Is Trump being investigated for national security concerns under the Espionage Act?
The FBI research of donald trumpit is Mar-a-Lago resort town of Palm Beach, Florida has left supporters and critics of the ex-president wondering why the justice department would take such an unprecedented step.
Adding to the speculation is the DOJ’s complete silence (so far) as well as Mr. Trump’s own refusal to produce a copy of the warrant and publicly show what the stated reasoning for the search was.
One possibility that has begun to be discussed by analysts familiar with presidential record procedures is the possibility that the investigation not only involves a simple violation of the Federal Records Act, but actually focuses on an alleged violation of the Espionage Acta law dating from the First World War, known to fight against the theft of information that could harm national security.
Although the law is generally believed to involve acts of espionage against the United States (hence its name), it also contains a provision that could very well address the situation that occurred at the Mr. Trump’s resort residence: the handling of classified documents related to United States defense policy or capabilities, and the penalties for negligent handling of such files.
The law specifically states that anyone who “grossly negligently permits [such documents] be removed from [their] appropriate place of detention” may be subject to a fine or imprisonment for up to ten years.
That’s where Mar-a-Lago boxes come in. If any of the documents contained in the document were removed from Mr. Trump’s property between his own efforts to return the files earlier this year and Monday’s raid with the United States armed forces or related subjects, the whether their removal and storage in the Palm Beach minimum-security location constitutes gross negligence. Mr. Trump’s properties continue to enjoy Secret Service protection, but the agency’s footprint is minimal when he’s out of town.
There is some evidence supporting the theory that the FBI investigation may involve the Espionage Act: specifically, the involvement of a senior DOJ official in charge of the agency’s counterintelligence division.
The participation of Jay Bratt, head of the counterintelligence and export control (CES) section of the DOJ’s national security team, suggests that the interest of federal authorities may very well extend to the area of threats to the national security. According to CNN, Mr. Bratt allegedly attended the June excursion by DOJ officials to Mar-a-Lago, which preceded Monday’s raid and came as the president has battled for months with the National Archives over documents taken from the White House.
At the time, Mr Bratt reportedly examined the area in which the documents were stored. This again suggests that investigators want to determine if they were handled and stored safely with the proper care, or if they were lost, destroyed or even stolen during the removal of the boxes from the White House.
A Justice Department veteran, former National Security Division Chief Mary McCord, suggested the theory was possible during an interview with the Skullduggery podcast this week.
“[T]he fact that we have an attorney from the national security division like Jay Bratt, the head of counterintelligence and export controls, means that we’re talking about national security implications, not just presidential files that are unclassified,” she noted.
Mentioning the Espionage Act, she added that the act “in fact contains provisions which essentially apply to grossly negligent mishandling, allowing documents to be removed from their place, or to be lost, stolen or destroyed”.
At this time, it’s unclear how far the Justice Department’s raid on Mr. Trump’s property will go, and whether it will affect any of the ongoing investigations into Mr. Trump for his conduct after the US election. 2020.
The former president is still under investigation in Georgia for his attempts to push officials there to void the election, and a separate grand jury investigation that recently interviewed a senior Mike Pence official is underway. in Washington, led by the Department of Justice.
The DOJ is unlikely to comment on details of the raid in the coming days, and White House officials said Joe Biden was also not briefed on details of the investigation.