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Did Trump break the law? FBI search raises fresh questions

15 5 1
10.08.2022

WASHINGTON (AP) — The year was 2016, the presidential candidate under investigation was Hillary Clinton and the FBI director at the time, James Comey, laid out the factors the Justice Department weighs in deciding whether to charge someone with mishandling classified records.

Fast forward to 2022 and that tutorial proves instructive as another candidate from that election, Donald Trump, is entangled in an FBI probe related to sensitive government documents.

Whether an FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence is a prelude to criminal charges is unknown. The action Monday nonetheless focuses attention on the thicket of statutes that govern the handling of government records, though the department’s own history of prosecutorial discretion — some high-profile investigations have ended without charges or in misdemeanor plea deals — makes it hard to forecast with certainty what might happen this time.

“These are statutes that have historically not been enforced to the fullest extent,” said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck.

Much remains uncertain about Monday’s search, including precisely what documents the FBI was looking for — Trump says agents opened a safe — or why it acted when it did. But people familiar with the matter say it relates to an ongoing Justice Department investigation into the discovery of classified material in boxes of White House records the National Archives and Records Administration recovered from Mar-A-Lago earlier this year.

To obtain a search warrant, the Justice Department would have had to persuade a judge that probable cause existed that a crime was committed, though what statute officials think may have been violated is unclear.

Multiple federal laws require the safekeeping of government secrets. One potentially relevant statute makes it a crime to remove classified information and retain it an unauthorized location. Another makes it illegal to mishandle either willfully or through gross negligence national defense information,........

© The Times of Israel


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