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Former Watergate Prosecutor: Trump Should Have Been Charged Upon Exiting Office

Trump could potentially face charges in multiple investigations at the state and federal levels.

Former President Donald Trump boards his airplane at Palm Beach International Airport on February 22, 2023, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

A former Watergate prosecutor has said that former President Donald Trump — who is currently the subject of numerous state and federal investigations — should have been issued criminal charges the moment he left the White House.

“I think we need to hold the former president responsible for all of his crimes,” Jill Wine-Banks, who is also a legal commentator for MSNBC, said on Sunday, citing Trump’s actions surrounding the January 6, 2021, Capitol attack and his attempts to use the Department of Justice (DOJ) to promote false claims of election fraud.

Wine-Banks — who cross-examined Richard Nixon’s personal secretary during the Watergate investigation — also referenced Trump “trying to have fake electors” disrupt the Electoral College, his “trying to pressure [then-Vice President] Mike Pence” to go along with that scheme, and his transfer of thousands of government documents, hundreds marked as classified, to his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida upon leaving the White House.

The alleged crimes that took place in the middle of Trump’s presidency should also be considered, Wine-Banks said.

“It has always been strange to me that he was not indicted as soon as he left the presidency,” the former federal prosecutor said, “because he was named in the indictment of [former Trump lawyer] Michael Cohen, as the ‘Person Number One.’ It was said that the crime was committed for the benefit of ‘Person Number One.’ And that was clearly him.”

Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer, who was often described as his “fixer,” was charged with and pleaded guilty to tax evasion and campaign finance violations in August 2018. Cohen has said that he played a major role in facilitating hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels on Trump’s behalf, to cover up an alleged affair the two had engaged in years prior to his 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump faces numerous potential indictments in the coming months for actions he took at the end of his presidency. Legal experts have suggested that it’s not a matter of “if” Trump is charged, but “when.”

In an op-ed for Truthout on the House January 6 committee’s public hearings last summer, legal scholar Marjorie Cohn said the panel had “demonstrated that Trump was the fulcrum of a multipronged conspiracy to fraudulently declare himself the winner of the election.”

“Trump must be held to account for both his state and federal crimes with no further delay,” Cohn wrote.

Former federal prosecutor Cynthia Alksne recently hinted that Trump could soon be charged for his improper transfer of White House documents to Mar-a-Lago.

“Let’s face it — that’s an easy prosecution,” Alksne said to MSNBC in January. “You stole the documents. We’re asking for them. We ask you ‘pretty please.’ You said ‘no.’ You lied about it. You move them, and then we found them.”

There may be delays in that case as officials determine who, if anyone, Trump showed classified documents to, Alksne suggested.

A state investigation into Trump could also soon result in charges. Former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance tweeted this week that “we’re officially on Georgia-watch” — referring to an investigation into Trump’s attempts to coerce election officials to “find” him enough votes to overturn the 2020 presidential election result in that state.

It will be clear that charges are coming in that case when “suddenly, everyone’s phone in a crowded room will start blowing up with alerts all at once,” Vance said, warning that it may not happen as soon as many are hoping for.

“We’re in that sweet spot, although it’s important to keep in mind that we could remain there for awhile,” Vance added.

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