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DOJ cites Espionage Act in removing government records in Trump search warrant

11 sets of classified documents seized, including multiple boxes of 'top secret' records
Posted at 1:46 PM, Aug 12, 2022

The search warrant used to seize documents at former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence was made public on Friday.

The search warrant was released after the Department of Justice (DOJ) asked a judge to approve unsealing the document. On Friday, Trump’s legal team said it would not object to its unsealing.

There were three potential criminal statutes listed in the search warrant. In order to obtain a search warrant, officials would have to prove they have probable cause and would find evidence of a crime.

The statutes listed were:

  • 18 USC 2071 — Concealment, removal or mutilation generally
  • 18 USC 793 — Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information
  • 18 USC 1519 — Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations and bankruptcy

The search warrant says that 28 boxes of evidence were taken from Trump's residence, including multiple documents labeled "top-secret," court papers said. The search warrant also suggests there were additional confidential and secret documents taken.

The court documents showed that there were, specifically, 11 "sets" of classified records within the items taken from Mar-a-Lago, by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), during the Monday search in Palm Beach, Florida.

As the Associated Press reported, some of the documents also said "sensitive compartmented information, which is a category of documents meant to protect the country's most important secrets. Court records said that the documents could cause "exceptionally grave" damage to the country and U.S. interests if revealed publicly.

Court records did not give additional specific details about the contents of the documents.

In a statement, Trump claimed that the documents were declassified before he left office.

"Number one, it was all declassified," Trump wrote. "Number two, they didn’t need to 'seize' anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago. It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request. They could have had it anytime they wanted—and that includes LONG ago."

The federal government said the "unauthorized disclosure" of these top secret documents could "reasonably be expected to cause" damage to the "national security" of the United States.

The statute involving destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy is considered the most serious of the crimes. A conviction on that statute contains a maximum penalty of 20 years.

Generally, search warrants are sealed during ongoing investigations. Attorney General Merrick Garland argued that because Trump had confirmed the search publicly and the immense public interest in the case, the public should examine the search warrant.

The FBI and DOJ have faced immense criticism from Republicans for seeking the search warrant. Garland said he signed off on the search warrant, executed on Monday. Former President Trump has rallied Republican allies after being served with the warrant. Trump was in New York when the FBI executed the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago.

Although Garland was appointed by current President Joe Biden, the head of the FBI, Christopher Wray, was appointed by Trump.