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An Explanation of the Espionage Act as Well as Trump’s Docs

The search warrant that was released on Friday indicates that the search was conducted in connection with, among other things, the Espionage Act.


This comes after a week that was marked by Republican lawmakers reprimanding the Department of Justice and their subsequent demands for accountability following an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago.

The Espionage Act is actually a set of acts that may be found in Title 18 of the United States Code, Chapter 37. These statutes deal with the gathering, storage, or publication of information that is either secret or connected to national defence.

The search warrant for Mar-a-Lago made reference to Section 793, which prohibits “gathering, transmitting, or losing defence information.”

This provision does not only cover “spying” in the way that many people envision when they hear the term. It is made clear in Section 793 that those who have been legally permitted access to records about national security, such as a former president, are liable to be punished if they improperly keep the material that they have been given access to.

Official documents and any other material or information that a president or vice president may have obtained while serving in the office are required to be submitted to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) for the purpose of preservation by the Presidential Records Act, which regulates the National Archives and Records Administration’s (NARA) responsibility to keep government documents on file.

According to the website for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Presidential Records Act is a post-Watergate innovation that “changed the legal ownership of the official records of the President from private to public, and established a new statutory structure under which Presidents, and subsequently NARA, must manage the records of their Administrations.”

When a president leaves office, the presidential records become the property of the national archivist, and by extension, the people of the United States of America.

This is the case even if the former president has the permission of the archivist to get rid of records that are no longer relevant to their duties.

Trump is driving us even closer to the brink with his policies.


That did not occur after the Trump administration; rather, as Maggie Haberman reported on a recent episode of the New York Times podcast The Daily, Donald Trump took 15 boxes of material with him when he departed for Mar-a-Lago as Joe Biden took office. This happened as the Trump administration was winding down.

According to what Haberman remembers, the contents of those crates included things like a raincoat as well as golf balls.

In addition, they included several records that were covered by the Presidential Materials Act, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) spent the greater part of 2021 working with Trump’s team to secure those records.

According to Haberman’s investigation, when the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) finally acquired those records earlier this year, they discovered many that were designated “classified.”

It is significant enough that a violation of the Presidential Records Act occurred, but, as Haberman explained, “the fact that there were documents marked ‘classified’ in these boxes raised all kinds of concerns from federal officials.”

A search was conducted at Mar-a-Lago on Monday because it appears that President Trump did not return all of the records that are required to be returned by the Presidential Records Act.

This is an even more troubling development. According to the property receipts of the Justice Department, this resulted in 11 batches of documents, four of which are top secret, three of which are labelled “secret,” three others labelled “confidential,” and one labelled “various classified/TS/SCI documents.”

This designation indicates that the documents are only intended to be read in secure locations by individuals who have high levels of security clearance.

Who has been charged before about this incident, and for what offence?

In high-profile instances involving the Espionage Act, the leaking of classified information from the government to news sources is common.

Reality Winner, at the time of her leak to the Intercept of a secret government report about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, was working as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA).

She was taken into custody not long after the story was published in June of 2017, and she was eventually given a sentence of five years and three months in federal prison on one count of disseminating national defence secrets in violation of the Espionage Act.

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The fact that a single charge against Winner resulted in a sentence of more than five years in prison is an indication of just how seriously the Espionage Act can be prosecuted; it is also a part of a struggle that has been going on almost consistently between the free press and the government of the United States of America across administrations.

To provide the general public with information about what the government is doing in their name or other vital, but secret, information, Winner and other whistleblowers have performed what is debatably capable of being referred to as a public service. They have put their personal freedoms and livelihoods in jeopardy to do so.

For instance, in 1973 Daniel Ellsberg was prosecuted under the Espionage Act for leaking the so-called Pentagon Papers to the Washington Post and the New York Times.

These papers were approximately 7,000 pages long and covered the United States’ involvement in the Vietnam War.

They contradicted the official story that the government told about the war. He could have been sentenced to as much as 115 years in prison for leaking the report; however, his case was dropped because the government committed misconduct in gathering evidence about Ellsberg.

In addition, the government attempted to stop the Post and the Times from publishing the Pentagon Papers; however, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in favour of the newspapers.

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