The DOJ now has 'the strongest case against Trump yet': legal expert
Donald Trump (Photo by Mandel Ngan for AFP)

In a column for Politico, former prosecutor Renato Mariotti maintained that Department of Justice now has a very prosecutable case against Donald Trump after FBI agents were forced to get a warrant to recover boxes of stolen highly-sensitive government documents from Mar-a-Lago last week after weeks of negotiations with the former president's lawyers.

According to Mariotti, Trump has only himself to blame for helping the Department of Justice put together a case that will stick.

With the New York Times reporting that surveillance video at the luxury Florida resort owned by Trump showed the disputed boxes of government reports were moved in and out of a room that was supposed to be secured, thereby alarming DOJ officials, the former prosecutor claimed that would be a contributing factor if investigators seek an indictment.

Writing for Politico, he asserted, "while it is possible the DOJ merely wanted to retrieve and secure the material that Trump refused to give back to the government, if they decide to press forward with charges, their case looks quite strong."

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"One strategy I used as a federal prosecutor was to have agents serve targets of investigations with a notice indicating that what they were doing was breaking the law. If the target continued to violate the law after receiving the notice, we had the proof we needed," he explained. "DOJ’s repeated requests and demands to Trump and his team served the same purpose. It will be difficult for Trump to claim that he did not realize that the records he kept were national security secrets that rightfully belonged to the government, given that the government repeatedly told him so and demanded their return."

The attorney added, "Although Trump may believe that highly classified defense secrets are his own personal property, or that he could keep Top Secret documents because he informally 'declassified' them without following established procedures, it will be difficult to convince jurors that he had a legitimate reason to keep such sensitive national security information at his Florida resort."

Mariotti also pointed out that Trump has been treated with "kid gloves" by the DOJ until now, but that seems to have come to an end.

He also added that Trump's "best defense" in this case would likely blow up in his face.

"Trump’s best defense would likely be that he didn’t really know that classified material remained at Mar-a-Lago, because he relied on his aides and lawyers, who told him that they gave all the classified material back to the government. The problem for Trump is that doing so would likely waive attorney-client privilege between himself and the lawyers he is pointing the finger at, and it’s unclear whether any of them would be willing to take the fall for him," he wrote

"I would not be surprised if DOJ refuses to pursue charges, regardless of their strength, in the absence of a 'plus factor' like obstruction. But that factor might be present here, given recent reports that one of Trump’s lawyers signed a written statement falsely asserting that “all material marked as classified” had been returned to the government. That falsehood might be why an obstruction statute was included in the search warrant executed at Trump’s residence," he predicted. "That false representation creates potential liability for the lawyer, because lying to the federal government is a crime if it is done knowingly and willfully. DOJ could investigate that lawyer, who could claim that she relied on Trump’s false statements or — if she lied on her own — potentially flip on him."

"If DOJ can establish that Trump was personally behind efforts to obstruct their investigation, they very well might charge him," he concluded.

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