CNN's Wallace said any prison time for Trump would effectively be a 'life sentence' at his age

June 17, 2023
Ben Marquis

Former President Donald Trump is facing a 37-count federal felony indictment from Special Counsel Jack Smith in relation to his alleged mishandling of government documents after leaving the White House.

CNN host Chris Wallace said this week that, given Trump's age, a conviction would essentially amount to a "life sentence" in prison for the former president, The Hill reported.

Wallace made his remarks during an appearance on "CNN Tonight" with host Abby Phillip, who made reference to a quote earlier in the week from Trump's former Chief of Staff John Kelly, who said his former boss was "scared s--tless" of the possibility of going to prison.

Jail term for Trump "could be a life sentence"

In their discussion, according to Mediaite, Phillip said to Wallace, "I can’t forget memorably today in The Washington Post, John Kelly, his former chief of staff, says he’s scared to death, basically, and that’s the nice version of what he said."

"Yes. Well, look, you’d have to be crazy not to be worried," Wallace replied. "It’s -- almost everyone, Republican and Democrat who has any kind of independence has said it’s a very strong indictment."

"Now, an indictment is not proof. And a lot of people who were indicted end up being found not guilty, but there’s every reason for him to worry," he continued. "And as a man who just turned 77, you talk about a jail term, it could be a life sentence if it were to happen."

That said, Wallace hastened to add that Trump is quite experienced in dealing with litigation, albeit not typically of the criminal variety, and admitted, "It just astonishes me this guy’s ability to keep on keeping on despite all of the incoming that he faces all the time."

Maximum punishments could result in centuries-long prison sentence

To be sure, former President Trump is not technically facing a life sentence if convicted of any of the charges against him, but given a Fox News breakdown of the maximum possible punishments for each of the 37 counts that he faces, there is certainly the possibility that Trump could effectively spend the remainder of his life behind bars.

First, there are the 31 Espionage Act counts of willful retention of national defense information, each of which can be punished by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

There are also two counts of withholding documents or records, one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice, and one count of concealing a document in a federal investigation, each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Trump also faces one count each of making false statements and engaging in a scheme to conceal, which each can result in a five year sentence and $250,000 fine.

If Trump were to be convicted on all counts and ordered to serve the maximum sentence for each charge consecutively, he could face a collective 400 years in prison and a fine of $9.25 million -- though, of course, it is highly unlikely that such an outcome would occur.

Turley said even one conviction could be a "terminal sentence"

Yet, The Hill reported separately earlier in the week that law professor Jonathan Turley made a similar observation as CNN's Wallace in that, given former President Trump's advanced age, any prison time at all could end up being a "terminal sentence."

"The problem is, he’s got to run the table -- he’s 76 years old," Turley said of Trump during a Fox News appearance. "All the government has to do is stick the landing on one count, and he could have a terminal sentence. You’re talking about crimes that have a 10- or 20-year period as a maximum."

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