Explanation – What Happens Next In The Trump Documents Affair

By Jack Queen

(Reuters) – Former U.S. President Donald Trump has been charged with unlawfully keeping classified government records at his Florida estate after leaving the White House in 2021 and obstruction of justice. Here’s what to expect as the case progresses.


Trump, who on Thursday claimed his innocence, is due to make his first appearance in federal court in Florida on Tuesday.

The indictment is under seal and it is unclear whether it will be made public before then.

Shortly after Trump appears in court, prosecutors will begin turning over evidence to Trump’s lawyers. That could include years of correspondence between Trump lawyers, the US National Archives and Records Administration and federal prosecutors as they haggled over the documents.

At some point, Trump’s lawyers are expected to file a motion to dismiss the case for a variety of reasons, including his claim that he declassified the documents before taking them. They are also likely to argue that the case should be thrown out for what they claim is prosecutorial misconduct, including alleged violations of a legal doctrine that allows people to keep communications with their lawyers private.

Motions to dismiss in criminal cases are common but rarely successful because defendants face a heavy burden to convince a judge that their case is too flawed to even go before a jury. Prosecutors are also entitled to the benefit of the doubt on their factual allegations at this stage.


The charges include violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice, misrepresentation to investigators and conspiracy, according to ABC.

None of these would automatically bar Trump from campaigning or taking office if found guilty.

It’s unclear what impact the case will have on Trump’s standing with voters. Trump’s number rose after he was indicted in a separate case in New York in April, and he is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

He has used the cases and investigations he faces as fundraising tools, telling his followers he is under attack and needs their help. Trump’s campaign said in April that donations increased after he was indicted in New York.


Any potential trial could take several months.

Trump, who has denied wrongdoing and calls the case a politically motivated “witch hunt”, has the right to be tried within 100 days, but that rarely happens in complex cases. Parties will likely agree to extend deadlines when reviewing evidence and arguing legal disputes in front of a judge.


It would be up to him to decide. Defendants are not required to testify and rarely do so because submitting to cross-examination by prosecutors is risky.

Trump did not testify in a recent civil lawsuit regarding allegations of sexual abuse and defamation brought against him by writer E. Jean Carroll. A jury found Trump liable in the case in May.


Prosecutions are unlikely to continue if Trump wins the 2024 presidential election.

The United States Department of Justice is part of the executive branch, and presidents are the primary enforcers of federal laws in the country. Federal prosecutors generally serve as they please.

The Justice Department has a decades-old policy that a sitting president cannot be prosecuted. The department can deviate from the policy in “extraordinary circumstances” with the approval of the United States Attorney General, the nation’s top law enforcement official.

A lame attorney general serving under President Joe Biden, in this case Merrick Garland, could ignore this policy and move on, but Trump, as president, could fire him and hire an acting replacement of his own choosing before moving on. appoint a permanent successor subject to US Senate Confirmation.

(Reporting by Jack Queen; Editing by Howard Goller, Noeleen Walder and Lincoln Feast)

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