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What could the Mar-a-Largo search mean for Trump legally?

The FBI conducted a court-approved search of Trump’s residence at his Mar-a-Lago Club on Monday. It is not clear what prompted the search, though people familiar with the investigation said it was related to the possible mishandling of classified documents. Any mishandling could be in violation of a law requiring Trump to preserve his records and phone calls of his official duties as president. If he were to be charged and found guilty of willfully hiding or destroying confidential and classified materials — a big if — some legal experts say he could be barred from being president again. Trump said in a statement that the FBI search was inappropriate because he had been “working and cooperating with the relevant government agencies’ — on what, he didn’t say, he said.

It's not clear what prosecutors would need to prove to find Trump guilty of violating the Presidential Records Act or other laws regarding safe handling of classified and public information. Willfully trying to hide or destroy official documents is a separate federal crime punishable by up to three years in jail. Some legal experts think if Trump is found guilty of hiding classified material, he could be barred from running for president again. The Constitution sets the qualifications for president, and nowhere does it say that being convicted of a crime — including one involving public documents — would bar someone from holding office. The law assumes presidents and their administrations will make a good-faith effort to comply to comply with the law, experts say. But the law has never had an enforcement mechanism; it’s always been up to

Every president since the 1930s has preserved a sizable chunk of their records, often to be displayed in their presidential libraries. The National Archives culls the documents and decides which ones to preserve, which ones can become public. A president can destroy a document only after receiving permission from archivists to do so. Congress passed a law in 1978 that presidents must preserve all historically relevant material. The law also set up a system for people to appeal to the National Archives for a record that was redacted.