Claim by Trump lawyer may have spurred search

Politics

(NewsNation) — Despite claims from former President Donald Trump that there was no more classified material at Mar-a-Lago, a new report sheds insight into why the Department of Justice felt an FBI search was its best option to reclaim the documents.

The New York Times reported a Trump lawyer signed a written statement in June claiming there was no more classified material at Mar-a-Lago.

If federal investigators suspected the statement was misleading, it may explain why Attorney General Merrick Garland approved agents moving in.

Garland suggested the DOJ tried to get the documents back without resorting to an FBI search.

“It’s standard practice to seek less intrusive means as an alternative to a search, and to narrowly scope any search that is undertaken,” Garland said.

It’s unclear whether the U.S. Department of Justice will bring charges or whether any crimes were committed after unsealed court papers showed FBI agents recovered documents labeled “top secret” at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

But now that the warrant for the search on Trump’s Palm Beach, Florida, home has become public, it’s now known exactly which federal laws investigators say could have been violated.

Federal agents found nearly a dozen top secret and classified documents, according to the newly unsealed search warrant and property receipt.

Agents performing the search were investigating potential violations of three laws, including one that governs defense information under the Espionage Act.

The warrant shows federal law enforcement was investigating Trump for:

  • Removal or destruction of records
  • Obstruction of justice
  • Violating the Espionage Act 

If convicted of violating one or more of these laws, the consequences range from fines to jail time to being disqualified from running for office.

President Trump has been saying on his social platform Truth Social that all the documents the FBI took had already been declassified.

As president, he did have the authority to declassify almost anything, but records marked “top secret” and “sensitive,” even the sitting president cannot declassify by himself, and it’s unclear which of these records he actually declassified while in the White House.

Republicans in Congress and Trump allies continue to assert the DOJ and FBI have political motives, promising to investigate what they allege is a political double standard within the agencies.

“Because many other options were available to them, we’re very concerned (with) the method that was used in raiding Mar-a-Lago,” said Rep. Michael Turner, R-Ohio.

“The FBI raid of President Trump is a complete abuse and overreach of its authority,” said U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y. “A House Republican majority will leave no stone unturned.”

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., went so far as filing articles of impeachment against Garland on Friday.

Democrats also want the full explanation of the search to come out, but largely defend the DOJ and the FBI for their investigation.

“There’s a profound public interest in knowing exactly what led to this,” said Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn. “The ex-president is no more immune from the rule of law than you or me.”

One of the laws the FBI search warrant cites is the Espionage Act, but that does not mean anyone is alleging President Trump was working with any foreign adversaries.

Parts of the Espionage Act deal specifically with handling classified material that involves national defense.

Simply concealing or improperly storing that kind of material violates that law.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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