Secret documents, FBI agents, and a massive beachfront mansion belonging to a past president, Donald Trump.
The political tempest that was set off this week when Donald Trump‘s Florida residence was searched was unprecedented in recent history.
However, there are still many unanswered issues about this groundbreaking story. So, let’s back up a bit and look at what we already know.
The FBI searched Mar-a-Lago for what reason?
To sum up, the US Department of Justice has reason to believe the former president may have committed criminal acts.
The search warrant, which has been made public, reveals that on August 8th, FBI investigators obtained evidence in an investigation into whether Mr. Trump mishandled official materials by moving them from the White House to Mar-a-Lago.
It’s worth mentioning that US presidents are required by law to submit all of their papers and electronic communications to the National Archives.
This agency announced earlier this year that it had recovered 15 boxes of Trump’s paperwork from Mar-a-Lago; he was supposed to turn them up when he departed the White House. Claiming that they had included secret material, it formally requested an investigation by the Justice Department.
Prosecutors had to convince a judge that there was good reason to suspect criminal activity before they could get a search warrant. We also know that the attorney general, the country’s highest legal officer, approved the endeavor to obtain a search warrant because he is the head of the justice department.
So, what did the sleuths uncover?
An inventory released with the search warrant on Friday indicates that there is twenty boxes worth of evidence.
The FBI removed eleven whole sets of confidential paperwork, including four “top secret” folders. A total of six sets were marked as secret, confidential, or both.
The collection also contained documents labeled “TS/SCI,” indicating they were among the nation’s most sensitive and might have “exceptionally catastrophic” consequences for US national security if made public.
According to the evidence presented in court, some of these records were restricted to secure government locations.
There is a lot we don’t know about the things on the inventory, and the court records don’t give any hints about the information they might contain.
A photo album, a note, and some unnamed information regarding the “President of France” were also seized.
Is Trump’s response time acceptable?
The ex-president has spoken out about the FBI investigation and has denied any misconduct on numerous occasions.
He assured the public that the agents’ confiscated files were “all declassified” and safely stashed away. If the government’s justice department had asked for them, he said he would have given them over.
On Friday, his office published a statement reiterating their position that the papers were no longer secret. It stated, “The ability to classify and declassify documents lies alone with the president of the United States.”
Though Mr. Trump claims to have declassified the records before leaving office, and though his supporters have claimed he can do so, legal experts have suggested the matter is more nuanced than that.
Tom Dupree, a former Justice Department lawyer, told the BBC, “Presidents can declassify information but they have to follow a system.” “No one can just declare these papers public knowledge. There is a procedure that must be followed, and it is unclear whether or not that was done in this case.”
However, Mr. Trump’s team denies this. A paper-pushing bureaucrat’s approval of declassification “is ludicrous,” the statement claimed.
What possible wrongdoings could have occurred?
Classified material and presidential records are protected by many statutes that carry criminal and civil penalties depending on their violation.
During Mr. Trump’s presidency, the maximum jail sentence for unauthorized removal of classified materials was increased from three to five years.
Prosecutors are looking into three possible crimes, as evidenced by the search warrant that was previously secret. This includes:
illegal activity using the Espionage Act and obstructing justice
theft and misuse of public documents
The decision to declassify the information is irrelevant to the three criminal statutes at issue. Since this is the case, it is doubtful that Mr. Trump’s case would be successful in court.
The probe has not resulted in any criminal charges against the ex-president, and it is currently unknown if or when that will change.