Investigators looking into Donald Trump’s alleged theft of over 300 classified national security documents are pushing to obtain access to the computers of Trump staffers.
In a report first on CNN about two people who found classified documents in Trump’s Florida storage facility testifying before a federal grand jury in Washington, there were two paragraphs about investigators pushing for access to the computers of Trump Mar-a-Lago staff.
“The development comes at the same time federal prosecutors are pushing to look at files on a laptop of at least one staff member around Trump at Mar-a-Lago, according to multiple sources,” CNN reported.
“By pushing for access to computers, investigators are trying to determine if there is an electronic paper trail regarding the classified documents, another source said.”
They are pushing for access to computers to see if there is a paper trail of the classified documents. This suggests that they are looking at the possibility that the documents were shared.
In August of 2022, we learned via a search warrant that the FBI was investigating Trump for a potential violation of the Espionage Act.
Former President Trump has denied mishandling classified documents, illegally possessing classified materials, and suggested that he is being treated unfairly.
Lawfare explained at the time: “The part of the Espionage Act that is likely most relevant in this case is § 793(d). It applies to individuals who lawfully accessed material:
“relating to the national defense,” and who proceeded either willfully to convey it to “any person not entitled to receive it,” or willfully to “retain the same and fail to deliver it on demand to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it.”
Trump is now under a criminal investigations by Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Just Security defines the Trump classified documents investigation as an “espionage and stolen documents investigation,” which is key to understanding this new information about investigators looking for an electronic paper trail.
They highlight most recently: “Trump’s direct knowledge of documents and familiarity with the records’ contents” as being proven in an FBI Affidavit reading “Several of the documents [retrieved by the Archives on Jan. 18, 2022] also contained what appears to be FPOTUS’s handwritten notes.”
Just Security also collected reports of Trump personally packing boxes to leave office (unwillingly) and that he “retains documents that should have been sent to NARA prior to leaving office.”
The list is long and disconcerting. But even more troubling are the examples of Trump recklessly sharing these documents, like the time he waved the North Korean leader’s letter around “at people.”
“For the rest of 2021, Mr. Trump resisted requests to give back the material. In the meantime, Mr. Trump would wave things like the North Korean leader’s letters at people, as if they were collectors’ items he was showing off.” [New York Times]
Trump also wanted to use some of the documents he had stolen as bargaining chips to get documents pertaining to the Trump Russia investigation *from* NARA that he thought he was entitled to, but wisely his advisers didn’t act on this idea.
Trump was involved in trying to hide the documents after receiving the subpoena. Federal “agents have gathered evidence indicating that Trump told people to move boxes to his residence after his advisers received the subpoena.”
That’s a lot of times Trump was involved with taking and hiding the classified documents he allegedly stole. This is not an example of someone who was sloppy with their handling of classified documents. This is someone who willfully and deliberately packed the documents and then sought to move them to hide them from the FBI.
Why did Trump want to hang on to classified national security documents so much and what are investigators looking for in terms of electronic paper trails?
If the documents have been shared with other entities, the “espionage” aspect of the Trump case gets escalated.
The electronic paper trail/possibly sharing documents with other entities separates it from the Biden and Pence classified documents situation, as does the fact that both President Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence turned the classified documents they found in their searches over immediately upon finding them.
If it is proven that Trump shared these classified documents with people or entities, he jeopardized our national security on purpose for his own self interest. This should not be conflated with what seems to be systemic sloppiness around classified documents by other principle figures in government.
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Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.