Former Secretary of Defense walks through what would happen to him if he took the documents Trump did
Donald Trump / AFP PHOTO / Paul J. Richards

Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen said that had he taken the documents that Donald Trump did he would have been arrested.

Speaking to MSNBC on Wednesday, Cohen called it "stunning" that the information of such a serious nature would have made it out of the White House, much less Washington, D.C., to the private possession of a former president.

"I can't recall any other example in my experience in politics, to be sure, where we ever had a president take that kind of information into his personal possession and not have it strictly guarded by official agencies," said Cohen. "It is just unprecedented. I think it's -- to follow up on the question you asked a moment ago, our allies will have less trust in us to the extent they believe that we are not conscious of the necessity of keeping this tightly secure. They will not share that information. Secondly, we might be gathering information even unbeknownst to them that would lend itself once again to less trust."

That level of trust among nations is one of the most important pieces of diplomacy and foreign policy. He explained that the U.S. pays billions to order such intelligence on adversaries.

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Cohen said had he been found to have government documents, particularly top secret, classified information he "would have been called to task. I don't recall ever having a classified document in my apartment in Washington. Every time I had access to information, there was someone there with a satchel to make sure once I read it, they took it back and took it to the Pentagon. If I were to have taken information unbeknown to the apartment and kept it as my private to preserve, I certainly could have been charged with a crime. Certainly, deprived of my position of defense. I think everyone in the department takes it very seriously as those in the CIA, DIA and every intelligence agency that we have."

He went on to say that there has to be a damage assessment to understand what the impact is of what Trump did and the fallout. Already there are diplomatic issues between France and the United States. He said that Trump's staff at Mar-a-Lago from aides to cleaning personnel will have to be interviewed to give information about the documents, where they were, who had access and other information.

Already there have been reports that foreign spies have tried to gain access to Mar-a-Lago and to the former president. It's unclear whether those people had access to the intelligence or if Trump has already given information out about the intelligence he took.

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Secretary of Defense explains what would have happened to him if he stole documents like Trump did