Former White House lawyer Ty Cobb believes the “feds are coming fast” for Donald Trump, predicting that the investigation into the former president’s alleged mishandling of classified documents will land him in prison.
Cobb, a former U.S. assistant attorney and member of the Trump legal team between July 2017 and May 2018, told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Thursday that a plethora of evidence exists to convict the former president. Trump, who is being investigated by special counsel Jack Smith, has maintained his innocence in this and all other current investigations into alleged criminal wrongdoing.
Investigations include Smith looking into Trump’s potential wrongdoing regarding the U.S. Capitol riot on January 6, 2021; whether he attempted to overturn the 2020 president election results in Georgia; as well as the indictment already handed down against Trump by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office for an alleged $130,000 hush-money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels via Trump’s ex-lawyer Michael Cohen during the 2016 campaign; and New York Attorney General Letitia James’ tax fraud suit filed in September against Trump and three of his children: Ivanka, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.
CNN reported Thursday that the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) informed Trump that 16 records would be handed over to Smith, purportedly showing that the former president and his top advisers had knowledge of the correct declassification process while he was president—which Cobb said would not be “much of a legal hurdle” for Smith should Trump challenge it in court.
“I would not necessarily expand the case to try to prove the Espionage Act piece of it because there is so much evidence of guilty knowledge on the espionage piece that all they really have to do is show that Trump moved these documents at various times when DOJ was either demanding them or actually present, that he filed falsely with the Justice Department, had his lawyers file falsely with the Justice Department, an affidavit to the effect that none existed—which was shattered by the documents that they then discovered after the search—and the many other misrepresentations that he and others have made on his behalf with regard to his possession of classified documents,” Cobb said.
It’s a “tight case” and Trump “will go to jail” because of it, Cobb said, adding that he believes it is ready for prosecution and requires no broader scope because Trump is continually “lying” about the law.
Trump told CNN town hall host Kaitlan Collins on May 10 that he couldn’t recall if he shared information regarding the documents with anyone else. He told her he was “allowed to” and had “the absolute right” to do so under the Presidential Records Act.
“When we left Washington, we had the boxes lined up on the sidewalk outside for everybody,” Trump said. “People are taking pictures of them. Everybody knew we were taking those boxes.”
Title 18, Section 1519 of U.S. Code states: “Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
Court documents show that NARA archivist Debra Steidel Wall corresponded with Evan Corcoran, a Trump attorney, on May 10, 2022, regarding the records being given to Smith.
“As you are no doubt aware, NARA had ongoing communications with the former President’s representatives throughout 2021 about what appeared to be missing Presidential records, which resulted in the transfer of 15 boxes of records to NARA in January 2022,” Steidel Wall wrote.
Included in those boxes were items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of “Top Secret” and including “Sensitive Compartmented Information” and “Special Access Program” materials.
That letter was sent about four weeks after Trump’s legal team was first notified of NARA’s intent to provide the FBI access to the boxes “so that it and others in the Intelligence Community can conduct their reviews,” she said.
Former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, who served in the Trump administration, also forecast Thursday that the classified documents case will be the former president’s biggest legal pitfall.
“It’s very clear that he had no business having those documents,” Barr told CBS News’ Catherine Herridge. “He was given a long time to send them back and he was—they were subpoenaed. And if there’s any games being played there, he’s going to be very exposed.”
Clark Cunningham, law professor at Georgia State University, told Newsweek that he agrees with Cobb and Barr—that Trump’s most urgent risk of prosecution and conviction might be greatest in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case.
A sworn certification document dated June 3, 2022, and signed by Trump’s records custodian was a response to a subpoena sent to testify before a grand jury.
“I understand that this certification is made to comply with the subpoena, in lieu of a personal appearance and testimony,” said the custodian, whose name was redacted.
It added that based on what the custodian was told, a “diligent search” was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida, that the search was conducted after receipt of the subpoena “in order to locate any and all documents that are responsive to the subpoena,” and that no copies, written notation or reproduction “of any kind” was retained.
“The sworn certification given by Trump’s lawyers to the Department of Justice at Mar-a-Lago last June that ‘all documents responsive to the [grand jury] subpoena’ were being handed over was clearly a false statement,” Cunningham said. “That document by itself is powerful evidence that the federal obstruction of justice statute was being violated—which carries a 20-year sentence.
“The decision who to prosecute turns on who knew the certification was false: the lawyers who gave it to the DOJ, or—as seems increasingly likely—their client, Donald Trump.”
Newsweek reached out via social media to Cobb and via email to Trump’s campaign for comment.