Trump may have broken these 8 federal laws
- Trump's legal troubles have been piling up since the FBI searched Mar-a-Lago.
- The DOJ is investigating if Trump violated three federal laws related to his handling of national security information.
Former President Donald Trump officially launched his 2024 campaign in November. But in addition to a number of political fumbles that have hindered his comeback, Trump is also mounting his third run for the White House while facing a mountain of legal headaches.
Over the summer, the FBI executed a search warrant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in south Florida and recovered troves of sensitive government records that had been moved from the White House. Soon after, it surfaced that the Justice Department is investigating whether Trump violated three federal laws related to his handling of national security information and classified documents.
The former — and possibly future — president is also a person of interest in the DOJ's sprawling inquiry into events surrounding the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol. The House select committee running a parallel congressional investigation into the siege has sought to build the case that Trump violated at least five federal laws connected to his efforts to overturn the 2020 US election.
The committee subpoenaed Trump in October, which he did not comply with, and the panel has asked the DOJ to prosecute Trump for violating three of the five statutes it highlighted.
Here's a breakdown of the eight federal laws that Trump may have violated:
The Espionage Act
The DOJ is investigating if Trump violated a key facet of the Espionage Act relating to the removal of information pertaining to the US's national defense. Conviction on this count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.
The FBI took around 20 boxes of items total, including a handwritten note; Trump's order commuting the GOP strategist Roger Stone's prison sentence; information about the "President of France"; and binders of photos.
Federal agents also recovered 11 sets of classified documents after searching Mar-a-Lago. Some of the records were marked top secret and only meant to be housed in special government facilities, according to court filings.
Concealment, removal, or mutilation of records
There are two other laws Trump is suspected of violating in connection to his handling of government documents.
- 18 USC § 2071, which bars the concealment, removal, or mutilation generally of government records. Conviction on this count carries a maximum penalty of three years and disqualification from holding public office.
- 18 USC § 1519, which prohibits the destruction, alteration, or falsification of records "with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter" within the jurisdiction of federal agencies or departments. Conviction on this count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman previously reported that Trump allegedly ripped up and flushed sensitive documents in the toilet. Earlier this week, Haberman shared photos with Insider that showcase paper notes in two toilet bowls.
The House select committee revealed in a June 13 hearing that Trump's campaign raised more than $250 million from his supporters. In the fundraising emails, Trump's team suggested he would use the money to legally challenge the 2020 presidential election results.
But the committee found that the legal fund was never created, and instead the money was funneled to a political action committee called "Save America."
"It's clear that [Trump] intentionally misled his donors, asked them to donate to a fund that didn't exist and used the money raised for something other than what he said," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a member of the bipartisan January 6 committee, said after the June hearing.
Legal experts said the committee's revelations were part of an effort to show that Trump may have committed fraud.
"This is an allegation of textbook wire fraud," the former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason said of Lofgren's comments. Under federal law, an individual commits wire fraud if they intend to defraud or obtain money under false pretenses.
Obstructing an official proceeding
The Jan. 6 committee has said it has evidence showing that Trump and his 2020 campaign team violated federal law by attempting to obstruct or impede an official proceeding.
The panel points to Trump's efforts to pressure then Vice President mike Pence to disrupt Congress' election certification process by rejecting electors from battleground states that Biden won. They've also pointed to Trump's alleged scheme to remain in power by sending fake slates of pro-Trump electors to Congress from battleground states that he lost.
The committee is expected to ask the DOJ to prosecute Trump for this charge.
The Jan. 6 committee has also said Trump and his associates tried contacting witnesses who testified before the panel.
At a hearing on July 12, the committee showed evidence that Trump tried make a phone call to a committee witness, which could have constituted witness tampering. Republican Rep. Liz Cheney, who is vice chair of the committee, said she referred the matter to the Justice Department.
In another hearing on June 28, Cheney displayed two messages that a witness received from Trump's associate. Cheney did not disclose the witness' identity but read a description of their call with the Trump associate.
Cheney said the witness told the committee: "What they said to me is, as long as I continue to be a team player, they know that I'm on the team, I'm doing the right thing, I'm protecting who I need to protect, you know, I'll continue to stay in good graces in Trump World."
Conspiracy to defraud the government
In a March 2 court filing, the January 6 committee said that it has evidence that Trump and his campaign team violated another federal law by engaging in "a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States."
Prosecutors would have to prove that Trump knew he lost the 2020 election and continued to pursue efforts to overturn the election results. To that end, the January 6 panel played footage of testimony from multiple former White House officials who said they repeatedly told Trump that he had lost the election and there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud.
The panel is expected to ask the DOJ to prosecute Trump for this charge.
Inciting a rebellion
Prosecutors could also potentially build a case that the former president incited a rebellion on January 6 when thousands of his supporters stormed the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying Biden's victory.
The former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson testified before the January 6 committee that Trump knew his supporters were armed. She recalled Trump saying earlier on January 6: "I don't effing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in."
The January 6 committee is expected to ask the DOJ to prosecute Trump for this charge.
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