A federal case against Donald Trump for keeping classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate is “earth-shattering” — and will be an “uphill battle” for the former president to beat, legal experts say.
The 45th president allegedly kept hundreds of classified docs at the swanky Florida club after he left office — including records about the US nuclear weapons program, vulnerabilities in US defenses and plans for an attack on Iran, according to a 49-page Miami federal court indictment unsealed Thursday.
Former Brooklyn federal prosecutor Duncan Levin told The Post the case is much more serious than the “hush money” charges Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought against Trump in April.
“This is the kind of case that results in decades in prison,” Levin said. “Unlike the sentences that are handed down by the state courts in New York — where he is charged by the Manhattan DA’s office — and for that reason it’s earth shattering.”
“These charges are extremely serious and carry very heavy jail time with them,” Levin added. “Federal charges are a big deal.”
Trump is charged with 37 counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice, willful retention of national defense information, withholding a document, false statements and related offenses that carry prison terms totaling hundreds of years.
Another former federal prosecutor, Justin Danilewitz, told The Post that Trump has a tough legal task ahead.
“I think that this is going to be an uphill battle for the former president and his defense team,” Danilewitz said. “It looks like a strong case.”
Prosecutors have a July 2021 recording of Trump admitting he kept classified documents about a potential military strike on Iran after leaving office, which just adds to the strength of the case against him, Danilewitz said.
“They have recorded conversations — in other words direct evidence out of the defendant’s mouth,” Danilewitz said. “They have statements by the former president when he was a candidate making clear his knowledge about the seriousness of leaks of classified information.”
“It is a compelling case that has strong evidence of intent and it will pose a big hurdle to overcome for sure,” he said.
Both lawyers said prosecutors would have made sure they had an “airtight” case before going forward, with Levin adding prosecutors would need to “have the goods” against Trump.
“There is no such thing as a case that’s easy to prove,” Levin said. “The burden of proof is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, but when it comes to charging the former president of the United states — I’m sure they considered their burden to be airtight.”
Danilewitz said because of the scrutiny a case against a former president would get, it would have been “approved at the highest levels of the Department of Justice and was reviewed with a fine tooth comb.”
Here's what to know about former President Donald Trump's federal indictment
Former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges related to mishandling classified White House documents that were recovered at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Trump unlawfully kept hundreds of documents after leaving office — including papers detailing America’s conventional and nuclear weapons programs, potential weak points in US defenses, and plans to respond to a foreign attack, federal prosecutors charged Friday.
The 45th president stored boxes containing the documents throughout his estate, including “a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom, and a storage room,” according to a 49-page indictment filed in Miami federal court Thursday.
Follow the Post’s coverage of former President Trump’s federal indictment
The indictment against Trump was unsealed hours after the 76-year-old announced he had been charged by Jack Smith, the special counsel tapped in November to examine Trump’s retention of official documents at Mar-a-Lago.
The indictment is the former commander in chief’s second since leaving office and marks the first time in US history a former president has faced federal charges.
In April, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg related to hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election.
A former president getting charged with threatening national security “is a significant event,” Danilewitz said.
“Never before in the history of this country has a former president been indicted,” Levin said. “It’s unprecedented to be indicted once and to have it happen twice, is not only unheard of but mind boggling.”
Both lawyers said they think the case will go to trial, and Trump taking a guilty plea “seems inconsistent with the man’s personality and ambition,” Danilewitz said, asserting “a high-profile trial is probably in the offing.”
In announcing news of the indictment, Trump, 76, derided it as “the Boxes Hoax,” and labeled the Biden administration as “corrupt.”
Trump’s personal aide Walt Nauta was also charged with one count each of conspiracy, withholding, corruptly concealing, concealing, scheming to conceal and making false statements to federal investigators.
Trump’s due in court Tuesday.