A top Miami attorney who declined to represent Donald Trump has told Sky News that America’s judicial system is on trial with the former president’s appearance in court.
Speaking to Sky News from his Miami legal practice, Jon Sale said Trump’s court appearance represents an “unprecedented sad” day for America.
Mr Sale has the context of history. He is a former federal prosecutor who played a central role in the Watergate scandal investigation in the 1970s.
He was a special prosecutor for a trial in 1974, which was eventually dropped, against President Nixon for his role in the Watergate scandal.
“Well, there’s no playbook. It’s making history, not in a good way,” Mr Sale said.
In 2019 he represented Trump’s associate and former mayor of New York City, Rudy Giuliani.
Last year, Trump himself asked Mr Sale to join his legal team working on the Mar-a-Lago search case. He declined.
“Reading the indictment is shocking,” he told Sky News.
“It is an incredible amount of detail. It talks about recklessly storing national security information, talking about it to people who don’t have clearance. And it portrays former President Trump as a great threat to our national defence.”
Among Mr Trump’s support base, the seriousness of the charges is not the focus.
Everyone we spoke to outside the golf club in Miami and at Trump rallies over the weekend said the charges represented a politically motivated hit job.
The view, peddled by Trump himself without evidence, is that President Joe Biden is trying to remove his political opponent rather than face him at the ballot box.
And nationwide polls suggest an overwhelming proportion of Republican voters believe the charges against Mr Trump are politically motivated.
Asked what that says about American justice and society, Mr Sale sighed and said: “Well, that’s the right question. The American judicial system is on trial, and the whole world is watching it.”
Trump’s supporters cite President Biden’s own secret documents scandal as well as the scandal surrounding his own son Hunter as evidence of a double standard of justice.
However, Mr Sale says Mr Biden’s documents and other scandals do not compare to the alleged crimes of Trump.
“First of all, legally, those cases have nothing to do with whether or not the evidence is there to support a conviction of President Trump,” Mr Sale said.
“But everyone is asking that question: President Biden’s case? There is already a Special Counsel who is quietly investigating President Biden, and he’s going to make a decision, just like [Special Counsel] Jack Smith did for Trump.”
Mr Sale explained: “The big difference is cooperation. When President Trump was served a subpoena last spring, if he had told his lawyer, ‘look, I want to turn over everything, I want to comply with the subpoena, do a diligent search, everything we have, turn it over to the grand jury’, then you and I wouldn’t be here today, there would not have been an indictment.
“But instead, he told his lawyer, allegedly, to lie. That kind of obstruction is why we’re here. If he had cooperated, then that never would have been an indictment.”
President Biden cooperated fully with the authorities when documents were discovered at an office he used as vice-president and at his Delaware home.
Reflecting on the enormity of Trump’s court appearance, Mr Sale said: “It’s unprecedented. It’s double unprecedented because he’s also indicted in New York. And I think Georgia is almost a certainty too.”
For over two years, a district attorney in Georgia has been investigating whether then-president Trump and his allies illegally meddled in the 2020 election.
“So he’s running for president, is the frontrunner, and he’s going to be under three indictments. If you took that to Hollywood, to try to sell it as a movie, they’d throw you out and say ‘science fiction, couldn’t happen’.”