Mar-a-Lago: Assessing the Intelligence Damage
The media is aflutter with speculation about intelligence losses caused by Donald Trump’s mishandling of classified information – but what’s the real story?
Ever since the FBI’s execution of a search warrant at the Florida residence of former President Donald Trump on August 8, looking for paperwork which was not returned to the National Archives and Records Administration, pundits have speculated obsessively about What It All Means. There’s little to go on there, while the political ramifications of the Mar-a-Lago “raid” (in MAGA verbiage) can only be guessed at now, except for the obvious fact that Trump is again dominating the headlines as he has not since he left the White House 19 months ago.
Legal matters feature prominently in discussions of the Mar-a-Lago imbroglio, and there’s a good case to be made that the Department of Justice may well be on its way to indicting the former president on several charges relating to his refusal to hand documents back to NARA pursuant to the Presidential Records Act, some of them classified. Prosecutorial discretion will surely play a preeminent role in whatever decision DoJ, led by Attorney General Merrick Garland, makes regarding Trump’s fate.
The murkiest element of this affair relates to what exactly Trump refused to hand over to NARA, despite months of negotiations, culminating in the FBI’s appearance at Mar-a-Lago on August 8. We gained a smidge more clarity there on Friday, when the same Federal magistrate judge who approved the Mar-a-Lago search warrant released the significantly redacted affidavit which led to the search and seizure at Trump’s residence. The affidavit explains that the fifteen boxes of materials which Trump had handed over to NARA earlier this year only led to more questions and concerns for the FBI.
Those fifteen boxes contained quite a bit of National Defense Information (NDI), per the FBI special agent who made the statement:
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