Among the stollen documents recovered from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home by the FBI were classified because they contained highly sensitive intelligence about Iran and China, which could reveal the identity of American spies and expose secret intelligence-gathering methods.
Some of the documents recovered from Trump’s home detail top-secret U.S. operations so closely guarded that many senior national security officials are denied access to them.
Only the president, some Cabinet members or a near-Cabinet-level official may authorize government employees to even know about these special-access programs but such secrets were strewn about among those illegally taken by Trump and stored at Mar-a-Lago.
The United States wants to keep that information secret because adversaries around the world would shut down leaks and probably kill US operatives if they knew how American agencies were gathering intelligence.
“People aiding U.S. intelligence efforts could be endangered, and collection methods could be compromised,” said Devlin Barrett, . “In addition, other countries or U.S. adversaries could retaliate against the United States for actions it has taken in secret.”
Trump crime wave
In addition to inciting riots with his false claims about the 2020 election and well-documented efforts to usurp the will of the voters by interfering with the certification by Congress of the Electoral College vote results, Trump apparently sought to undermine the orderly and peaceful transfer of power by taking from the White House to Mar-a-Lago dozens of boxes that contained classified information and other items subject to the Presidential Records Act.
That law was enacted in 1978 following President Richard Nixon’s resignation to establish ownership of presidential files as U.S. government property that must be handed over to the National Archives at the end of one’s presidency.
Failing to properly preserve presidential records or turn them over to the National Archives can be subject to prosecution,
under U.S. Code Title 18, section 2071, which provides penalties of up to three years in prison.
Trump’s is not the first presidential administration to face a scandal over this issue.
Two White House aides under former President Ronald Reagan, John Poindexter and Oliver North, were convicted of destroying public records because they deleted hundreds of emails related to the Iran-Contra affair.
There’s irony in the fact that Nixon, Reagan and Trump boasted loudest about being ‘law and order’ Republicans even as they flagrantly violated federal statutes and betrayed their oaths to obey the Constitution.
“The exceptional sensitivity of these documents, and the reckless exposure of invaluable sources and methods of U.S. intelligence capabilities concerning these foreign adversaries, will certainly influence the Justice Department’s determination of whether to charge Mr. Trump or others with willful retention of national defense information under the Espionage Act,” said David Laufman, a former senior Justice Department official.
The Washington Post reported that one of the documents seized in the FBI search described a foreign country’s military defenses, including its nuclear capabilities.
Intelligence related to Iran, China or other nations’ missile programs and nuclear capabilities are closely guarded to protect the agents and methods by which the information is obtained.
It is of little value to anyone except western defense officials plotting to repel military attacks and the adversary nations that would want to plug holes in their security to America’s detriment.
Trump has not explained why he stole the documents or what he planned to do with them.
After months of discussions about the stollen files, Trump agreed to return 15 boxes of material in January.
When archivists examined the content if those boxes, they discivered 184 classified documents, including 25 marked top secret.
They were scattered throughout the boxes in no particular order, according to court filings.
Archives officials notified the Justice Department that Trump failed to return all the classified material in his possession, so prosecutors secured a grand jury subpoena demanding any documents that bore classified markings.
In response, Trump’s advisers met with government agents and prosecutors at Mar-a-Lago in early June, handing over a sealed envelope containing another 38 classified documents, including 17 marked top secret, that the former president had stollen.
FBO agents continued to gather proof that Trump was stonewalling, including security camera footage that showed boxes being carted away from the storage area after the May subpoena was issued and testimony from a witness who said that he moved the boxes on Trump’s orders.
With that evidence, the Justice Department asked a judge to approve the search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, when federal agents seized about 13,000 documents, including 103 marked as classified and 18 that are top secret.