Legal experts reacted to the Thursday indictment of former President Donald Trump in the Department of Justice (DOJ) classified documents probe, arguing the case needs to be strong to avoid partisan appearance.
Trump announced his indictment on Truth Social Thursday night; his attorney, Jim Trusty, later confirmed on CNN that the former president had been indicted on seven counts, including one count under the Espionage Act and other counts involving obstruction of justice, false statements and destruction or falsification of records. While the indictment remains sealed, legal experts said the potential charges should be considered in light of other cases the DOJ has brought or declined to bring.
Harvard Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz wrote on Substack Friday that the indictment “better be the strongest case of obstruction of justice since Richard Nixon” because anything less will “smack of a partisan double standard.”
“The burden is on this administration to demonstrate that the case is so strong that failing to bring it would be a great injustice,” he said. “It must be far stronger than the cases that were not brought against Hillary Clinton, Joseph Biden, Sandy Berger, and Mike Pence. Perhaps it passes that test, and if it does there will be no basis for any complaint.”
Jonathan Turley tweeted Thursday night that the mishandling documents charges “would likely be discomforting for some of the Biden legal team since those documents were moved repeatedly for a longer period of time,” noting that it is “not clear if these counts deal with moving documents as opposed to mere possession.”
“The fact that Trump has faced criminal investigations or allegations in all three of his presidential campaigns may give Trump a rather novel campaign slogan in promising to pardon himself on the federal charges, if elected,” he continued.
More liberal experts, however, argued that the indictment was necessary and in line with the rule of law.
Neal Katyal, Georgetown Law professor and former U.S. Acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration, said Thursday night this is “really the only outcome that the Justice Department could arrive at.”
“What kind of message would it send to the people who risk their lives gathering covert information if the govt allows someone to behave so recklessly w/ our nation’s most important secrets?” he tweeted. “These charges are not only an important step to protect our national security, but also to preserve the rule of law in America. This indictment makes it clear that no person – not even a former president – can brazenly disregard the law without consequence.”
“This is undeniably a dark and tragic day for America.
With this news, the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice has completely and totally destroyed any semblance of its impartiality. More than that, it has caused significant societal harm that will unfold for years to…
— America First Legal (@America1stLegal) June 9, 2023
America First Legal Vice-President and General Counsel Gene Hamilton said in a statement Thursday night that it is an “undeniably a dark and tragic day for America.”
“With this news, the Biden Administration’s Department of Justice has completely and totally destroyed any semblance of its impartiality,” Hamilton said. “More than that, it has caused significant societal harm that will unfold for years to come in ways we cannot currently imagine.”
“On the heels of the Durham report—which revealed an unprecedented effort by the DOJ to take down a political opponent—they have once again taken a further step down a road of unparalleled action that appears intended to destroy a political opponent of the ruling regime,” he continued.
Dershowitz said the Constitution “empowers people being investigated for criminal conduct to refuse to cooperate with prosecutors” but noted it is possible Trump “went beyond that and crossed the line into unlawfully obstructive behavior.”
“[L]et us all keep an open mind until we know all of the facts, but let’s remain skeptical about an incumbent administration prosecuting the leading candidate to unseat that administration in the forthcoming election,” Dershowitz continued.
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