Did former President Donald Trump commit some crime, including possible espionage, that justifies the Department of Justice’s decision to raid his Mar-a-Lago home?
While there’s no definitive answer yet to this question, several commentators pondered it during an appearance Friday on Fox News’s “Your World.”
Speaking first, attorney Katie Cherkasky said that, based on what’s known thus far, the “bottom line” is a resounding no.
“The bottom line here [is that] President Trump was the classification authority. He had the right to declassify any information that was in his possession during his time as president,” she said.
“The fact of the matter here is that I think the words espionage, classified, SCI are being used without any sort of actual facts. … In my opinion, the fact that he had these documents in his possession is no crime at all, regardless of what Merrick Garland or the DOJ says.”
SCI is short for sensitive compartmented information, a fancy word for classified materials.
Speaking next, Fox News host Shannon Bream drew attention to the inexplicable time gap between when negotiations between the DOJ and Trump’s legal team ended, and when the raid occurred.
“There’s something that happened between June, when they were having those conversations — seemed like things were going well with negotiations between the former president’s legal team and the government — then when they went at the beginning of August and got this warrant, which again, the magistrate there gave them until August 19th to execute it. And that raises questions too: If this was urgent national security, why those lags in time?” she said.
Her point is that the raid has been excused on the basis that it was urgent as per national security concerns. But if that’s the case, why did they allow Trump to hold on to the documents for a year and a half? And then why, after negotiations failed and they obtained a warrant, did they wait til mid-August to perform the raid?
Speaking third, legal scholar Jonathan Turley drew attention to the divergent narratives coming from the DOJ and Trump’s attorneys.
“It’s like watching two different movies at the same time. The Trump team has said that we did cooperate with the subpoena, there was a request to add a lock to the storage, we complied with that request. The government is suggesting that this could be a violation of the Espionage Act. I mean, those are very different accounts,” he said.
In fairness to the DOJ, he admitted that it’s possible that the former president’s staff had failed to properly mark the relevant documents as declassified before Trump moved them to his property.
“When something’s declassified, you literally physically scratch out or put a line through the classification. Now what’s a little bit odd about this circumstance is we know that in those hectic days at the end of the term following Jan. 6th, there was an effort to declassify material. It’s not clear … whether staffers went in and made those notation changes on these documents. So there could be confusion over the status of these documents,” he said.
In case they failed to properly mark the documents, this wouldn’t mean they aren’t declassified. So long as Trump declassified them, they’re declassified. But it might explain the conflicting narratives.
Asked to respond to all this, Cherkasky speculated that it’s a “setup” of some kind.
“It does seem somewhat like a setup at this point … We have a lot of big questions here about the actual criminal acts that they’re saying he engaged in. And it’s got to be much more than him just possessing information that they claim is classified,” she said.
Why does it have to be “much more?” Because former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton committed the same crimes vis-a-vis possession of classified information, yet her home was never raided. Nor was she ever threatened with criminal prosecution.
— Jack Furnari (@JackBPR) November 6, 2016
“I think that the optics of this are very difficult for the FBI and the DOJ. All of us on this panel will remember when this was going on with the former secretary of state. She was allowed on a weekend with her lawyers to go in and talk to the FBI. It was not recorded. It was handled in a way that a lot of people thought was different than most people would be in facing these questions,” Bream, speaking next, said.
“The optics of this … are going to be really difficult for the DOJ, for the attorney general, for the FBI, because people see this and perceive there’s a difference in the way that these cases were treated. It gets to the dangerous place of worrying about partisan perception or politics entering into these institutions.”
As far as Cherkasky is concerned, it’s already too late, in that America’s institutions are clearly already corrupted.
“This is very political. It’s incredibly political. Merrick Garland did nothing to quell any concerns that this is some unique justification for doing this to a former president,” she said of the legal campaign against Trump.
Continuing the discussion, Bream noted that the potential charges Trump faces are no joke.
“There are three different statutes that are outlined here, and they have real criminal implications if you were convicted under these statutes. Some of them three years in jail, 10 years in jail, one’s up to 20 years in jail. These are serious allegations,” she said.
But where’s the evidence? There is none so far, and that’s the problem …
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