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Private citizen Donald Trump would likely be denied security clearance due to his numerous criminal prosecutions and civil judgments, which total over half a billion dollars. However, if he were to win the presidential election, he would immediately regain access to the nation’s most sensitive secrets. This paradox exists because once elected, a president has lawful access to classified information regardless of any objections from the intelligence community. Despite Trump facing multiple criminal prosecutions for refusing to turn over secret documents and alleged violations of the Espionage Act, there is no legal way to prevent him from accessing classified information as president.

The U.S. government evaluates various factors during a security clearance investigation, including criminal conduct, financial considerations, foreign influence, and personal behavior. Trump’s checkered financial history and connections to foreign entities would likely raise red flags in a typical clearance process. Experts believe that Trump’s ties to foreign money, financial difficulties, and legal issues would disqualify him from obtaining even a secret clearance if he were a normal applicant. Additionally, concerns about potential personality disorders or signs of dementia could further complicate his ability to pass a security review.

Trump’s lack of operational security standards was evident during his presidency, as he disclosed sensitive information during meetings and publicly shared classified photos. He even disregarded the normal review process to grant his son-in-law Jared Kushner a top-secret clearance. With Trump currently facing four separate criminal prosecutions and financial challenges, experts warn that granting him access to classified information would pose significant risks to national security. His unpredictable behavior and extensive legal troubles make the prospect of him receiving security clearance even more concerning.

After Trump’s failed coup attempt and the Capitol riot, President Joe Biden declined to grant Trump security clearance, breaking with the tradition of offering it to former presidents. The question of whether Trump would qualify for security clearance as the Republican Party’s nominee at the summer convention remains uncertain. With ongoing criminal cases and civil verdicts against him, many experts believe that allowing Trump access to classified information would make him one of the greatest national security threats in American history. His criminal prosecutions and questionable behavior raise serious doubts about his fitness to receive security clearance as a potential future president.

Of Trump’s four criminal cases, two stem from his actions leading up to the January 6 Capitol riot. One federal indictment could go to trial as early as late August, and a Georgia case based on Trump’s attempt to overturn election results could also start later this year. A New York state prosecution for falsifying business records and a federal case on secret documents are also ongoing. In addition to these legal challenges, a New York jury found Trump civilly liable for sexual abuse in 2023, with the judge clarifying that his actions constituted rape in modern terms. These criminal prosecutions and civil judgments further complicate the prospect of Trump obtaining security clearance in the future.

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