Senior White House officials found out about it via Twitter, the New York Times reported.
Lara Trump told Fox News ‘look, my father-in-law, as anybody knows, who’s been around him a lot, loves to save things like newspaper clippings, magazine clippings, photographs, documents that he had every authority … to take from the White House.’
She called the raid an attempt to hurt him as ‘he’s going to announce any day that he’s running for president in 2024.’
The raid comes as Donald Trump is considering another bid for the presidency and his actions after the 2020 election, where he tried to invalidate Joe Biden’s victory, are under investigation by lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
It began Monday morning and took several hours. It is highly unusual for a federal raid to take place at the residence of a former commander in chief.
‘These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home, Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, is currently under siege, raided, and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened to a President of the United States before,’ Trump said in shocking statement released on Monday night.
‘After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate.’
Trump, in his lengthy statement blasting the raid, called it ‘prosecutorial misconduct, the weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Radical Left Democrats who desperately don’t want me to run for President in 2024, especially based on recent polls, and who will likewise do anything to stop Republicans and Conservatives in the upcoming Midterm Elections.
The Justice Department wouldn’t say whether Attorney General Merrick Garland had personally authorized the search but it’s highly unlikely a raid on a former president would take place without the AG giving it the stamp of approval.
The FBI gave US Secret Service agents at Mar-a-Lago advance notice and they cooperated letting them into the property, NBC News reported. The Secret Service agents but did not take part in investigation or search.
This meant the FBI did not have to break into the property or bust down any doors.
A search warrant does not suggest that criminal charges are near or even expected but it would have to be court authorized.
Garland and his DoJ are under heavy political pressure of their own – from Democrats who want the former president indicted to Republicans who will blast any probe as election-year politics.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy warned Garland of payback. He pledged to investigate the raid if Republicans win control of the House in November, which they are expected to do.
‘Attorney General Garland, preserve your documents and clear you calendar,’ he said in a statement on Monday night.
Workers move boxes from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building into a truck on the White House grounds, before the departure of President Donald Trump on January 14, 2021
Police stand outside an entrance to Mar-a-Lago on Monday night
Trump supporters gathered in front of Mar-a-Lago on Monday night
In his statement, Trump portrayed himself as a victim of shadowy government forces. FBI Director Christopher Wray was appointed to his position by then-President Trump.
Trump complained on Monday that ‘such an assault could only take place in broken, Third-World Countries. Sadly, America has now become one of those Countries, corrupt at a level not seen before.’
‘They even broke into my safe! What is the difference between this and Watergate, where operatives broke into the Democrat National Committee? Here, in reverse, Democrats broke into the home of the 45th President of the United States,’ he said.
Trump was not at Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence, when the raid took place. The former president was in New York City on Monday. He gave a thumbs up as he left Trump Tower that evening after he announced the raid.
He usually spends August at his golf club in Bedminister, N.J. Photos posted to social media show him there on Sunday, posing with a newly-engaged couple.
The raid was believed to be tied to a DoJ investigation into the boxes of records containing classified information that were taken to Mar-a-Lago.
In February, the National Archives and Records Administration asked DoJ to examine whether the former president violated federal law. There are multiple statutes governing classified information, including a law punishable by up to five years in prison that makes it a crime to remove such records and retain them at an unauthorized location.
National Archives officials recovered 15 boxes of White House materials from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in mid-January.
Among the items Trump had to return were correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Trump has described as ‘beautiful letters’ and a handwritten letter that former President Barack Obama had left behind in the Oval Office for his successor.
Some Republicans were immediately critical of the raid.
‘Using government power to persecute political opponents is something we have seen many times from 3rd world Marxist dictatorships But never before in America,’ wrote Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida on Twitter.
Donald Trump was at his golf club in Bedminister, N.J., on Sunday, according to this photo of him posing with a newly engaged couple that was posted to social media
Boxes were spotted just outside the West Wing in the days leading up to former President Donald Trump’s last day in office in January 2021
People wait for a moving van as they move boxes out of the Eisenhower Executive Office building on January 14, 2021
Among the documents Trump reportedly took with him when he left the White House were correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un that Trump has described as ‘beautiful letters’; above the two leaders at the DMZ in June 2019
Trump also reportedly took with him the letter Barack Obama left him int the Oval Office when Obama’s presidency finished – above President Obama and President-elect Trump in the Oval Office on November 10, 2016
Trump insisted, at the time, that the transfer of boxes to the National Archives and Records Administration was done ‘openly and willingly’.
‘Following collaborative and respectful discussions, the National Archives and Records Administration openly and willingly arranged with President Trump for the transport of boxes that contained letters, records, newspapers, magazines, and various articles,’ he wrote in the third person.
He added: ‘Some of this information will someday be displayed in the Donald J. Trump Presidential Library for the public to view my Administration’s incredible accomplishments for the American People.
In response to the seizure of materials, the House Oversight and Reform Committee opened a probe into Trump’s improperly removing or destroying White House documents.
‘Removing or concealing government records is a criminal offense punishable by up to three years in prison,’ the congressional letter to NARA Archivist David Ferriero noted.
Trump also was known throughout his presidency to rip up pieces of paper, which is a violation of the Presidential Records Act.
The Presidential Records Act requires the White House to preserve all memos, letters, emails and papers the president touches and send them to the National Archives for safekeeping.
But Trump had the odd habit of ripping up papers when he’s done with them – what some aides call his unofficial ‘filing system.’
A group of staffers in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building was in charge of taping the records back together.
Fragments of paper collected from the Oval Office and the White House’s private residence were sent to records management office across the street from the White House to to be re-assembled with scotch tape and then sent on to the National Archives to be properly filed.
The former president also reported flushed records.
Maggie Haberman, a New York Times White House correspondent, claims in her upcoming book on the Trump presidency that Trump would give records the royal flush.
On Monday she claimed to have obtained pictures of presidential notes stuffed into the residence toilets from a former White House official who worked under the previous administration.
The images published by Axios on Monday purportedly show two sets of notes in the toilets, one of which is said to be located in a White House bathroom, and the other in an undisclosed location abroad during a foreign presidential trip – though the papers appeared to be handwritten rather than official documents.
One of the ripped up papers on top of a stack in the toilet shows what appears to be lawmakers names scrawled down in all capital letters in black sharpie.
Two names can be seen clearly on the paper – Rogers and Stefanik – although the rest of the torn up papers are mostly illegible.
It’s likely the names are referencing Republican Representative Mike Rogers of Alabama and GOP Conference Chairwoman Elise Stefanik, a Trump defender.
Trump spokesperson Taylor Budowich told Axios: ‘You have to be pretty desperate to sell books if pictures of paper in a toilet bowl is part of your promotional plan.’
‘There’s enough people willing to fabricate stories like this in order to impress the media class — a media class who is willing to run with anything, as long as it anti-Trump,’ he added.
Maggie Haberman, a New York Times White House correspondent who closely followed Trump during his presidency for an upcoming book, claimed to have obtained pictures of handwritten notes stuffed into the bowls. She says this image is from a White House toilet
The images published by Axios purportedly show two sets of notes in the toilets, though they do not appear to be official documents. This image, Haberman claims, is from a toilet on an overseas trip
Trump is involved in several other legal matters, including the Justice Department’s investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
And a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia is investigation whether Trump and his close associates sought to interfere in that state’s election, which Biden won.
Trump is also being probbed by various criminal and civil investigations at the state level.