Three statutes listed in Trump search warrant explained
- A Florida judge unsealed the FBI search warrant that allowed agents to enter Donald Trump’s home
- The warrant suggests Trump being investigated under Espionage Act
- A set of papers bearing markings identifying them as Top Secret/SIC was seized along with other classified documents
A search warrant targeting former President Donald Trump’s Florida home listed three statutes that were used to justify the seizure of boxes and documents from the property.
A heading in the warrant read “Property to be seized,” under which the three statues were mentioned.
“All physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime, or other items illegally possessed in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 793, 2071, or 1519.”
18 U.S.C. 793 (Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information) -- This carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison. This is part of the Espionage Act and makes it a crime to remove or misuse information related to national defense.
18 U.S.C. 2071 (Concealment, removal, or mutilation generally) -- This carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and disqualification from holding office. This law makes it a crime to hide, damage, or destroy government records
18 U.S.C. 1519 (Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy) -- This carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. This makes it a crime to falsify, destroy, or cover up records to obstruct or interfere with a federal investigation or “proper administration of any matter” under the jurisdiction of an agency. The records destruction statute also states that a person found guilty “shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.”
Ryan Goodman, professor of law at New York University, told Bloomberg Law that the Espionage Act is the “most serious federal offense anyone can imagine.”
This “signals an order of magnitude even above what the president can do alone… It raises the stakes enormously in terms of the pending criminal investigation,” he said.
It remains unclear if the statutes cited by the FBI will lead to Trump’s prosecution.
“If they do prosecute him, I think it will be for January 6 charges, and these record-keeping offenses are more technical and might look like piling on,” Coffee said in an email to CNBC. “Remember that the offenses you cited to me were not on the stone tablets that Moses brought down from the mountain, while the January 6 case looks more like a coup d’etat, treason or sedition — which are ancient and more serious charges,” John Coffee, a longtime professor at Columbia Law School, said according to CNBC.