What charges could Trump face for possessing classified documents?
Here’s a rundown of the legal troubles Donald Trump could face if he removed from the White House official presidential records, including some marked documents, to his Mar-a-Lago, Florida estate.
What do we know about the research?
FBI agents who searched Mar-a-Lago removed 11 sets of classified documents, including several marked top secret, according to documents unsealed in Florida federal court Friday. The warrant and the list of items taken were made public after Trump said he had no objection to their release.
The agents were at the Florida estate looking for documents related to nuclear weapons, the Washington Post reported Thursday.
On Friday, Trump said on his Truth Social platform that the “nuclear weapons issue is a “hoax”. He has said he was cooperating with authorities and called the “raid” inappropriate political retaliation. Trump also suggested the FBI may have planted evidence against him without substantiating that claim.
What laws may Trump have broken?
The warrant gave prosecutors the right to seize documents containing evidence in violation of three laws, code numbers 793, 2071 and 1519.
While the list of items acquired by agents from Mar-a-Lago notes that many of the documents were classified, these three laws deal with mishandling federal government documents whether or not they are classified.
The Act No. 793 prohibits unauthorized possession of national defense information, without stating whether the records are classified or not. The maximum sentence is 10 years in prison.
That law was initially passed under the Espionage Act of 1917, which predated the legal classification system.
The other laws, 2071 and 1519, make it illegal to hide or destroy official U.S. documents. They are punished with three and twenty years’ imprisonment respectively. Neither law requires that the information in question be classified.
To obtain the injunction, prosecutors had to convince a judge that they had probable reasons to believe that the laws may have been broken. Trump has not been charged with any crimes.
Does it make any difference whether the documents are classified or not?
Federal law makes it illegal to intentionally take classified documents to an unauthorized location, but that law was not among the three listed in the search warrant. That means whether or not the documents are classified has no bearing on those allegations.
Trump signed an amendment to the law in 2018 that increased the maximum jail term for individuals convicted of mishandling classified information from one to five years.
The president has broad powers to release documents, raising the possibility that Trump could have done so before bringing the data to Mar-a-Lago.
“It was all released,” Trump said on his startup social media platform Truth Social on Friday.