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June 12, 2023

Notable general and specific accountings of former Prez Trump's federal sentencing prospects

In this post from late last week, I asked "Is it too early to try to calculate former Prez Trump's possible federal sentencing guideline range?".  In the comments to that post, one helpful reader did basic calculations to suggest Donald Trump would be looking at a guideline range of at least 6.5 years and likely at least 9 years in federal prison.  I presume such a calculation in part accounts for why Prof Jonathan Turley is quoted in this new Hill piece as saying "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."

As those who follow my blogging about acquitted conduct know, Prof Turley is wise to not that the government only needs to "stick the landing on one count" in order to have all of Trump's conduct, including any and all conduct associated with any acquitted counts, used in his sentencing guideline calculation.  But, of course, any guideline calculation only serves as, in the words of the Supreme Court, "the starting point and the initial benchmark" for federal sentencing now that the guidelines are advisory.  The sentencing judge will need also to consider all the other statutory 3553(a) factors, including the "the need to avoid unwarranted sentence disparities among defendants with similar records who have been found guilty of similar conduct."  (To work though how all the 3553(a) factors should apply to a former President starts to make my head hurt.)

Notably, others are now hard at work at possible guideline calculations based on the Trump indictment.  Specifically, over at Just Security, David Aaron has this lengthy new post titled "How Much Prison Time Does Former President Trump Face?  Applying the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines."  Sentencing fans should check out the full post for the specific calculations, but here is how the post starts:

Now that the public has seen the current list of federal charges against former President Donald Trump, there is a long road ahead. If the defendant is ultimately convicted, that road will lead to sentencing.  The Espionage Act charges the defendant faces carry a maximum prison sentence of ten years.  The Tampering (and related Conspiracy) and Concealment charges each carry a maximum prison sentence of twenty years.  The Scheme to Conceal and False Statements charges each carry a maximum prison sentence of 5 years.  Of course, in any criminal case, numerous factors affect the sentence, and focusing on the statutory maximums can be misleading.  Federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. § 3553, directs courts to impose a sentence based on a list of considerations.  The U.S. Sentencing Commission issues Sentencing Guidelines to assist courts and promote consistent application of criminal law.  Sentencing trends in similar cases can provide reference points, but only if similar cases exist.  This quick note gives an idea of how a sentence would be calculated, with the caveat that issues such as sentencing on multiple counts of conviction, related conduct, and new factual developments could arise.

Prior related post:

UPDATEAnother accounting of how tocan count up former Prez Trump's guideline sentencing range can be heard via Doug Passon's Set for Sentencing podcast in this new episode titled "Reality Check: Unpacking the Trump Indictment."  As explained in this show notes: "IN THIS EPISODE: Updates to the guideline calculations now that we have a better picture of the alleged conduct; Comparing Trump's case to Reality Winner; Other musings on the inner workings of the federal criminal system."

June 12, 2023 at 02:08 PM | Permalink


Before we get to sentencing, we have first to get to trial. I understand that Mr. Trump is having difficulty finding a Florida attorney to appear for him at arraignment tomorrow. Not surprising given that many attorneys who have represented him in the past or who are closely associated with him find themselves in jail (Cohen) or facing bar discipline or court sanctions. E.g., Jenna Ellis (disciplined by Colorado bar); Giuliani (suspended New York and DC); Alina Habba (anctioned by Florida court); John Eastman (facing disciplinary hearing before Cal. Bar); Jeffrey Clark (Trump acolyte) (facing discipline DC Bar)

Posted by: anon14 | Jun 12, 2023 5:29:29 PM

Something is seriously wrong in a nation where a swath of the population supports an individual like the former President. It is no longer about his depravity or his trail of potential crimes. The focus should be on those who continuously make excuses for this person or highlight the shortcomings of other individuals as a defense for his wrongdoings.

How long will his party members, e.g., Tom Cotton, Ron DeSantis, Tim Scott, etc., demonstrate 'Profiles in Cowardice' while this person runs roughshod though the Constitution and exploits the ignorance of so many of his followers?

In a perfect world, he and his minions would serve the duration of their lives in a federal prison for conduct detrimental to the democracy.

Posted by: Eric Hicks | Jun 12, 2023 7:43:31 PM

Mr. Hicks, it appears that the dam blocking the Repbulican candidates maybe starting to break. According to Politico, Niki Haley just started singing a new tune:

"If this indictment is true, if what it says is actually the case, President Trump was incredibly reckless with our national security,” Haley said, adding that her husband serves in the military. “This puts all of our military men and women in danger, if you’re going to talk about what our military is capable of or how we would go about invading or doing something with one of our enemies.”

She added, “If that’s the case, it’s reckless, it’s frustrating and it causes problems. You know, we’re looking now, this is the second indictment. We’re looking at a third indictment coming in with Georgia.”

Posted by: anon13 | Jun 12, 2023 7:51:34 PM


Thanks for the info!! Let's hope that common-sense, integrity and decency win the day. It's only fitting that a woman would be the one to (hopefully) carry the torch towards an enlightenment which rids the country of this imminent threat.

Posted by: Eric Hicks | Jun 12, 2023 8:23:36 PM

Eric Hicks: I have felt the same way you do! How can so many people be so ignorant that they would continue to support Donald Trump now? yet, I have had faith that the tide is turning, indictment by indictment -- and I am expecting two more indictments of Trump [Georgia and another Federal indictment about the January 6th events at the Capitol] before the end of the summer. Former Speaker of the House John Boehner gave a radio speech a few days ago where he said that it is time for the Republican Party to move on from Donald Trump, and if Trump is smart, he will move on too. Senator Mitch McConnell (R. Ky.) is remaining silent about Trump's new indictment, because he knows that the handwriting is on the wall now. Before the end of the summer, I think Trump's support will break down and fizzle, leaving Gov. Ron DeSantis as the Republican nominee.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Jun 12, 2023 8:47:47 PM

Jim Gormley,

I hope that you are correct my friend. I really do.

This entire situation sickens me. Like you, I expect indictments of the former President to be forthcoming in Georgia and D.C. for his behavior on January 6th and the weeks prior.

The country will be so much better off if this person ends up with a very long prison stint. Another hope of mine is that the public comes to understand that this current version of the Republican Party CANNOT be trusted in positions of power because they have allowed the desire to remain in power and appease a swath if their misguided constituents to outweigh their duty to defend the Constitution and the Democracy. Only when the party has collectively shown that they have the courage to honestly identify and confront abhorrent and dangerous behavior---even if it means losing an election---should they be trusted to hold any meaningful positions in the Legislative or Executive branches.

Posted by: Eric Hicks | Jun 12, 2023 9:03:39 PM

Eric: This version of the Republican party is far from what Ronald Reagan would recognize. Too many ultra-conservative Republicans today look and sound more like Fascists to me. And they have no tolerance for anyone whose views are different than their own. I am waiting for the pendulum to swing back.

Posted by: Jim Gormley | Jun 13, 2023 6:43:45 AM

Jim Gormley,

You are correct.

The behavior of the Republican Party at present harkens back to the brief era of Reconstruction, viz., the lengths and detestable conduct in which individuals have moored themselves to all in the name of power. I keep asking myself why are these individuals so fearful of change?

I can only return to the phrase that the 'arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.' I believe in the American people and their collective power to 'bend the arc toward justice.'

Posted by: Eric Hicks | Jun 13, 2023 7:22:25 AM

Erik Hicks --

"Something is seriously wrong in a nation where a swath of the population supports an individual like the former President. It is no longer about his depravity or his trail of potential crimes. The focus should be on those who continuously make excuses for this person or highlight the shortcomings of other individuals as a defense for his wrongdoings."

I too have my misgivings about the defense bar, but you might be a bit harsh here.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Jun 13, 2023 8:25:26 AM


Maybe something that you'd be interested in, Doug . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Jun 13, 2023 10:42:24 AM

I love hearing these breathless descriptions of Trump, not all untrue, while ignoring that we have a POTUS who might be the most corrupt in history.

Even Sloppy Joe’s personal life is worse. For all of Trump’s many shortcomings and porn star screwing, he doesn’t have any grandchildren that he denies or shower with his own daughter.

Posted by: TarlsQtr | Jun 13, 2023 2:22:50 PM

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