The DOJ is investigating if Trump broke 3 federal laws, including the Espionage Act. Here's what the Espionage Act is.
- The DOJ is investigating if Trump potentially broke three laws, including a key facet of the Espionage Act.
- The law relates to the illegal removal of any sensitive materials relating to national defense.
The Department of Justice is investigating whether former President Donald Trump broke three laws — one of them being a key facet of the Espionage Act — according to the warrant unsealed by the department on Friday.
The facet of the Espionage Act relates to the removal of information pertaining to the US national defense, while the other two laws relate to the handling of government records.
Earlier this week, federal investigators seized several boxes from Trump's Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, a lawyer for the former president said. According to the warrant, the FBI agents took "miscellaneous top secret documents" and "confidential" material from the former president's Florida residence.
The Espionage Act of 1917 dates back to World War I, essentially prohibiting the sharing of information that could harm the US or give an advantage to other foreign countries, according to the Free Speech Center at Middle Tennessee State University.
Section 793 of the act specifically is concerned with "gathering, transmitting or losing defense information," which relates to any document relating to national defense that "through gross negligence" was "illegally removed from its proper place of custody ... to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed."
If convicted of violating the Espionage Act, it carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in federal prison, according to a report by The Guardian.
Trump has claimed that the documents were declassified (a president can declassify information through a specific process, though it's unclear if Trump used that process), and he has not been charged with any crime.
While the name of the law refers to targeting spies, Trump could be in violation of the act due to the apparent sensitive nature of the materials seized from his Mar-a-Lago home.
"If reports are accurate and contained among these documents are some of the most highly classified information our government holds — information classified as top secret/secure compartmented information — then it would explain a great deal about why the department and the FBI took the step of obtaining a warrant to recover the documents," Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said in a statement.
"It appears that the FBI sought to remove those documents to a safe location previously, but Trump did not fully cooperate," Schiff continued. "Every day that information of such a classification sits in an unsecured location is a risk to our national security. If any other individual had information of that nature in their possession, the FBI would work quickly to mitigate the risks of disclosure."
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