Trump could go to jail for keeping secret documents

The FBI is investigating former Republican President Donald Trump for various crimes, including obstruction of justice and violation of the Espionage Act.

The FBI’s operation in Florida to recover classified documents belonging to Donald Trump served to seize highly sensitive reports. And that could mean he’s facing some very serious crimes. Among the boxes found by federal agents were up to 11 files of classified information. Among these were many files marked with the “top secret” logo, the highest level of security in the United States. Circumstances that form the basis of the federal agency’s search warrant for Mar-a-Lago. In which an investigation of Trump for obstruction of justice and a possible violation of the Espionage Act is included.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, the federal police operation recovered up to 20 boxes of documents, according to the inventory carried out after the intervention in the Florida mansion. In these were folders of photos, a handwritten note and the executive order granting the pardon to former Trump adviser Roger Stone. Another part of the rescued documentation included information about the “president of France”, in reference to Emmanuel Macron. While others were intended for exclusive consultation in government buildings.

The content of this documentation is what would have motivated an unprecedented investigation by the FBI against a former president. As Politico reports, the Mar-a-Lago search warrant shows that Trump is being investigated for violating the Espionage Act. To these possible offenses would be added the obstruction of justice and the elimination and destruction of files. A series of irregularities that can involve penalties of several million fines or imprisonment.

These documents indicate that the investigators consider it a serious threat to national security that Trump would have taken all this documentation. Fear that its contents could be leaked is what prompted US Attorney General Merrick Garland to approve something as unprecedented as the registration of a property owned by a former president of the country.

Offenses punishable by imprisonment

The crimes for which the former president is under investigation may have different consequences. For starters, he and everyone who helped him take and hide the documents may have violated federal law. The most serious offense would be selling state secrets to a foreign government. Although the precedents correspond to many minor violations of the Espionage Act, as happened to several officials convicted of possessing documents which should not be accessed.

Added to this is the accusation of having hidden or destroyed official documents. Facts which are punishable by more than three years in prison and the ban on access to the public service. For this, the investigators will have to prove that the former president knew that by taking the boxes of classified information he was doing something against the law.

Different levels of security

All this documentation is collected in a three-page list, which is part of another seven-page file. In the latter would also be this search warrant for the Mar-a-Lago mansion, which could be made public soon. Something that will happen after Trump himself backed the initiative by the Attorney General, who asked the judge to allow him to lift secrecy in the face of criticism and attacks from Trump and his supporters behind the case.

The list highlights references to the protection of the various documents recovered by the FBI. These range from those that are “miscellaneous classified”, “top secret” or “compartmentalized sensitive information”, the latter being the least protected classified information than the former. Specifically, there were four folders of top secret or “top secret” documents, three of secret documents and three of confidential documents.

These latest revelations come after learning that among the documentation Trump had at Mar-a-Lago would be reports related to nuclear weapons. Something the former president called a “set-up” in a post from the social network he owns, Truth Social. Indeed, several of his collaborators assured that the information obtained in Florida had already been declassified before he finished his mandate.

Doubts about his candidacy

These serious accusations against Trump, as unprecedented as a search of the home of a former president, could cost him his new candidacy for the 2024 elections. But it is not certain that they can prevent it. Although the corresponding statutes establish that the person responsible for such a crime “shall forfeit his office and be disqualified for holding office in the United States”, the United States Constitution does not specify that this is a limitation to be President.

As experts consulted by outlets such as the Washington Post point out, a possible conviction of Trump will be a “constitutional challenge”, since nothing like this has ever happened. The constitutional text of the country is the one that establishes the conditions required to be president. Nowhere does it say that being convicted of a crime, including a crime involving public records, can disqualify someone from performing their duties.


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