Reports suggest Trump could soon be indicted under section of Espionage Act of 1917 over national defense documents

June 8, 2023
Ben Marquis

Rumors are swirling that Special Counsel Jack Smith could soon bring federal criminal indictments against former President Donald Trump in relation to the classified documents he is alleged to have retained at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after leaving the White House.

One report indicated that federal prosecutors could utilize a section of a 106-year-old law, the Espionage Act of 1917, to go after Trump for his alleged possession of documents related to national defense, according to the Independent Journal Review.

The former president, whose home was raided by the FBI in an unprecedented move in August 2022, has long insisted that he's done nothing wrong and is instead being unfairly targeted for partisan purposes by a politicized and weaponized Department of Justice.

Possible charges under the Espionage Act

The U.K. Independent reported Wednesday that, according to unnamed sources, the DOJ will likely ask a Washington D.C. grand jury to issue an Espionage Act-related criminal indictment against former President Trump within a matter of days -- though that could be pushed back by a week or so, if necessary.

The relevant statute here is 18 U.S.C. Sec. 793, which covers "Gathering, transmitting, or losing defense information," and it contains two provisions that appear to be applicable in Trump's case, the first being Sec. 793(d), which states, "Whoever, lawfully having possession of ... any document ... relating to the national defense ... willfully retains the same and fails to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it."

Trump could also be charged under Sec. 793(f), which states that "Whoever ... having lawful possession or control of any document ... relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody ... or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody ... and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer -- Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both."

The Independent noted that this particular statute was likely chosen by prosecutors as a "strategic decision" in that it makes no mention of whether said documents are classified or not and therefore sidesteps Trump's claims in defense that he had the presidential authority to declassify any document he saw fit.

Two grand juries in D.C. and Miami

The Independent further reported that the DOJ will likely also pursue obstruction of justice and false statement charges against former President Trump, as well as that a separate grand jury has been empaneled in Miami, given that some of Trump's alleged crimes occurred in Florida and federal guidelines stipulate that alleged crimes should be prosecuted in the jurisdictions where they occurred.

That appears to bolster a report this week from The Washington Post about the two grand juries in D.C. and Miami and how bringing separate indictments against Trump in the two separate locales could speed up the process by negating likely efforts by Trump's attorneys to try to change venue if all of the charges had been filed in D.C.

The report also asserted that Special Counsel Smith appears ready to indict Trump within the "coming weeks" and, according to unnamed sources, Trump's attorneys recently met with Smith and federal prosecutors at the DOJ to make a final plea against pressing charges -- typically a sign that an indictment is imminent.

Possible obstruction of justice and false statements charges

Meanwhile, The Post further reported that a former top aide to former President Trump who now runs a Super PAC in his support, Taylor Budowich, recently testified before the Miami grand jury, likely in regard to the potential obstruction of justice and false statement charges that relate to an alleged statement drafted by Trump himself in early 2022 that falsely asserted that "everything" sought by the National Archives had been returned as requested.

That particular statement was never actually issued, as Trump's attorneys are said to have talked him out of it, given that -- as evidenced by the FBI raid that recovered more than 100 classified documents later in the year -- it would have been a false statement.

"Today, in what can only be described as a bogus and deeply troubling effort to use the power of government to 'get' Trump, I fulfilled a legal obligation to testify in front [of] a federal grand jury and I answered every question honestly," Budowich tweeted Wednesday.

Trump also addressed the reports with a post to Truth Social that said, "No one has told me I’m being indicted, and I shouldn’t be because I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a Target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI, starting with the Russia, Russia, Russia HOAX, the 'No Collusion' Mueller Report, Impeachment HOAX #1, Impeachment HOAX #2, the PERFECT Ukraine phone call, and various other SCAMS & WITCH HUNTS. A TRAVESTY OF JUSTICE & ELECTION INTERFERENCE AT A LEVEL NEVER SEEN BEFORE. REPUBLICANS IN CONGRESS MUST MAKE THIS THEIR # 1 ISSUE!!!"

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