Few details have been made public as to why, exactly, the FBI and Department of Justice felt the urgent need to raid former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort on Monday.
Reports indicate Trump had been holding onto materials that were supposed to have been turned over to the National Archives. But officials have not commented on what was contained in those records ― and whether there are implications for U.S. national security.
The lack of information leaves only speculation about what sort of potential criminal activity the Department of Justice is looking into.
Tucked into a bill Trump signed into law in January 2018 was a provision increasing the punishment for knowingly removing classified materials with the intent to retain them at an “unauthorized location.”
Previously, someone found guilty of this crime could face up to one year in prison. When former CIA Director David Petraeus was charged in 2015 with mishandling classified data, he pleaded guilty under this statute to avoid a felony charge, as Politico pointed out. A similar situation unfolded a decade earlier, when former national security adviser Samuel Berger pleaded guilty to removing terrorism-related materials from the National Archives in 2005.
Now, a person convicted of violating this law can face up to five years in prison ― making it a felony-level offense to mishandle classified documents under 18 U.S.C. 1924.
Could 2018 Trump have unknowingly put 2022 Trump in a tough spot?
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