Political loopholes: An unusual precedent benefitted past presidents, and now could save Trump

by John Hanna

Photo: Alamy | Op-ed by John Hanna

The recent indictment of President Donald Trump relies on infringement of the Espionage Act of 1917, however, an ironic precedent could be Trump’s saving grace.

A similar case to Trump’s possession of allegedly classified documents uncovered at Mar-a-Lago occurred in the past when Bill Clinton refused to release audiotapes taken during his presidency to a government transparency watchdog called Judicial Watch.

According to a tweet from Fox host and radio personality Mark Levin, “If relevant law applied to Trump, Bill Clinton would be doing 50 years [of jail time] with his wife.”

Levin is referring to a court case in 2010 where former President Bill Clinton was able to avoid conviction because the Presidential Records Act protects former presidents and their decision on what administration records to release and when.

Judicial Watch ultimately sued for custody of the tapes, arguing they belong to the public, and not Clinton. According to Fox News, Obama administration-appointed Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that presidents are “completely entrusted with the management and even disposal of presidential records during his time in office,” citing the Presidential Records Act of 1978.

This court ruling could help Trump maintain his innocence in the ongoing process following his indictment. 

One part of the Presidential Records Act of 1978 (PRA) allows for public access to presidential papers and records through the Freedom of Information Act five years after the president has left office. However, the president can restrict up to six specific restrictions for up to 12 years after the administration ends.

When the case goes to trial in two months, Trump’s legal team could possibly point to the PRA or the Clinton case as a possible defense to one or more of the allegations and claims against him.

You may also like