Legal experts break down findings of Mar-a-Lago search warrant

Published: Aug. 12, 2022 at 10:40 PM EDT
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A federal judge unsealed the contents Friday of a search warrant on former President Trump’s Palm Beach home.

“A judge has determined that probable cause of espionage was found at Mar-a-Lago,” said Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.”We are in uncharted territory with this country and hopefully, it will all work out but I think there may be some tough sailing ahead.”

A search warrant released by a federal judge says the FBI removed 28 boxes of items from Mar-a-Lago. Few details include documents labeled confidential, secret, and top secret.

"Apparently someone from the inside tipped off investigators that he still possessed documents and they were crucial and vital to the national security. That’s why they had to go in,” said Aronberg.

Aronberg said given the evidence the U.S. Attorney General is going to have to decide if charging a former president is in the country’s best interest, or what the ramifications maybe if he isn’t charged.

“Does that destroy the rule of law? Does that mean that some people are above the law? These are things Merrick Garland is going to have to weigh,” said Aronberg.

The search warrant lists probable cause for three federal crimes:

Espionage, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, Obstruction of justice, punishable by up to 20 years in prison and mishandling of documents, which could be 3 years in prison, barring the former president from running in the office.

“If you are possessing something you’re not supposed to possess, it doesn’t matter if you’re a republican or democrat, you broke the law,” said Criminal Defense Attorney Valentin Rodriguez.

He said the FBI findings may be used as evidence to possibly charge former President Trump for the crimes.

“We need to know what these items actually represent and then we need to determine if those items would constitute a crime, mere possession of them. And I have a feeling they probably will and then the question is how serious of a crime it is,” said Rodriguez.

Friday, former President Trump and his legal team decided to not object to making the information public.

"I feel he was pushed up against a corner once the Attorney General made his announcement. I do think it was probably a good idea for him to do that because it's going to show good faith down the road that he didn't really think he did anything wrong," said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez went on to say that the way the search warrant was handled was done correctly and everything was standard protocol.

Former President Trump has since responded claiming that the documents obtained from the search were declassified before he left office.

"As president, he does have the authority to do so but there is a process in place and it's not clear that he followed the process," said Aronberg. "That's the problem for Trump, is that the search warrant lists three statutes. All those three statutes apply whether or not the documents are classified. So even if he did declassify them, he could still be criminally charged under those three statutes."

Aronberg said more evidence could be needed before the former president faces criminal charges.

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