Former President Donald Trump has been indicted on 37 counts by a federal grand jury in connection with the probe into his alleged mishandling of classified documents. Special Counsel Jack Smith had been investigating Trump’s handling of classified materials that were found at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, FL, as well as whether or not he obstructed the probe and/or government efforts to retrieve the material.
The unsealed indictment shows the GOP presidential candidate is charged with 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information, two counts of withholding a document or record, and one count of “scheme to conceal,” in addition to conspiracy to obstruct justice and making a false statement.
On Friday’s show, Megyn called the indictment “disgusting” and “blatantly political.” She was joined by attorneys Arthur Aidala and Dave Aronberg to discuss the ramifications of the charges and the relevance of what’s actually in the classified documents.
The ‘Blatantly Political’ Indictment
Megyn was candid about why she is “disgusted” by the latest Trump indictment. “To me this seems so f–king blatantly political – forgive me, sorry,” she said. “It’s upsetting. It’s just disgusting.”
Much has been made in the last 24 hours of the potential hypocrisy at play when you consider how politicians on the left have been treated compared to Trump, and Megyn said the “juxtaposition” to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is the most “compelling” one. “She scrubbed her servers, she destroyed her cell phones, she had classified information that she did not turn over, and [former FBI Director James] Comey came out and said, ‘There’s no crime,’” Megyn explained. “And now because Donald Trump – who, by the way, has the power to declassify unlike Hillary – looks like he’s regaining steam to recapture his nomination, he’s got to be charged?”
Trump’s legal battles do not end with the classified documents probe. “It looks like he’s probably going to be charged in Georgia – that would be the third indictment,” Megyn noted. “And Jack Smith may have a fourth indictment up his sleeve because he’s investigating him for January 6, too.”
Aidala likened the trend to “selective persecution” – something that, as a defense attorney, he’s accustomed to. “I watch this happen all the time… they choose who they go after and who they don’t,” he explained. “And obviously, the stakes are much higher… but I’m not surprised by it.”
Comparing the Alleged Crime
It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed like just about everyone in Washington, D.C. was admitting they had found classified documents in places they shouldn’t have been. President Joe Biden had ones at his office at the University of Pennsylvania. Former Vice President Mike Pence discovered some at his house in Indiana.
So, what makes Trump’s situation unique? “I recognize Trump’s behavior, as alleged, is different from the behavior in some ways of Joe Biden and Mike Pence because he was hit with a subpoena and they’re alleging that he did not comply with it, that he moved boxes around, that he willfully deceived the feds who were trying to get whatever he had,” Megyn explained. “That’s the allegation. We’ll see if they can prove it.”
None of that is alleged against Biden or Pence, but, as Megyn pointed out, “the underlying crime – before we get to the alleged cover up – is the same: You took classified documents that you had no right to take.”
Aronberg, a state attorney in Palm Beach County, FL, believes the difference lies in the cover up. “The crux of it is that Trump has admitted he knew he had the documents and instead of giving them back, he refused, and then tried to hide them, according to the allegations, from the feds,” he said.
Noting that he believes these are “serious allegations” and the charges are “appropriate,” Aronberg said precedent is not on the former president’s side. “There was an Air Force colonel who did something similar and was just sentenced to three years in prison. So, this is the type of thing that gets you prison time, and no one’s above the law.”
Trump’s Best Defense
Given what we now know about attorney Evan Corcoran’s notes and Trump aide Walt Nauta’s (who himself was also indicted as part of this probe) involvement in moving documents at Mar-a-Lago, Aronberg believes Trump’s best defense is going to be that he assumed the material was declassified because there would likely be at least one juror who would side with the GOP hopeful on that.
To get around that potential pitfall, Aronberg believes the feds are banking on the intricacies of the Espionage Act and the recent video that was released in which Trump appears to know the material in his possession is not declassified. “The documents don’t need to be classified under the Espionage Act,” he noted. “The documents only have to pertain to sensitive national security, they do not have to be classified.” Megyn said that point is “critical” and likely “bad” for the former president.
What’s in the Documents?
Something that remains unknown in all of this is what was actually in the documents that were found at Mar-a-Lago. “Hypothetically, let’s just say these documents have to do with ribbon cutting ceremonies at very special places and he wants to make sure his great-grandkids have these these documents for future reference and that this is what they’re indicting him over, then I would be outraged,” Aidala said. “If it has to do with selling secrets to the Chinese, then I would say thank God.”
To that point, Megyn said there are a couple theories at play in regards to the contents of the documents. “Maggie Haberman in The New York Times had earlier reported he maintained these documents because they were like tchotchkes to him – you know, ‘I want to I want to have a memento of my discussions with Kim Jong Un’ – which is very, very plausible with Trump,” she said, adding that the walls of Trump Tower are lined with magazine covers he was featured on.
The alternative is more sinister but still not outside the realm of possibility. “This alleged audio tape that CNN says it has a transcript of – but, again, we haven’t heard it ourselves – seemed to open up another possible theory which is Trump understood there is quote ‘deep state,’” Megyn explained, “that there is an unhealthy element inside the government working against him, that has hated him and wanted to undermine his presidency and his agenda, and he seems to have collected some documents as insurance.”
Megyn shared that Judge Judy once told her that she keeps a file on every person she meets as collateral, and this could potentially be Trump’s version of that. “Maybe this is Trump’s ‘Judge Judy file,’” she concluded. “I could see that, but in no world do I see Trump selling secrets to our enemies.”
You can check out Megyn’s full analysis by tuning in to episode 569 on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you like to listen. And don’t forget that you can catch The Megyn Kelly Show live on SiriusXM’s Triumph (channel 111) weekdays from 12pm to 2pm ET.