Donald Trump is a potential flight risk if criminal charges are brought against him for the deadly riot at the Capitol, legal experts have warned.
The president was impeached by the House yesterday and now faces the prospect of a criminal trial – with reports saying he is still mulling pardoning himself before he quits the White House.
The impeachment alleges that Trump incited an insurrection on Capitol Hill which left five people dead, including a police officer, last Wednesday.
During the campaign Trump joked that he would leave the country if Joe Biden defeated him and reports have suggested he plans on travelling to his golf course in Scotland before the inauguration ceremony.
Douglas McNabb, a private attorney with expertise in international extradition, told The Washington Times that if charged, Trump could easily fall into the category of a potential fugitive.
‘He’s got money. He’s got property. He’s got access,’ McNabb told the paper. ‘The government would argue that he’s a flight risk.’
Donald Trump at his revamped Trump Turnberry golf course in South Ayrshire in June, 2016. Reports have been circulating in the UK that Trump plans to fly in the day before the inuaguration
Trump has vast wealth at his disposal, his own jet and properties across the world
Trump has vast wealth at his disposal, his own private Boeing jet and properties across the world.
As well as his golf resort at Trump Turnberry in Ayrshire, Trump has a luxurious tower in the United Arab Emirates and an unfinished hotel project in Azerbaijan.
Neither the UAE nor Azerbaijan have extradition treaties with the United States.
Scotland, however, would be far less hospitable.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, while a fervent nationalist, is no fan of Trump’s and has already put her foot down on any plans the president might have to retreat to Turnberry next week.
‘I’ve no idea what Donald Trump’s plans are,’ Sturgeon said last week. ‘I hope and expect that – as everybody expects, not everybody necessarily will hope – that the travel plan immediately that he has is to exit the White House.’
Speculation erupted after it was reported that Glasgow’s Prestwick airport had been told to expect a US military aircraft on January 19. Biden is inaugurated the following day.
‘He’s not going back to New York and he is not going to enjoy the comfort at Mar-a-Lago he would have in the pre-Capitol-ransacking world,’ retired Brigadier General Peter Zwack, a former Army intelligence officer told the Times.
‘I’ll bet the feasibility of fleeing has come up because, in my mind, it is the only way to avoid instant accountability and reckoning.’
World leaders have throughout history fled to safe haven countries following failed coup d’etats, but it would make a first for a US president.
But Trump is no stranger to making history and yesterday became the first president to be impeached twice.
The federal prosecutor for Washington, Michael Sherwin, has already signalled that nothing was off the table in relation to prosecutions for the Capitol riot.
‘We are looking at all actors here. Not only the people who went into the building,’ Sherwin told a press conference last week.
Asked directly if that extended to Trump, he replied: ‘We’re looking at all actors here, and anyone that had a role and the evidence fits the elements of a crime, they’re going to be charged.’
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, while she is a nationalist like Trump, she differs from the president in all other aspects and has said he’s not welcome in Scotland
But legal experts said that if Trump makes it overseas he would have an arsenal of defenses against extradition.
Extradition lawyer McNabb told the Times that he could deploy the rarely used political offense exception.
This provides exemptions where an exiled world leader’s alleged crimes have taken place in the context of a political tussle.
The House yesterday voted to impeach Trump 232-197, making him the first president in history to be impeached twice.
Ten of Trump’s fellow Republicans joined Democrats in approving the article of impeachment.
But the swift impeachment is unlikely to lead to Trump’s ouster before Biden takes office on January 20.
The flash of a police munition lights up the steps of the Capitol during the invasion by a Trump-incited mob on Wednesday
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, rejected Democratic calls for a quick impeachment trial, saying there was no way to finish it before Trump leaves office.
That raised the prospect of a bitter trial in the Senate during Biden’s first days in the White House, something he urged Senate leaders to avoid.
The House passed one article of impeachment – equivalent to an indictment in a criminal trial – accusing Trump of ‘incitement of insurrection,’ focused on an incendiary speech he delivered to thousands of supporters shortly before the riot.
In the speech, Trump repeated false claims that the election was fraudulent and exhorted supporters to march on the Capitol to disrupt Congress’s certification of Biden’s victory in the general election.