Editorial: Trump indictment No. 2: Special Counsel Jack Smith nabs the ex-president for absconding with government documents

Tribune Content Agency

Announcing to the world that he’s being indicted by Special Counsel Jack Smith for the mishandling of government documents, Donald Trump is predicting a future that we hope pans out. Bring it on, Jack.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, nor should it be cause for hand-wringing among those who stubbornly suggest that it is somehow inherently improper for a former president to even be criminally investigated, let alone indicted. They never get to the second part of that argument, which would be that presidents should be free to do anything they wished, above the law and without fear of consequence, a stance more typically associated with dictators than leaders of democratic societies, of which the United States paints itself as the shining example.

Much of the actual facts aren’t even in dispute. Trump had government documents, including hundreds marked classified, in his relatively unsecured possession at his Mar-a-Lago home after he left the presidency. The National Archives did ask for the materials back. Trump turned over some records and then his lawyers asserted that additional searches had found no additional documents, which strains credulity. The FBI found additional documents, including classified files, after a raid.

Really the only things in dispute are the extent to which Trump and his team knew about and approved of unlawfully keeping the records and then, more seriously, engaged in an attempt to cover up the fact that they were still at the private estate. It beggars belief that Trump would have been unaware of all this, and in fact seems to have acknowledged that he knowingly took classified stuff from the White House by absurdly insisting that he had declassified them telepathically.

In any case, whether he truly violated the law beyond a reasonable doubt will be for a trial jury to determine, but that means an indictment must come first. It is not a hit but in fact a great boon for democracy for a dogged prosecutor like Jack Smith to be probing grave offenses committed practically for all to see.