Donald Trump is considered the Teflon president. He’s survived two impeachments and is currently being investigated by federal and state authorities, but no one has made a charge stick to date and he has never suffered any consequences for his actions.
It looks like that Teflon is finally burning off, however, because I believe the former president is going to jail.
Like the infamous Al Capone, it will be something simple that leads to Trump’s downfall. The feds and state authorities were after Capone for various crimes but could never get a conviction to stick until they arrested him for tax evasion. That’s when the elusive gangster was indicted, convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Similarly, Trump’s downfall is likely to come from his failure to return documents that don’t belong to him to the National Archives, rather than anything related to the Jan. 6 insurrection, the case against him in Georgia or fraud within the Trump organization.
Many pundits, including me, are trying to determine if Trump’s ego is so big that he thought he could rule the U.S. for life and ignore top-secret designations on documents with impunity, or if he’s just so incompetent and disorganized that he packed up those documents along with his pajamas while hastily leaving the White House. Or perhaps he had a more sinister motive of selling our country’s secrets or using the documents for purposes of blackmail.
What I do know is that improperly removing confidential, top-secret documents, and then lying when asked to return them – leading to a subpoena and search by the FBI – results in a very easy case to bring against Trump.
He and his staff knew or should have known that they were not allowed to take these confidential documents. They were asked by the National Archives to return them. And while some 15 boxes were surrendered, that still wasn’t everything.
Through his lawyers, Trump lied and said there were no more; the raid on Mar-a- Lago revealed the opposite. Plundered documents were lying around in multiple locations – including his bedroom, office, living room and the storage closet. None of these are appropriate places for storing matters of U.S. national security, including potential nuclear secrets.
Trump was cavalier about such documents while he was in office. He once infamously disclosed United Kingdom intelligence to the Russian foreign minister and Russian ambassador. During his presidency our allies were scared to share information with the U.S. – rightfully so – because he might disclose it. Therefore, it is no surprise that he stole documents in the midst of his chaotic departure from the White House. Instead of focusing on leaving office and making sure there was a smooth transition, he and his team were planning an insurrection to steal the election.
Instead of doing its job, The Trump team was admittedly distracted, allowing the former president to walk away with documents of the utmost importance to our national security. Compounding this flimsy excuse is that – and I cannot stress this enough – when Trump was asked to return them all, he didn’t.
Trump’s mishandling of top-secret documents will be an easy case to prosecute based on the evidence that’s now come to light. Whether the prosecution will lead to his conviction is yet to be seen. Like Capone, Trump is facing a big legal challenge for something quite simple.
Every child who borrows a book from the public library knows that you must return it. Trump apparently never visited a public library, so he missed this valuable life lesson.
Reginald J. Clyne is a Miami trial lawyer who has practiced in some of the largest law firms in the United States. Clyne has been in practice since 1987 and tries cases in both state and federal court. He has lived in Africa, Brazil, Honduras, and Nicaragua.