The search warrant underlying the recent raid of Mar-a-Lago by FBI agents was formally revealed this week, after details already emerged in public reporting, and what’s available now indicates Trump is under investigation in connection to potential violations of federal laws including the Espionage Act.
The Espionage Act doesn’t only concern straightforward spying; it also covers actions that may threaten national security, such as the retention of materials bearing information that could undercut the nation’s security posture if released. Some of the materials held at Mar-a-Lago weren’t carefully handled — according to reporting from The New York Times, Trump sometimes even showed people correspondence with the North Korean dictator like it was some kind of prop. Separate reporting from The Washington Post reveals authorities were worried documents related to nuclear weapons were among items left at the Trump property, even after months of communications and negotiations between federal authorities and the Trump team.
Three laws were mentioned among the potential violations connected to the search of Mar-a-Lago. Besides the Espionage Act, there’s also one that prohibits the destruction or concealment of documents with the intention of obstructing a government probe and another that broadly covers the potential improper retention of documents. A reporter with the Times noted that a reference to the law against obstruction leads to the question of what Trump might be suspected of obstructing. Was he intentionally trying to stop a particular government investigation into his conduct or the conduct of someone in his administration? The exact contents of all that agents took from Mar-a-Lago earlier this week aren’t publicly available — as could be expected, considering the highly restricted nature of so much of it, but an official listing of items taken during the raid notes nearly a dozen caches of restricted files.
The FBI raid was preceded by the reclamation earlier this year of over a dozen boxes of Trump admin records from Mar-a-Lago. The National Archives said it found classified information among those materials and referred the matter to the Justice Department for further examination. Signals intelligence (meaning intercepted electronic communications) was among that earlier cache, and the release of such a thing could compromise U.S. intelligence-gathering methods and impact those whose comms were included in it. According to the official list of what the FBI took during the Mar-a-Lago raid, info related to the president of France — which the document didn’t further explain — was recovered. The Justice Department moved for the release of the search warrant and accompanying materials — excluding an affidavit making the case for the probable cause finding agreed to by the court — and Trump’s lawyers declined to oppose the documents’ release, which confirmed highly restricted materials were at Mar-a-Lago and recovered Monday.