An FBI document that was just unsealed shows disgraced former president Donald Trump and his attorneys think that even though he is no longer in office, he continues to have “absolute authority” on matters of national security, including the ability to classify any classified document with the wave of his hand.
In other words, Trump was elected president, but he now has the powers of an emperor.
According to the Associated Press, Trump’s legal team is advancing an incredibly broad view of presidential powers:
A May 25 letter from one of his lawyers, attached as an exhibit to the search affidavit, advances a broad view of presidential power, asserting that the commander-in-chief has absolute authority to declassify whatever he wants — and also that the “primary” law governing the handling of U.S. classified information simply doesn’t apply to the president himself.
No court, it should be noted, has ever ruled that a president or former president has unchecked power that he can wield as he sees fit. Such a holding would make the entire constitutional system of checks and balances little more than words on a page and transform the United States into a totalitarian state ruled at the whims of one person.
Oona Hathaway, a Yale Law School professor and former lawyer in the Defense Department’s general counsel’s office, said the argument being advanced by Trump and his lawyers is absurd on it’s face:
One thing remains clear at this point: Trump is facing being charged with three felonies, the most serious of which is a statute found in the Espionage Act that makes it a crime to retain or transmit “national defense information.
Another law punishable by up to three years in prison makes it a crime to willfully remove, conceal or mutilate government records. And a third law, carrying up to 20 years imprisonment, covers the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.
Based on what we currently know about the allegations and possible evidence against Trump, he could be found guilty of violating any or all of the laws he’s suspected of having violated.