Federal laws governing record retention could be used by Democrats as the basis for denying President Donald Trump the ability to run for office again, effectively barring him from ever returning to the White House, according to legal experts.
U.S. Code Title 18, Section 2071 (b) states that “Whoever, having the custody of any such record, proceeding, map, book, document, paper, or other thing, willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys the same, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both; and shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.”
Pursuant to the Federal Bureau of Investigations’ (FBI) raid of Trump’s palatial Mar-A-Lago residence on Aug. 8, this statute could be employed by Trump’s political opponents to stop his future political ambitions.
“If Trump is convicted under this federal statute, he would be prohibited from holding any office including the office of the president,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told Daily Mail.
Mar-A-Lago was raided by the FBI as part of an investigation to determine whether he retained classified documents taken from his tenure as president. The move – storming a former president’s private residence – is unprecedented and an escalation in tensions between the Trump administration and political foes seeking to thwart his return to public office.
Shortly after the raid, Trump, in a statement released on his social media platform Truth Social, characterized the raid as prosecutorial misconduct, weaponization of the Justice System, and an attack by Democrats who don’t want him to run for president in 2024.
When the former president left office in January 2021, his team reportedly took 15 boxes of material with him. The National Archives confiscated the boxes a year later, arguing that their contents were protected and that their storage at Mar-A-Lago violated that Presidential Records Act, which requires the U.S. government to keep all forms of certain documents and communications related to White House duties.
“FBI agents, in an investigation like this, are not always going to find every missing document or even discover every instance where a paper went missing,” Rahmani said. “It’s not hard to destroy documents and in some cases investigators will never find any evidence that a document even existed.”
He also stated that the raid was likely carried out in search of additional documents that should have been in the National Archives.
Rahmani also noted that evidence in the raid could also be used by the Jan. 6 Committee, which has been exploring the prospect of indicting the former president and those within his orbit.