Donald Trump’s former attorney has boldly predicted that the former president is going to jail as the criminal investigation into the trove of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago continues to heat up.
Ty Cobb, who worked as a White House attorney for the Trump administration from July 2017 to May 2018, told CNN that he believes the evidence against Mr Trump will lead to a conviction and prison time.
“I wouldn’t necessarily expand the case to try to prove the Espionage Act piece of it because there is so much evidence of guilty knowledge on the espionage piece that all they really have to do is show that Trump moved these documents at various times when DOJ was either demanding them or actually present, that he filed falsely with the Justice Department, had his lawyers file falsely with the Justice Department and affidavit to the effect that none existed, which was shattered by the documents they discovered after the search and the many other misrepresentations that he and others have made on his behalf with regard to his possession of classified documents,” he said.
“Yes, I do think he will go to jail on it.”
Mr Cobb’s comments came as it was revealed that the National Archives had found a trove of records allegedly proving the former president knew he shouldn’t have taken classified documents to Mar-a-Lago.
This week, the National Archives sent a letter, obtained by CNN, to Mr Trump revealing that it had found 16 presidential records showing he and his top advisers were aware of the correct declassification process when he was in the White House.
“The 16 records in question all reflect communications involving close presidential advisers, some of them directed to you personally, concerning whether, why, and how you should declassify certain classified records,” wrote archivist Debra Steidel Wall.
This trove of presidential records appears to pour cold water on Mr Trump’s claims that he doesn’t think he did anything wrong by taking the documents – instead suggesting that he was fully aware of the protocol but chose to disregard it.
Since Mar-a-Lago was raided by the FBI last August, Mr Trump has repeatedly falsely claimed that he was allowed to take classified documents with him when he left the Oval Office.
He has also falsely claimed that the documents “automatically” became declassified when he took them with him from the White House.
“I had every right to under the Presidential Records Act,” he said just last week, during the disastrous CNN town hall.
“You have the Presidential Records Act. I was there and I took what I took and it gets declassified.”
He later added: “And, by the way, they become automatically declassified when I took them.”
In reality, under the Presidential Records Act, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has legal control of all presidential records as soon as a president leaves office.
Following the report of the National Archives’ records, Mr Trump’s attorney Jim Trusty insisted that he had the “constitutional authority” to take the documents.
“At the end of his presidency, he relied on the constitutional authority as commander-in-chief, which is to take documents and take them to Mar-a-Lago while still president as he was at the time, and to effectively declassify and personalise them,” he told CNN.
“He talked about declassifying them, but he didn’t need to.”
Meanwhile, the letter also revealed that Mr Trump’s legal team had tried to block NARA from handing over the records to Special Counsel Jack Smith’s office, citing “constitutionally based privilege”.
Mr Smith had issued NARA with a subpoena in January for records relevant to the grand jury investigation.
Notwithstanding any legal action to stop the handover, the special counsel will receive the records in question by 24 May as part of the ongoing criminal investigation.
As the probe into the documents heats up, one of Mr Trump’s attorneys has suddenly resigned from his legal team.
Tim Parlatore stood down on Wednesday – but insisted that his decision was “personal” and was not to do with Mr Trump or the strength of the case.
“It’s been an incredible honor to serve and work through interesting legal issues. My departure was a personal choice and does not reflect upon the case, as I believe strongly the (Justice Department) team is engaging in misconduct to pursue an investigation of conduct that is not criminal,” Mr Palatore told CNN in a statement.
The National Archives had first contacted Mr Trump in 2021 not long after he left office asking for documents that they had found to be missing from its records.
His team handed over boxes of documents – some including classified papers – but held onto troves more.
On learning, the FBI executed a raid on Mar-a-Lago in August 2022, seizing 27 boxes including 11 containing classified information.
Some of the information was of the highest possible top secret classification, meaning it should never have left the custody of the government.