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More obstruction evidence at Mar-a-Lago would be the last thing Trump needs

Here's why proof of obstruction in a classified documents case is especially bad for a potential defendant.


All eyes are on New York this week for Donald Trump’s historic arraignment in Manhattan. But there’s a new development in the Mar-a-Lago documents case that might be just as significant.

Recall that Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith oversees two other Trump-related probes: into the Jan. 6 insurrection, and classified material found at Trump’s Florida resort. This new information pertains to the second investigation. As The Washington Post reported on Sunday:

Investigators now suspect, based on witness statements, security camera footage, and other documentary evidence, that boxes including classified material were moved from a Mar-a-Lago storage area after the subpoena was served, and that Trump personally examined at least some of those boxes, these people said.

Neither MSNBC nor NBC News has confirmed this reporting. But if true, it would be unfortunate news for the former president. Obviously, no one ever wants to be criminally investigated, much less have investigators amass increasingly damning evidence of one's guilt. But any proof of obstruction in a classified material case is especially bad for a potential defendant, because obstruction is a factor that can lead federal prosecutors to bring charges in cases that they might otherwise leave alone.

Trump arraignment: Follow our live blog beginning at 10 a.m. ET on Tuesday for the latest updates and analysis on Trump’s arrest in New York.

As I wrote previously, regarding Mar-a-Lago, “Trump’s potential obstruction of the documents investigation could be what earns him criminal charges, based on past DOJ precedent, as opposed to what we know about the documents situations involving President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence.”

In other words, evidence of obstruction in a classified documents probe can make a difference not only in the strength of a case, but in whether a case gets brought at all. So, as Trump’s Manhattan arraignment approaches, the news out of the Mar-a-Lago probe is yet more evidence suggesting the former president’s first indictment might not be his last. Indeed, if, as expected, Trump returns to his Florida resort after his New York arraignment on Tuesday, he may simply be moving from one alleged crime scene to another.