The Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence are collaborating to assess if the cache of secret documents that former President Donald Trump carried to Mar-a-Lago after departing the White House presented any dangers to the country’s security.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines confirmed she is collaborating with the Justice Department to “assess the damage caused by the improper storage of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago,” according to a joint statement released on Saturday by House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
Haines’ participation is the first time the Biden Administration has acknowledged that it is looking into the Mar-a-Lago matter outside of the Justice Department probe.
According to Politico, which broke the story first, Haines sent a letter to Schiff and Maloney stating that the intelligence inquiry “does not substantially interfere with DOJ’s current criminal investigation.”
Maloney and Schiff stated that the DOJ affidavit, which was only partially released yesterday, “confirms our severe worry that there were papers stashed at Mar-a-Lago that might compromise human sources.” “The IC must act quickly to analyze and, if necessary, remediate the harm done,” the IC stated.
On August 8, federal officials conducted a raid at Mar-a-Lago and allegedly found 20 boxes of paperwork that Trump had taken inadvertently to his home after leaving the White House, including some that were supposedly labelled as “top secret.” There were also at least 25 “top secret”-marked documents within the 15 boxes of records Trump voluntarily gave to the National Archives in February, according to the redacted affidavit made public on Friday by the Justice Department. This evidence was used to demonstrate probable cause to obtain a search warrant. Trump has insisted on several occasions that the raid was politically motivated and has assured the public that the records at his vacation property were completely secure.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR
According to a search warrant attachment, the DOJ inquiry is examining whether the Espionage Act was broken.
While presidents do have the authority to broadly declassify materials, legal experts cited by Newsspill note that there is a formal process to do so and that declassified materials have to be marked as such before they can be viewed—which reportedly appears did not happen with documents in question. Trump has defended himself by claiming he declassified any sensitive documents and therefore can’t be found guilty of mishandling them. Newsspill quoted an unnamed person who had spoken with Trump about declassifying papers as saying, “We’ve warned him there’s a procedure and not following it may be an issue but he didn’t care since he thinks this stuff is silly.”
The law also specifies that anybody who breaches it should be barred from holding public office, but despite the possibility of legal action, most legal experts don’t think Trump could be prevented from running for president again in 2024.
The Espionage Act, 18 U.S. Code 793, which deals with the possession of records and items relevant to national security, particularly knowledge that might be used to hurt the U.S. or benefit a foreign government, is the most prominent federal legislation.