Former President Donald Trump and his allies say that any sensitive White House documents he brought with him to his Mar-a-Lago estate had been declassified, but some legal and presidential record experts are skeptical of that claim — and say that Trump could be in criminal jeopardy regardless.
While the Justice Department has a long history of prosecuting cases involving the mishandling of classified information, no such case has ever been brought against a former president — the one government official who can declassify information at will.
"As the facts stand now, his defense would be, ‘I declassified those documents. I am not therefore in possession of classified documents now,'” said Charles Stimson, a senior fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation and a former federal prosecutor.
Others take a different view — including, it seems, the FBI, which executed a search warrant at Trump's Florida resort on Monday tied to classified information Trump allegedly took with him from the White House in January 2021. Trump lawyer Christina Bobb said Tuesday that the warrant left by agents indicated they were investigating possible violations of laws dealing with the handling of classified material and the Presidential Records Act.