Legal experts: Trump could face “Espionage Act” charges over new special counsel revelations

Special counsel Jack Smith’s team is probing whether former President Donald Trump showed off a map containing “sensitive intelligence information,” according to The New York Times.

Investigators on Smith’s team have asked witnesses whether Trump showed the map to aides and visitors after taking it with him after he left office, four sources told the outlet.

The nature of the map and the information it contains is unclear but investigators have questioned multiple witnesses about it, according to the report.

Investigators have asked whether Trump showed the map while aboard a plane, a source told the Times. Investigators appear to believe that Trump showed the map to at least one adviser after leaving office based on their questions, another source told the outlet. He may have also shown it to a journalist writing a book, a third source said.

Investigators have also asked whether Trump mentioned Joints Chief of Staff Chairman Mark Milley and whether donors were “ever part of the discussions about the material,” according to the report.

Investigators have asked whether Trump showed classified documents, including maps, to political donors, The Washington Post reported earlier this month.

The Post reported that investigators have compiled evidence of possible obstruction by Trump, including evidence that the former president personally rummaged through boxes of sensitive information after being hit with a subpoena for their return. But investigators are also interested in what Trump did with the documents after leaving office.

Investigators have asked when Trump was at Mar-a-Lago last year and whether he stayed there to look at the boxes before DOJ officials went to the club to retrieve them in June, according to the Times.

Trump usually leaves Florida for his Bedminster, N.J., club earlier than he did last year and was present when DOJ officials visited on June 3, according to the report. Trump had aides bring him boxes to sift through after a grand jury subpoena was issued in May, sources told the outlet.

Trump attorney Christopher Kise told the Times that the DOJ should be more interested in investigating recent leaks of Pentagon intelligence than Trump’s handling of documents.

“Seems the priorities are misplaced here,” he said. “America’s national security apparatus is spending much time and taxpayer money alleging President Trump had old photos of K.J.U. and some outdated map while real wartime intelligence data is flying out the door. Might be time to focus on what matters.”

Federal prosecutors are building a case that Trump obstructed justice by holding on to classified material despite the subpoena after interviewing “nearly everyone who could offer insight” on the matter, according to the report. But it’s unclear whether Smith’s team is also building a case for other charges. The warrant used to search Mar-a-Lago last summer cited potential violations of the Espionage Act.

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New York University Law Prof. Ryan Goodman predicted that evidence of Trump disseminating national defense information “could put this case into [the] echelon of more serious charges under Espionage Act.”

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg agreed that Smith likely isn’t asking about the map to build an obstruction case.

“I think the reason that they asked about the map is another statute, 18 USC 719 (e), ‘The Espionage Statute,’ says that someone who is unauthorized to have possession of a map and then shows it to someone who can’t see it violates that statute,” he told MSNBC. “So, they’re not just going after him for obstruction, but also espionage, which is punishable by up to ten years in prison. That’s why there’s a lot of trouble ahead.

Attorney George Conway told MSNBC that the Mar-a-Lago case is “the shortest distance between Donald John Trump and an orange jumpsuit.”

“If he was moving documents around himself, if he was trying to hide them so he could show them off to people, well, you know, that’s obstruction of justice,” he said, “even apart from the illegal retention of the documents, which he essentially stole from the American people because he just claimed they belonged to him when they didn’t.”

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