Once Donald Trump’s special master stunt finishes quickly failing, he’ll have to start working on actual trial defenses with the expectation of being indicted. One of Trump’s best trial defenses would probably be that he was too clueless to know that he wasn’t allowed to have the classified documents he took. No one really believes this, but it’s a question of reasonable doubt. The bad news for Trump is that this defense just got fully wiped out.
Last year, former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann told Trump that he was breaking the law by possessing those documents and advised him to return them, according to a new report from the New York Times. Why is this important? When a lawyer (particularly one who used to work with you) informs you that you’re committing a crime by keeping something in your possession, and you continue to keep it in your possession anyway, it proves that you know you’re possessing it illegally. Yet Trump continued to keep the documents for another year after that.
It’s previously been reported that Herschmann testified against Trump to a DOJ grand jury, which means the DOJ already has Herschmann’s testimony about having informed Trump that he was committing crimes. This is the kind of thing that will help make sure Trump is actually convicted at trial, because now he can’t just play dumb to the jury and pretend he’s too stupid to understand how classified documents work.
We’re not the only ones who see it that way. Legal expert Laurence Tribe responded to the news by tweeting that an “Espionage Act indictment of Trump not long after the midterms seems all but inevitable.” The DOJ likes to keep building its case until it has enough in hand to make a conviction a near certainty. Herschmann’s testimony puts that over the top.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report