If Trump broke a law on the removal of official records, would he be barred from future office?

Former President Donald J. Initial reports that the FBI’s search of Trump’s Florida residence was related to an investigation into whether he illegally took government files after he left the White House focused on vague criminal laws, excluding the removal of official records. Penalties for breaking that law include disqualification from holding any federal office.

Because Mr. Trump is believed to be preparing to run for president again in 2024, the unusual penalty raises the possibility that he could be legally barred from returning to the White House.

In particular, the Act in question – Section 2071 of Title 18 of the United States Code – It is an offense if a person in possession of government documents or records “willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, destroys, falsifies or destroys” them.

If convicted, defendants face fines or up to three years in prison. In addition, the law says, if they currently hold federal office, they “shall forfeit” that office and be “disqualified from holding any office under the United States.”

On its face, if Mr. Trump is indicted and convicted of removing, concealing, or destroying government records under that law, he seems ineligible to run for president again.

But there was reason to be cautious: The law briefly came under scrutiny in 2015, after it was revealed that Hillary Clinton, widely expected to be the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee, had used a private email server to conduct government business. State

George W. Some Republicans briefly questioned whether the law could keep Mrs. Clinton out of the White House, including Michael Mukasey, a former attorney general in the Bush administration. At least it was A conservative think tank.

But considering that scenario, many legal scholars—including Seth B. of Maynooth University in Ireland. Tillman And Eugene Volokh of the University of California, Los Angeles – Stated and argued that the Constitution sets out the eligibility criteria for who can become President Supreme Court decision indicated Congress cannot change them. The Constitution allows Congress to disqualify people from holding office in the process of impeachment, but provides no such power for general criminal law.

After Mr. Volokh reported on his blog Mr. Mukase – who is also a former federal judge – wrote that “upon reflection,” Mr. Mukase was wrong and that Mr. Tillman’s analysis was “spot on.” (Mrs. Clinton has not been charged with any crime related to her use of the server.)

On Monday, one of the most prominent voices pointing to Section 2071, Democratic lawyer Mark Elias — who served as general counsel to Mrs. Clinton’s campaign — initially cited the law’s disqualification provision. A Twitter post “It’s a really, really big reason why today’s raid is a potential blockbuster in American politics.”

He followed up with another Twitter post which acknowledged that no punishment under Section 2071 could prevent Mr Trump from seeking the presidency again – but argued that a legal fight over it would still be significant.

“Yes, I recognize the legal challenge that would arise from applying this law to the President (as qualifications are laid down in the Constitution),” he said. wrote. “But the idea that a candidate would have to litigate this during the campaign is, to me, a ‘blockbuster in American politics.'”

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