These are the crimes for which Trump is being investigated and the prison sentences they imply | International
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The FBI launched a search of Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, in search of evidence of the commission of at least three possible crimes. The three are reflected in the search warrant, published this Friday by the South Florida court that authorized entry into Trump’s residence. The attorney general requested that it be published in the general interest and the former president, who until now had preferred not to reveal it, agreed to have it published.
The possible crimes would be violations of the espionage law, obstruction of justice and destruction or concealment of evidence. According to the US press, a tip has served to support the affidavit or statement of charges to justify the search, which has not been made public.
These alleged crimes are not cited as such in the search warrant. What is mentioned are the articles of the US Code (USC), the United States Code or Federal Code, which is a compilation of the federal laws in force in the country. The precepts of the Code come, therefore, from different laws approved by Congress even in very distant times. The articles that are cited are from Title 18 of the USC, which includes crimes. It is equivalent, therefore, to the Penal Code.
What was published this Friday is a seven-page document. The first thing he reveals is that the search warrant was signed by the judge on Friday, August 5 at noon (12:12 p.m. local time). That is, with the entire weekend ahead before the registration took place on Monday, which, moreover, went unnoticed until Trump announced that it was taking place. The operation was not leaked and the White House assures that it had no prior knowledge of it. Attorney General Merrick Garland acknowledged that he personally made the decision to apply for the search warrant.
The first page is just the communication that that document is re-registered in a public or redacted version (leaving out some names for privacy reasons) and listing what it includes.
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The second page is the search warrant as such, which gave until August 19 to carry it out and restricted the action to daytime hours, from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., specifically. It is signed by Judge Bruce Reinhart and refers to the annexes for the identification of the place to be searched and the assets to be seized.
The third page, Annex A, precisely indicates the address of Mar-a-Lago. And he specifies: “It is described as a mansion with approximately 58 rooms, 33 bathrooms, on a 17-acre estate. Places to search include Office 45 [Trump fue el 45º presidente de Estados Unidos]all warehouses and all other rooms or areas within the premises used or available for use by FPOTUS [iniciales de former president of the United States, expresidente de Estados Unidos] and its personnel and in which boxes or documents could be kept, including all the structures or buildings of the farm. It does not include areas that are currently (i.e. at the time of registration) occupied, rented or used by third parties (such as Mar-a-Largo members) and that are not used or available for use by the FPOTUS and your staff, such as private guest suites.”
The fourth page gets down to business. It indicates the “property to be seized” and points out that they are “all documents and physical records that constitute evidence, contraband, proceeds of crime or other items illegally possessed in violation of articles 793, 2071 or 1519 of Title 18 of the US Code”.
Sentences of up to 33 years
What do those precepts say? 793 is a long article with eight sections that go from letter a) to h) and is part of the Espionage Law. Its casuistry is broad and it punishes, for example, those who steal secrets from the United States to deliver them to another country. The order does not specify which section Trump is suspected of violating, but letter d) punishes “whoever, lawfully having possession, access or control of any document, writing, code book, sign book, sketch, photograph, photographic negative, plan, map, model, instrument, apparatus, or note relating to national defense, or information relating to national defense, the information of which the holder has reason to believe could be used to the detriment of the United States or the benefit of any foreign nation ( …) intentionally withholds it and does not release it at the request of the United States officer or employee entitled to receive it.” For any of the sections of article 793, the penalties provided are a fine and/or imprisonment for a maximum of 10 years.
The Espionage Act, which not only punishes espionage but also mismanagement of secret or national security information, was passed in 1917, during World War I, decades before the current document classification system existed ( top secret/sensitive, top secret, secret, confidential…). Therefore, although Trump now alleges that he had declassified the documents, that does not automatically free him from having committed that possible crime.
Article 2,071 of Title 18 of the Federal Code, for its part, has two letters. In section b) it says that “whoever, having custody of any record, procedure, map, book, document, paper or other thing, conceals, eliminates, mutilates, erases, falsifies or intentionally and illegally destroys the same, will be fined under this title or imprisoned for not more than three years, or both; and he shall lose his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.”
That disqualification affects federal officials, but it is in question that it could affect the president. Since the requirements to be elected president are in the Constitution, jurists believe that an ordinary law cannot impose different ones. A legal dispute over this would probably end up in the Supreme Court, with a conservative majority and three of the nine justices appointed by Trump.
The third article is the simplest and a classic of the investigations carried out by the FBI. Article 1,519 of the Penal Code punishes the “destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations and bankruptcies”, which is known as obstruction of justice. It has a single paragraph, which reads: “Anyone who knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, hides, conceals, falsifies or makes a false entry in any record, document or tangible object with the intention of impeding, obstructing or influencing the investigation or the proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case brought under title 11, or in connection with or in contemplation of any matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more 20 years old, or both.
The maximum penalties for the crimes are therefore up to 10, 3 and 20 years in prison, respectively. A maximum of 33 for one count for each of those crimes. Obviously, the judges grade it based on the seriousness of the cases. There is no indication yet of what course of action the Attorney General intends to follow when instructing the procedure. Attorney General Merrick Garland is in charge of the Justice Department. Appointed by the president, he is a hybrid between prosecutor and minister.
The annex called for the seizure of any property that could serve as evidence of any of those offences, but in particular listed: “any physical document with classification marks, together with any containers/boxes (including any other contents) in which such documents are found. , as well as any other container/box that is stored or found collectively together with the aforementioned documents and containers/boxes; information, including communications in any form, relating to the retrieval, storage, or transmission of national defense information or classified material; any government and/or presidential record created between January 20, 2017 and January 20, 2021 [el mandato de Trump]or any evidence of knowingly altering, destroying, or concealing any government and/or presidential record, or any document bearing classification marks.”
US law requires presidents to preserve and safeguard all documents and records they produce during their term, including reports, messages and handwritten notes, and to deliver them to the National Archives upon leaving office. Trump flagrantly flouted that law. In May 2021, the Archives staff approached the former president to inquire about documentation that he had not delivered. In January 2022, Trump delivered 15 boxes of documents. Among them were letters from North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and the note left by his predecessor, Barack Obama, on his last day in the Oval Office. In addition, there were documents classified as secret, according to the National Archives Office. But documents were still missing. The office asked the Justice Department to open an investigation. There was a summons for federal agents to show up at Mar-a-Lago in June. It was not enough.
The seized assets
Pages 5, 6 and 7, unordered, include a list with a total of 39 assets and a large number of documents classified as “top secret/sensitive”, “top secret”, “secret” or confidential. They are an undetermined number, because sometimes it is said “several top secret documents” or “miscellaneous secret documents”. There are 11 games, series or groups of documents.
One of them, number 2A, indicates “several documents classified TS/SCI”, acronyms that refer to top secret/sensitive compartment information, top secret/sensitive compartment information, literally, classification that corresponds to documents that should only be reviewed in secure official facilities. There are four sets of “miscellaneous top secret documents”, three of various secret documents, two sets of “miscellaneous confidential documents” and one more loose confidential document.
Alongside that are listed 26 labeled boxes, one of them leather, former adviser Roger Stone’s pardon order, a report on French President Emmanuel Macron, two photo folders, a handwritten note, another set of documents and a “potential presidential record” that is not specified.
That’s all the information. Of course, it is not known what the secret documents are about, but there are no details of the rest either. The receipt of the seized goods is signed at “6.19 pm” last Monday, the day of the search.
Search warrant and list of seized assets
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