Trump refusing to return documents was 'the event horizon' that led to indictments: ex-prosecutor

Trump refusing to return documents was 'the event horizon' that led to indictments: ex-prosecutor
ABERDEEN, SCOTLAND - MAY 01: Former U.S. President Donald Trump disembarks his plane "Trump Force One" at Aberdeen Airport on May 1, 2023 in Aberdeen, Scotland. Former U.S. President Donald Trump is visiting Scotland as he faces legal actions in the United States. Early April, Trump had pled not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images).

Former President Donald Trump could have avoided being indicted by the United States Department of Justice if he had only fully cooperated with the National Archives' request to return all of the classified documents that he took from the White House to his Palm Beach, Florida Mar-a-Lago golf club, according to ex-prosecutor Danny Cevallos' analysis on NBC News' Saturday edition of Meet the Press Now.

"You know, and Danny, I'm looking through this indictment right now," the host noted. "You know, you can see on page nineteen it says, you know, a message between Trump employees and one of these employees sends a text saying quote, 'he's tracking the boxes.' And Danny, I wanna talk about, you know, early on, might a defense have been, look, he's a former president. He has a lot on his mind. He may have not actually known. The details of where these boxes were, he wasn't paying close attention to it. He could perhaps say that this was something his employees did, but according to this page nineteen of the indictment, it appears that the former president knew exactly where they were and was asking them to be moved. How does president, former President Trump's team defend against specifically that?" he asked.

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Cevallos explained that Trump's decision to string the government along ultimately led to him being charged.

"I think you've hit on the major theme. Why are we here with this defendant? And it goes back to your two words early on," Cevallos said.

"I suspect this could have been averted if early on, and I think the Maginot line here is the time when agencies other than DOJ were involved when the National Archives was saying, 'We would like our documents back.' I fully believe that had Donald Trump negotiated and gotten those documents back before other agencies felt it necessary to make a referral to DOJ, we never would've been here. In fact, that's an argument that the defense is making," Cevallos continued. "They're making the argument that this started out as National Archives using a federal statute that doesn't have any punitive measures, but they just wanted the documents back. Maybe the defense doesn't realize they're inadvertently making the prosecution's argument, which is only by escalating to this, this to the point that the National Archives and the other agency felt that they needed to refer this to DOJ. That was a line that was crossed, that was the point of no return. That was the event horizon. After that point, once DOJ was involved, you arguably already have intent of all of these, and I call them overlapping elements. I, I think concealment shares a lot in common with, with, you know, hiding documents or retaining documents or some of the other overlapping Venn diagram elements that are contained in this indictment."

Watch the segment below or at this link.

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