Trump ignoring White House lawyer on secret docs could open door to Espionage Act charges: legal expert
President Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Phoenix, photo by Gage Skidmore.

Reacting to a report from the New York Times that a White House lawyer warned Donald Trump late last year that he had no right to hang onto sensitive government documents after he left office, one former U.S. Attorney claimed that the allegation just increased the chances the former president could be indicted by the Department of Justice.

Late Monday, the Times reported, "The lawyer, Eric Herschmann, sought to impress upon Mr. Trump the seriousness of the issue and the potential for investigations and legal exposure if he did not return the documents, particularly any classified material, the people said," before adding, "Mr. Trump thanked Mr. Herschmann for the discussion but was noncommittal about his plans for returning the documents, the people familiar with the conversation said."

If true, former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade told the hosts on MSNBC"s "Morning Joe," Trump opened the door to indictment under the Espionage Act.

Asked about the "legal ramifications" for Trump over the allegations, McQuade explained, "It's excellent evidence of one of the essential elements of the offense when it comes to the Espionage Act and the retention of government records, which is willfulness."

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"Did you do this knowing that it was against the law, and this could be strong evidence of that," she elaborated before cautioning, "One tricky aspect of this, I imagine he would assert attorney/client privilege as to these statements and say that the privilege belongs to him, and cannot be waived by a lawyer like Eric Herschmann -- I imagine there would be some litigation. But I think ultimately the government would prevail. The client is not Donald Trump the man, it is the president of the United States and is actually in the best interest of the office and the nation for the government to retain these documents."

"I think the government would win the battle, but you can bet Donald Trump will assert that," she added. "I also think it could be relevant to the obstruction of justice charges, which I think is going to come down to, again, was it the lawyers who made the misrepresentations about whether they had the documents or were they directed to do so by Donald Trump."

Watch the video below or at this link.

MSNBC 09 20 2022 06 02 54 youtu.be