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Why the Trump search warrant has nothing to do with Hillary’s emails

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For the department to pursue a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, I figure the amount and quality of evidence they were reciting in a search warrant and affidavit that an FBI agent swore was probably so pulverizing in its force that it eviscerates any notion that the search warrant and this investigation are politically motivated, he said.

Twenty-four hours after it happened, few details remain as to why the FBI raided Trump’s private domain beyond months-old questions about former presidents’ treatment of Trump. records that appear to have been transferred to Mar-a-Lago as he left the Oval Office. .

In the absence of more concrete details, Trump’s defenders have clamored to embrace the former president more fiercely than ever, deriding the FBI and the Justice Department as weapons of partisan Democrats. But Laufmans echoes the consensus of other experts who operate in the corner of the legal world that deals with the handling of classified material. It is highly unlikely that the DOJ would have prosecuted and a judge would have granted such a politically explosive search warrant without extraordinary evidence.

As far as I know, the FBI is not prone to what members of Congress have called a banana republic-style invasion. This does not happen, especially with a court order.

Steven Aftergood, Federation of American Scientists

Sooner or later, the Justice Department and Mr. Trump will have to clarify the substance of what happened, said Steven Aftergood, a longtime defender with the Federation of American Scientists against government secrecy. We will then know if it was a real violation of the law or if it was some kind of speculative adventure. As far as I know, the FBI is not prone to what members of Congress have called a banana republic-style invasion. This does not happen, especially with a court order.

Without more detailed information about the investigation, it’s unclear what potential crimes the Justice Department is investigating. Notably, Trump, after a fierce campaign against Clinton in which he called for her to be jailed for her handling of classified documents, signed a law in 2018 that toughened the penalty for the unauthorized removal and retention of documents. classified from one year to five years, turning into a criminal offence.

It was the same status as three years earlier Petraeus had pleaded guilty in order to avoid a felony conviction.

While the DOJ and FBI have remained silent amid calls to further explain the background to Mar-a-Lago’s search, they are not the only ones with relevant information.

Trump is perhaps in the best position to reveal more details about what happened on Monday. The former president has access to the full inventory of items sought by federal investigators as well as what was removed from his estate during the search. He or his lawyers almost certainly received a copy of the search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago, but not the underlying affidavit or other additional documents, which are generally kept confidential until charges are brought. issued or a case closed. Additionally, Trump can talk about the nature of any potentially classified material that may have formed the basis of the search and whether he took steps to declassify any of it when he left office.

If people ask for it to be made public, I think Mr. Trump has the power to do so, Aftergood said. He could describe what was at stake and where the sticking point was. He doesn’t need to speculate.

Laufman and Aftergood pointed out that the potential culpability of Trump or his allies depends entirely on potential aggravating circumstances, from the volume of classified documents in his possession to the level of classification of information, whether he or allies deceived the National Archives or the Department. of Justice about the inventory at Mar-a-Lago and whether there were any efforts to conceal it or resist its disclosure.

A court-authorized FBI search, like the one that took place on Monday, would be warranted, Aftergood said, if the material is of such extraordinary national security sensitivity that it absolutely must be in government custody.

It’s not something you write letters about, he added. This is something you need to take care of now and discuss later.

Although the grand jury’s investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to disrupt the transfer of power on January 6, 2021, has prompted greater public scrutiny, its investigation into his handling of presidential records poses its own legal threat. In fact, some of the very Trump allies who cooperated with Houses’ Jan. 6 investigation were among those assigned by Trump to handle his presidential records after he left office.

A day before Joe Bidens’ inauguration, Trump named seven administration officials as his representatives at the National Archives. Among them were his chief of staff, Mark Meadows; White House attorney Pat Cipollone; his assistants Patrick Philbin, Scott Gast and Michael Purpura; national security attorney John Eisenberg; and Steven Engel, Chief of the Department of Justice Legal Counsel’s Office.

Engel testified before the Jan. 6 select committee about his resistance to Trump’s plan to remove Justice Department leaders and replace them with docile officials who would support his efforts to stay in power. Cipollone also testified to his concerns about the legality of attempts by some Trump allies to overturn the election results.

It’s unclear whether all seven officials remain authorized Trump representatives, but the former president also recently added at least two additional representatives: journalist John Solomon and former Pentagon official Kash Patel.

Patel told Breitbart in May that Trump declassified the documents he transferred to Mar-a-Lago, even though the documents still bore classified marks. As president, Trump had full authority to declassify any classified material in government possession.

Josh Gerstein contributed to this report.

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