New legal documents were unsealed by a federal judge Thursday in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago raid.
They show new details about the possible crimes the FBI was investigating with the search.
They hinted at ways of prosecuting Trump that do not rest on whether documents he kept are classified.
Former President Donald Trump has offered a shifting array of defenses in response to the August 8 FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, which uncovered a trove of secret documents.
Among them is the claim that they were all declassified by him while in office under the president’s sweeping powers over national secrets.
But procedural documents unsealed by federal judge Bruce Reinhart Thursday, including the cover sheet of the warrant used in the search, revealed that this defense may not be as effective as Trump hoped, per legal experts.
One implication of the new information is that even if Trump is right about the documents being declassified, he can still have broken the law.
That observation was made by Lawrence Tribe, a Harvard constitutional law scholar.
Previously, the only information about the laws agents believed Trump may have broken came from the warrant itself, which was unsealed last Friday.
It listed broad federal statutes Trump may have violated, including the Espionage Act. More specific information was found in Thursday’s documents.
They showed that the FBI believes that Trump may be guilty of the willful retention of national defense information, concealment or removal of government records, and obstruction of federal investigation.
Bradley P. Moss, a national security attorney, told Insider that the new documents “clarify but ultimately do not change much” of what we previously knew.
A striking detail, he said, was that the FBI believes Trump has obstructed its probe.
“Clearly, the FBI currently believes Mr. Trump not only took properly marked classified documents to Mar-a-Lago, but he kept them and resisted turning them over when confronted by the government,” he said.
He said that the FBI could theoretically use a charge of obstruction to pursue Trump, even if the information does turn out to have been declassified.
Moss did suggest, though, that it is unlikely that prosecutors would choose to make that case even if they technically could.
“I have no reason to suspect the Government would pursue a charge if they concluded there was sufficient evidence the records were in fact declassified, as Trump keeps claiming,” he said.
“Even if the Espionage Act charge falls through, the Government could pursue an obstruction charge,” he said.
“It is unlikely, but not out of the realm of possibility, they would do so on its own. After all, our jails are filled with people who were caught up in charges lesser than the original aim of what law enforcement was investigating.”
The grounds for believing that Trump may have committed these crimes are unclear, and would likely be detailed in the affidavit underpinning the warrant.
Reinhart said Thursday that he is leaning towards releasing it in a redacted form because it contains sensitive information relating to the ongoing investigation. This could come as soon as August 25, the date of the next hearing..
Insider contacted Trump’s office for comment.
His attorney, Alina Habba, in an interview on Newsmax, pushed back at the charges described in the sheet, saying Trump had cooperated with investigators and again arguing that he declassified the information.
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