CNN’s Don Lemon and legal analyst Elie Honig sparred Tuesday night over whether former President Donald Trump is guilty of a federal crime.
Honig first told Lemon that if he were in the former president’s position, he would be “fighting just as hard” as Trump is.
Lemon argued that Trump is guilty of breaking the law.
“Everyone deserves a defense and all that. I get that,” Lemon said. “Innocent until proven guilty, but the fact is, we’re arguing over whether he’s guilty or not. Of course he is. He took the documents. Now we are talking about just how bad the documents are, how top, top secret they are — not that he did something wrong, because he did.”
The FBI raided Trump’s Florida home on Aug. 8 as part of an investigation into potential violations of the Espionage Act. The FBI said it recovered 11 sets of classified documents, but Trump has disputed this claim, insisting that he declassified all the records stored at Mar-a-Lago. On Friday, the Department of Justice released a highly redacted affidavit arguing the raid was justified in part because of classified materials already obtained from Trump’s residence when the former president handed over 15 boxes of documents in January.
Honig disagreed with Lemon, arguing the case is more complicated than the CNN host claimed.
“I can’t sign on to that, because as a prosecutor, I know that you have the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and you can’t just take a bunch of newspaper articles when we’ve not even seen the documents and declare that someone’s guilty,” Honig said.
“So there are no top secret documents found?” Lemon asked.
“There certainly were, but you have to show knowledge and intent,” said Honig, who served as a federal prosecutor under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
“Were there documents taken from the White House that were not supposed to be taken, that was supposed to be in the custody of the National Archives?” Lemon persisted.
Honig agreed that classified documents were found at Trump’s residence but began to ask whether “we have proof that Donald Trump himself saw those documents, knew what was in them, had intent to violate the law as opposed to just — ” before Lemon cut him off.
“But you have to prove that in court, I know that’s a process. But the fact is it was an act that happened!” Lemon said. “So whether it’s Donald Trump or someone in the White House, they were in his possession!”
“You have to show knowledge and intent,” Honig reiterated.
Lemon then said the bottom line is Trump was president and therefore this falls on him. “The buck stops with who?” the host asked.
“Whoever you can show knew what was in those documents,” Honig answered. (RELATED: DOJ Redacts Reasons For Redacting Info In Mar-A-Lago Raid Affidavit)
“Aw, Elie, Elie,” Lemon pushed back.
“I’m not being pedantic,” the legal analyst insisted. “I’m telling you how it would play out in court.”