(WASHINGTON) — Delaware Democratic Sen. Chris Coons on Sunday said he thinks Donald Trump’s federal indictment over handling of classified records creates electoral trouble for the GOP in 2024 — and, at the same time, he admits some worry over Trump’s White House prospects.
“I think the challenges here are for Republicans to explain to the American people why they are confident President Trump should be reelected, given his casual — even callous — mishandling of critical national security documents,” Coons, a close ally of President Joe Biden, told ABC “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos.
“This isn’t a minor case of who kept a handful of documents inadvertently,” Coons said. “He’s been charged for knowingly and willingly concealing, that he retained willfully federal documents that were critical to our national defense.”
Trump was indicted on 37 counts in the federal case in Florida, alleging he “willfully” retained documents containing sensitive U.S. secrets and conspired to obstruct justice as the government sought to retrieve the records after Trump left the White House.
This is the first time a former U.S. president has been charged with a federal crime.
Trump has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and said on social media last week that he is innocent. He will be arraigned in Miami on Tuesday. If convicted, he will still continue his bid for the White House in 2024, he’s said.
On “This Week,” Coons referred to Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham’s fiery defense of Trump in an interview earlier on the show and said, “There is one thing that I agree with Sen. Graham on here: Former President Trump is entitled to a presumption of innocence. Under our system, anyone who’s charged with a federal crime is entitled to due process of law, to effective representation and to a presumption of innocence.”
But Coons also stressed that the case against Trump, as laid out by prosecutors, “markedly” differs from two examples Graham raised to say Trump was being treated unequally. Unlike former Vice President Mike Pence and President Joe Biden, both of whom kept classified records while out of office, Trump allegedly stonewalled the government in retrieving the sensitive records they wanted back.
“That’s the basis of this prosecution,” Coons said. “And it is a sad day George for a former president of the United States to be federally criminally charged. But the basis of the rule of law in our democracy is that no man is above the law.”
The Department of Justice has told Pence they won’t bring charges against him, ABC News previously reported. The investigation of Biden’s handling of classified records is ongoing.
Despite what Graham and other Republicans are arguing in the wake of Trump’s indictment, Coons said, “I think there’s no evidence that the Federal Department of Justice has been weaponized.”
Specifically, he said that special counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting Trump, previously prosecuted high-profile Democratic politicians including former presidential candidate John Edwards and New York state lawmaker Sheldon Silver. Smith also led the DOJ’s public integrity section.
“Former President Trump has no one to blame but himself for being federally, criminally indicted,” Coons said.
He also criticized Trump and Republican presidential candidates for, he said, villainizing law enforcement rather than reflecting on the concerns for national security raised by Trump’s case.
Biden has not made any comment on Trump’s second indictment, and Coons said Biden’s focus will instead be on getting “real results for the American people” amid his reelection campaign.
When Stephanopoulos pointed to polling showing Biden trailing Trump or the two nearly tied in the presidential race, Coons acknowledged that and said, “I think we should be worried given [Trump’s] conduct and given his record.”
“I think the best thing for Joe Biden to do in this campaign is to keep showing that he is an effective and capable president by continuing to solve big problems,” Coons said.
“Despite some suggestions by his opponents, he’s sharp, he’s skillful and he’s continuing to lead as our president,” he said, “despite the distractions of former President Trump’s rising legal problems.”
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