Next week a grand jury will reconvene in a Washington, D.C. courthouse to hear more testimony in the growing case against former president Donald Trump that could lead to him being charged with violating the Espionage Act and obstructing justice.
NBC News reports that the grand jury empaneled by Justice Department Jack Smith has been on a brief hiatus but is scheduled to meet again Monday, according to sources familiar with the investigation.
Based on reporting from NBC News and other outlets, prosecutors face two central legal questions: 1) Did Trump wrongfully retain classified documents after he left the White House? 2) Did he later obstruct the government’s efforts to retrieve them?
If Smith decides to indict Trump, it would be the first time a former president has been charged with a federal crime. Though Trump has already been charged in New York with state crimes related to hush money payments, the cases differ dramatically.
Court filings suggest that Smith is indeed gathering evidence that would support prosecuting Trump for some very serious crimes which carry extremely long sentences in federal prison. Those fall into two main categories:
- Crimes about the handling (or mishandling) of classified documents.
- Crimes about obstructing investigators from retrieving all of those materials, even when under subpoena.
Mishandling the documents falls under the Espionage Act, which makes it a crime for anyone to be in “unauthorized possession” of “national defense” material and then “willfully” holds on to the items in violation of federal law.
Obstruction involves the intent to “impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation.”
But there are also other possible avenues Smith could pursue against the disgraced ex-president, NBC notes.
Recent reporting from the Washington Post about Trump “sometimes” showing classified documents to others raises the question of whether he could be charged under an entirely different statute, “disclosure of classified information,” which prohibits revealing certain classified material to anyone not authorized to receive it.
With the grand jury gathering again, all of this begs the question of when we can expect Smith to possibly hand down indictments against Trump. Based simply on the fact that the 2024 primary season is already beginning with candidate announcements, it would seem that Smith will be making a decision very soon. But the actual timeline is known only by him.
The next couple of weeks should be worth watching very closely.