Could Trump go down like Al Capone? – The interception | Vette Leader

A man stands outside an entrance to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on August 8, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida.

Photo: Wilfredo Lee/AP

Al Capone is killer Gangsterism in Chicago in the 1920s was stopped not by an investigation into the murders he ordered or the flow of rum he sold during Prohibition, but by a patient federal investigation into his failure to pay income taxes on all of his illicit profits.

Donald Trump has yet to be prosecuted for attempting to stage a violent coup against the United States government. But the unprecedented FBI search of Trump’s Florida home on Monday appears to be part of a criminal probe into his removal — a better word might be theft — of classified documents after he left the White House.

Rather than being charged as a violent insurgent bent on destroying American democracy, Donald Trump could go to jail for a much more mundane reason: he pissed off the nerds at the National Archives, the legal custodians of the missing documents, who then tipped off have given the Ministry of Justice.

The FBI search is truly evidence of a leak investigation — perhaps the largest in history. But in legal terms, the case isn’t all that different from the many leak investigations that Trump’s own Justice Department has aggressively pursued throughout his tenure. In fact, during his tenure, Trump put enormous pressure on the Justice Department to pursue leaks of classified information normally associated with negative press disclosures about him. Many of the people charged in cases involving the disclosure of classified information during the Trump administration have been linked to revelations in the press about Trump or Russia, or both. The Intercept reported last year that the Trump administration had forwarded a record of at least 334 leaks of classified information to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.

In many cases involving leaks to the press, the Justice Department has applied a centuries-old draconian law — the Espionage Act — that could potentially contain the leak for decades. The government often uses the Espionage Act as a threat to intimidate leakers into pleading lesser charges; The leaks often end up making allegations related to improper handling of classified information. The New York Times noted Tuesday that one of the lower-count laws than the Espionage Act that appears to apply to Trump’s case is Section 2071 of Title 18 of the US Code; Under that law, an officer who has responsibility for the custody of documents and then “willfully and unlawfully conceals, removes, mutilates, obliterates, falsifies, or destroys” the records could face up to three years in prison and be barred from running for a seat Federal office to be excluded again.

Prosecutions under this law do not appear to require the government to prove Trump leaked documents to foreign spies, the media, or other unauthorized individuals.

The FBI search, authorized by a federal judge-approved search warrant, caught Washington by surprise, but it didn’t come entirely out of the blue. As of last year, a silent battle has been ongoing between the National Archives, the Justice Department, and Trump over the matter.

After Trump left office, the National Archives discovered that many records, documents and other materials were missing from the White House — and began searching for them. They found that Trump had at least 15 boxes of materials he had brought from the White House to his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, and officials at the archives began fighting Trump to get them back. When he finally returned the 15 boxes in January 2022, records officials determined they contained classified documents and referred the matter to the Justice Department. The Justice Department launched a grand jury investigation, and a small group of federal agents traveled to Mar-a-Lago in the spring to search for classified documents. Apparently, Monday’s raid reveals that the Justice Department and FBI believed Trump had been uncooperative in their investigations and that he still had more classified documents hidden in his home, in violation of federal law.

While it’s possible that the FBI search will not result in a criminal complaint against Trump, it’s really hard to imagine US Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Justice Department approving the historic move of an FBI search of a former president’s home without much approval there was more at stake than a bureaucratic attempt to recover missing Presidential records. It also seems hard to believe that the Justice Department would conduct such a politically radioactive search when officials would only consider a slap in the face in the case, like the light sentences that have been handed down in the past against former CIA Director John Deutch and were imposed on former national security adviser Sandy Berger.

A big question at the heart of the case is clearly what Trump intended to do with so many top secret documents after leaving office. When it comes to Trump, it’s hard to go wrong about the worst. Obviously, these were documents he believed would be of some use to him in the future – perhaps in another presidential campaign, in his own private dealings, or even with foreign leaders. It’s not too far-fetched to think that the Espionage Act might apply.

It’s also hard to fail to notice that the case is full of irony. As a presidential candidate, Trump constantly attacked Hillary Clinton for using a private email server when she was secretary of state and allegedly compromising classified information. It turns out the “Lock Her Up” chant may have used the wrong gender.

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