On Friday the FBI unsealed a search warrant against former President Donald J Trump for potentially violating the Espionage Act. FBI agents found dozens of classified documents at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
The warrant shows that law enforcement was investigating Trump for removal or destruction of records, obstruction of justice, and violating the Espionage Act. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday that he had personally authorized the decision to seek permission for a warrant. The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that the list of items seized by FBI agents during the search included 11 sets of classified documents. Of these 11, four were marked top-secret, three were secret and three were identified as confidential.
Trump’s Office, in a statement made on Friday night, claimed that Trump would often take home classified documents “in order to prepare for work the next day,” and that he had issued a “standing order” that any documents removed this way were “to be deemed declassified.” Trump claimed that he had been cooperating with the investigators since Monday.
Trump’s spokesperson, Taylor Budowich, said “This raid of President Trump’s home was not just unprecedented, but unnecessary—and now they are leaking lies and innuendos to try to explain away the weaponization of government against their dominant political opponent. This is outrageous,” during the Friday Statement. Budowich added that the items taken were “the President’s picture books” and “a ‘handwritten note.” The statement continued “The power to classify and declassify documents rests solely with the President of the United States. The idea that some paper-pushing bureaucrat, with classification authority delegated by the president, needs to approve of declassification is absurd.”
Although Trump’s detractors are likely to contest his claims, several officials familiar with national security have asserted that the President’s power to classify or declassify documents is very extensive. Obama’s executive order no.13526 set down the strict process to declassify documents, but at the same time, specifically excused the sitting President and Vice President from having to follow that process. The order declared “Information originated by the incumbent President or the incumbent Vice President; the incumbent President’s White House Staff or the incumbent Vice President’s Staff; committees, commissions, or boards appointed by the incumbent President; or other entities within the Executive Office of the President that solely advise and assist the incumbent President is exempted from the provisions of paragraph (a) of this section.”
As we know, Trump is no stranger to controversy. In 2017 President Trump was investigated for cooperating with Russia during the 2016 election. Although special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation did not find sufficient evidence that President Donald Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the United States’ 2016 election and did not take a clear position on whether Trump obstructed justice, it was a big moment of controversy for Trump. Not to mention the January 6 storming of the capitol.
Overall, former President Donald Trump is facing a slurry of investigations and lawsuits, with the most recent one concerning the obstruction of classified documents. The results of these investigations still remain a mystery. What also remains to be seen is whether they will hurt or help Trump, in what many supporters expect and hope will be his candidacy in 2024.