Trump Under Investigation for Potential Violations of the Espionage Act
The former president and GOP allies criticize the FBI after its executed search warrant of Mar-a-Lago suggests an investigation of Trump for federal crimes.
Donald Trump is under criminal investigation for potential violations of the Espionage Act and additional statutes relating to obstruction of justice and destroying federal government records, according to the search warrant executed by FBI agents at the former president’s home on Monday, writes The Guardian.
The search warrant shows the FBI was seeking evidence about whether the mishandling of classified documents by Trump, including some marked top secret, amounted to a violation of three criminal statutes. Most notably, the search warrant authorized FBI agents to seize materials from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence to investigate crimes in connection with the Espionage Act, which outlaws the unauthorized retention of national security information that could harm the United States or aid an adversary.
According to The Guardian, the disclosures, which came in an attachment to the search warrant, mark a dramatic escalation in the justice department’s criminal inquiries into Trump. They represent perhaps one of the most treacherous legal and political moments faced to date by the former president.
Excerpt from The Guardian: The other statutes listed on the warrant include the federal law that makes it a crime to destroy or conceal a document in order to obstruct a government investigation, and the federal law that prohibits the unlawful removal of government documents more generally. The inclusion of the obstruction statute could be an indication that the justice department is investigating Trump not just over the potentially unlawful retention of records, but also whether he attempted to impede a separate, or wider, criminal inquiry. A conviction for violating any of the detailed laws would be severe: the Espionage Act has a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison and the statute for obstruction has a maximum penalty of 20 years, while the statute for destruction of records can also bar anyone convicted from holding future office.
FBI agents who searched former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home Monday removed 11 sets of classified documents, including some marked as top secret and meant to be only available in special government facilities, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Excerpt from The Wall Street Journal: The FBI agents took around 20 boxes of items, binders of photos, a handwritten note and the executive grant of clemency for Mr. Trump’s ally Roger Stone, a list of items removed from the property shows. Also included in the list was information about the “President of France,” according to the three-page list. The list is contained in a seven-page document that also includes the warrant to search the premises which was granted by a federal magistrate judge in Florida. The list includes references to one set of documents marked as “Various classified/TS/SCI documents,” an abbreviation that refers to top-secret/sensitive compartmented information. It also says agents collected four sets of top secret documents, three sets of secret documents, and three sets of confidential documents.
The FBI's search warrant and property receipt were unsealed by the federal judge on Friday after the Justice Department filed a motion to do so, and it was not contested by Trump's legal team.
All week, former President Donald J. Trump’s allies pressed Attorney General Merrick B. Garland to explain the basis for the search warrant federal agents had executed at Mr. Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence — and he refused to break the silence he wears like his unwrinkled, federal blue suit, writes The New York Times.
Excerpt from The Washington Post: Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that he could not discuss the investigation. But in an unusual public statement at the Justice Department, he announced he had personally authorized the decision to seek court permission for a search warrant. Garland spoke moments after Justice Department lawyers filed a motion seeking to unseal the search warrant in the case, noting that Trump had publicly revealed the search shortly after it happened. "The public’s clear and powerful interest in understanding what occurred under these circumstances weighs heavily in favor of unsealing," the motion says. "That said, the former President should have an opportunity to respond to this Motion and lodge objections, including with regards to any 'legitimate privacy interests' or the potential for other ‘injury’ if these materials are made public."
In a related story, an armed man suspected of trying to breach the FBI's Cincinnati field office Thursday was killed in Ohio after a vehicle chase and hours-long standoff with law enforcement, authorities say, according to CNN.
Excerpt from CNN: The suspect was believed to be armed with an AR-15 rifle and a nail gun, a federal law enforcement source told CNN, and was wearing body armor, according to officials in an Ohio county. He was Ricky W. Shiffer, 42, of Columbus, the state highway patrol said Friday. Authorities have not announced a motive. But Shiffer had been known to the FBI because he had an unspecified connection to the January 6, 2021, riot at the US Capitol, and because he had associates within a far-right extremist group, two law enforcement sources told CNN. A social media account bearing Shiffer's name appears to have referenced an attempt to storm an FBI office that day. It also made a "call to arms" -- and called for violence against the agency -- after the FBI executed a search warrant Monday at former President Donald Trump's Florida home.
And finally, in another related story, former President Donald Trump said in a statement Wednesday that he invoked the Fifth Amendment during his deposition under oath as part of the New York attorney general's civil investigation into the Trump Organization's finances, reports the USA Today.
Excerpt from USA Today: In the lengthy statement, Trump blasted New York Attorney General Letitia James as politically motivated and alleged he did nothing wrong. "I once asked, 'If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?' Now I know the answer to that question," Trump wrote in announcing his decision to invoke his right against self-incrimination. "When your family, your company and all the people in your orbit have become the targets of an unfounded, politically motivated Witch Hunt supported by lawyers, prosecutors and the Fake News Media, you have no choice."