top of page

Trump Indictment to Test Criminal Justice System By Barrington M. Salmon

Former President Donald Trump

Former US Attorney General Bill Barr may have said it clearest: “If even half of it is true, then he’s toast. It’s a very detailed indictment and it’s very, very damning." Barr was responding to a 37-count indictment handed down by a Florida grand jury in a stunning denouement to the classified documents case against former President Donald Trump. Department of Justice Special Counsel Jack Smith dropped the hammer on Trump in the 49-page indictment after Trump, 76, took more than 11,000 classified documents, including Secret and Top-Secret documents and related material to his home in Florida. The charges substantiate that Trump violated the Espionage Act, illegally withheld national security secrets, lied about it and obstructed the DOJ investigation, according to the Justice Department. Despite pleas and multiple requests from the National Archives, Trump refused to return the documents until the Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Mar a Lago last August and seized the critical papers. Through it all, Trump continued to argue that he had the right and executive privilege as a former president, to hold on to these and other government documents, including documents holding America’s most critical and sensitive military and nuclear secrets. Trump is now the first U.S president to face federal charges. “I’m not seeing evidence from all the past issues that he’ll be held accountable. The list of Trump’s wrongdoings is like a receipt from CVS. Much of the wrongdoings were done well before he became president and he’s untouched,” said political consultant and commentator, Michele Watley. “Call me when he’s convicted. I would be surprised if he is convicted. Chalk it up to White privilege, wealth, his network and family connections. All of these have shielded him.”

Trump is looking at 37 charges detailed in a 49-page indictment: willful retention of national defense information (31 counts); conspiracy to obstruct justice; withholding a document or record; corruptly concealing a document in a federal investigation; a scheme to conceal; making false statements and representations; and espionage. He is slated to appear at a federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, June 13. Watley, a Kansas City, Missouri resident and founder and owner of The Griot Group LLC, a strategic communications and political advocacy consulting practice, said “no one Black that I know of would not be held accountable or killed or had their careers desecrated for the things he’s done.”

At his age, she said, Trump has spent three quarters of a century doing all the illegal, illicit and questionable things he’s done and he’s never being held accountable or responsible. With Trump facing his first indictment and unresolved cases in the District of Columbia and Georgia, there are a host of uncertainties.

“When you look at all the charges, it will be interesting to see how this plays out with his base. And how other candidates will treat him and his presence in the race,” said Watley, who has more than 15 years’ experience in public affairs, political strategy and advocacy, and governmental processes.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, who had not made a public statement during the investigation, held a brief press conference after the indictment was unsealed.

“Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and must be enforced,” said Smith, who encouraged everyone to read the document in full. “Violation of these laws put us at risk. Americans put their lives at risk. We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone.”

Bill Berlow, a retired writer and associate editor at The Tallahassee Democrat said he was aghast at Trump’s treasonous behavior. “Given Trump's well-documented laziness and haphazard attitude toward securing highly sensitive classified information, during and after his presidency, one can only guess how much of that information fell into the hands of agents of foreign governments, especially since access to Mar-A-Lago was not difficult,” he said. “I would be extremely surprised if this fiasco has not already cost the lives of some U.S. and foreign agents and other assets who provided our intelligence services with sensitive information.” Berlow, a consultant at William R. Berlow Inc., said his guess is that the actual damage to America’s intelligence services is incalculable.

“… Not only because of the breaches described in the indictment but, perhaps more importantly, those dozens of examples left out of the indictment at the behest of U.S. intelligence agencies. I can think of only one word to appropriately describe this: treason." David Cannady, senior partner at Cannady & Associates, offered an unusual scenario that would nullify the clear and present danger Trump still poses to the safety and security of the United States, whether it be his alleged cavalier treatment of state secrets, his involvement and instigation of the Jan 6 coup and riot and his reputed fascist and authoritarian leanings. “It’s pretty significant. They did not pull any punches,” Cannady said of Smith’s investigative findings. “They made sure that unlike Hillary and other cases, that they can’t say they don’t know if he did or didn’t do it. It was conclusive. That was extremely important to protect the political process.”

This might be why Trump wants to run – to have fodder for his campaign run, said Cannady, a former assistant state attorney with the Broward State Attorney’s Office.

“These are felonies. If he’s convicted of these crimes, this will prohibit him from ever becoming president again,” he said. “The question is do you, are you, can you indict a former president? If you say no one is above the law, then you have to go through this process. This is not something that people haven’t been indicted for in the past. It’s so jarring because of who it is and the political climate.”

Cannady said the claims made against Trump are legitimate and the indictment is pretty boilerplate, but if convicted, Trump could be looking at a long stretch.

“Did he do it? Yeah, he did it,” Cannady asserted. “He’s so brazen, he thinks he can flout and disregard any and all laws. If he’s convicted, what are the implications to his presidency? All the things inside of me say he will be indicted. They’re showing him they can reach out and touch him. He faces 90 years in prison. I think if he’s convicted, he would serve something minimal and be pardoned by whoever is president, Democrat or Republican.”

Cannady’s reasoning was simple.

“If he is convicted, I believe a president will pardon him. It’s important for people like him to know they can be touched,” he said. “We’ll be seeing the judiciary and criminal justice aspects of the system play out. If he’s ultimately indicted and sentenced, he will know that anybody can be touched. Trump may negotiate and offer, through a plea deal, not to run again.”

There is considerable angst among law enforcement, Democrats and political observers that Trump’s Tuesday appearance may trigger violence from his devoted and rabid followers. Trump has been coaxing his followers to react to this latest indictment and social media has been abuzz with anger and threats against the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Biden administration and Democratic members of Congress. It is clear that even if Trump isn’t re-elected president, during his time in the White House he ignited a wildfire of white grievance, self-pity, persecution and retribution that excites his base and is scaring the hell out of what used to be the Republican Party.

One thing is clear: Conviction, sentencing or not, Donald John Trump isn’t going away. And it appears that those most concerned about the considerable blast radius caused by Trump and Trumpism still have no idea how to defuse what he’s selling and what he has come to represent.


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating

Top Stories

bottom of page