OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
MSNBC host Rachel Maddow appeared to try and tamp down enthusiasm on the left over the Biden Justice Department’s indictment of former President Donald Trump following the news Thursday evening.
Trump has been indicted on seven counts, according to multiple reports, but Maddow, in a telephone interview with host Joy Reid, responded with some caution.
“Well, Joy, it’s one of those days when you both think like, wow, this is happening in my generation, in my lifetime,” she said. “We’re the first people to see federal criminal charges against a former president. It has a shock factor to it, but at the same time, I think we’ve really known was coming for some time.”
She then explained why anyone who is happy about the charges might want to rethink their enthusiasm.
“There are elements of what we know thus far that cut in the former president’s benefit, to his benefit, I think, in terms of what could’ve happened here. I mean, I’m sure he would rather face a jury in Florida than a jury in Washington, D.C., just as a matter of pure trial strategy,” Maddow began.
“If this means that the charges are very specific to the handling of classified documents – and we’ll have to see what the exact charges are and how many there are, and how serious they are – but if they are specific to that… there’s an interesting track record that he can look to in terms other people, even other high profile people, like for example, former General David Petraeus, who has been dinged for criminal conduct like that, and essentially gotten a slap on the wrist and gone on with their careers,” she continued.
“That said, other people have had to do prison time for these things. So, it feels like both unbelievably serious in terms of what this means for us, the American people, and a new benchmark low for our politics and what we expect of our political leaders. It also seems like it might not be the worst-case scenario that Trump might’ve been imagining, at least not at this point,” Maddow said.
Here are some of the charges that are being reported, according to The New York Times:
Unauthorized retention of national security documents
It is a crime to retain national security documents without authorization and to fail to deliver them to a government official entitled to take custody of them.
To win a conviction, prosecutors would have to show that Mr. Trump knew he was still in possession of the documents after leaving the White House and failed to comply when the government asked him to return them and then subpoenaed him.
It is a crime to agree with another person to break a law. Prosecutors would need to show that Mr. Trump and some other person had a meeting of the minds about committing a specific crime and that one of them took some step toward that goal. The penalty can be up to five years.
Concealing records to impede an official investigation is considered a criminal act. To build a case, prosecutors would have to establish several elements, including Trump’s awareness that he possessed records still subject to the custody efforts of the National Archives and Records Administration.
Additionally, they would need to demonstrate that he deliberately disregarded the Justice Department’s subpoena for classified files and intentionally influenced his subordinates to withhold these records while creating the impression that they had been fully provided. Each offense carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years.
“It is a crime to make a false statement to a law enforcement officer about a fact material to the officer’s investigation. Such crimes carry a penalty of up to five years per offense,” the Times reported.