Recently, a warrant was issued to seize boxes of classified documents which had been removed from the White House and were allegedly still in the possession of former president Donald Trump. Since then, the warrant has been unsealed and revealed that Trump is under investigation for potential violations of the Espionage Act in addition to obstruction of justice. The prosecutors had a strong basis for the warrant, given that Trump took months to return 15 boxes of classified documents to the National Archives. The documents could pose serious national security issues if they were sold or ended up in the wrong hands. Specifically, the prosecution cited the following statutes as their grounds:

  • 18 USC Section 793 (the Espionage Act). This act is intended to prevent national espionage and prohibits the removal of government records, as well as their concealment or alteration.
  • 17 USC Section 2071. This Act makes it illegal to remove, alter, or conceal government records.
  • 18 USC Section 1519. This act makes it illegal to destroy or falsify records involved in federal investigations.

Trump is Being Investigated for Violating the Espionage Act

The warrant was executed at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Resort in Palm Beach, Florida, and at least one box of documents with the highest possible security rating was removed during the search. Luke Rose, an attorney at our law firm, spoke with Law360 about the warrant, revealing that the inclusion of the Espionage Act as a basis for the warrant strongly indicates that prosecutors were acting on suspicion that Trump was going to use the classified documents in a way that could cause harm to the U.S. or national interests. He emphasized that invoking this Act is far more than a slap on the wrist for mishandling classified information and points to something much more serious. However, he noted that at this stage there is no evidence that Trump is suspected of attempting or planning to sell this information to a foreign power and that the prosecution may have been worried for any number of reasons, including simply not knowing what Trump might do with the information. When it comes to national security, the government cannot be too careful.

Brett O’Brien, also an attorney at our law firm, emphasized that a crime under the Espionage Act is hard to prove because it has an intent requirement. He stated that the intent requirement could be complicated in this case in particular because Trump was the president and had the authority to classify documents and possess documents in Mar-a-Largo during his presidency. Although his presidency is now over, and he should have returned the documents as requested, he may simply not have gotten around to it, or at least, that is what he could argue. Without having evidence that he intended to use these documents to act in a way that would harm U.S. interests, a conviction under the Espionage Act is highly unlikely.

Additionally, it is possible that Trump used his presidential authority to declassify the highly classified documents before taking them. As he did have the authority to do that as president, this level of diligence could mean that there is no violation at all, unless evidence of intent is uncovered. Experts in national security law speculate that the actual classification of the documents that were removed will be the crux of this case, and it is hard to know how the case will unfold until these classifications are made public.

Updates on the Trump Documents

The Trump documents are now in court and their fate rests in the hands of a Florida judge (a Trump appointee) and a special master, which Trump also requested specifically. Right now, the Department of Justice is advocating for the special master to review only documents on which Trump and the DOJ disagree. After all, if documents are marked as classified or if both parties agree that the documents are classified, there is no point in slowing down the process and paying the special master $1,000/hr to determine what everyone already knows. Except that for Trump, there is.

Experts speculate that by fighting to have every single document reviewed by the special master despite a lack of necessity, Trump is attempting to slow down the review process (and subsequently the legal process, as well). This could mean that the conclusion of this case could be suspiciously close to the 2024 election, in which Trump has indicated an intention to run. There is no arguing that this case is rife with political issues and ramifications, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out, with the judge already having granted some surprising wins to Trump’s legal team.

The Importance of National Security

When it comes to keeping our nation safe, there is no question that national security is critical. Protocols like the protection of classified documents so that sensitive information cannot be leaked to foreign nations and used against us must be enforced. On a smaller scale, there must be no leaks in our government on any level. This is achieved in large part by the use of thorough background checks of all federal government employees and contractors. Security clearances are essential to make sure that those working with sensitive information about our country have no apparent predispositions or financial hardships that would make them vulnerable or likely to sell it. For this reason, a prior undisclosed arrest or criminal record, large debts, or financial hardship could prevent someone from receiving a security clearance.

How the National Security Law Firm Can Help

If you want to do your part to protect our country but you are running into a wall when it comes to passing your security clearance, the National Security Law Firm can help. Contact our lawyers today and schedule a consultation to find out how we can help you appeal or secure your security clearance.