The Justice Department released a redacted affidavit on Friday it includes references to possible obstruction
Washington — Prosecutors made clear that they feared the former president Trump and his allies could take any opportunity to illegally obstruction in their investigation.
They clarified their opinion as the Justice Department proposed redactions to the affidavit used to issue a warrant to search former President Donald J. Trump’s residence.
The prosecutor said, “The government has well-founded concerns that the Trump team may take steps to interfere with the investigation if the affidavit details were disclosed prematurely.”
The 38-page affidavit asserts that the F.B.I. will find evidence of obstruction at the Trump Mar-a-Lago compound.
This assertion indicated that prosecutors had evidence suggesting efforts to hamper the recovery of the government documents.
The search warrant lists three criminal laws as the foundation of the investigation. The Espionage Act, of the three, has received the most attention.
Media and public discussion were mainly focused on the spectacle of the F.B.I. finding highly classified documents. And ex-President Trump’s dubious claims that he had declassified everything held at his home.
The crime of obstruction is a grave threat to Mr. Trump and his close associates. The version investigators are using is Section 1519 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
This is a broad set of 2002 reforms enacted after financial scandals at companies like WorldCom, Enron, and Arthur Andersen.
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The heavily redacted affidavit shows the details of the U.S. government’s efforts to retrieve and secure the highly classified documents in Ex-President Trump’s possession.
It highlights a theory that the former president, his aides. Or both could have illegally obstructed the effort to recover sensitive documents that do not belong to him.
Section 1519’s carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. Twice as long as the penalty under the Espionage Act.
In January 2022, the National Archives discovered missing extremely restricted documents containing information on confidential human intelligence sources and surveillance technology abilities. The agency filed a criminal reference with the Justice Department on Feb. 9.
The department obtained a search warrant to enter Mar-a-Lago and seize any remaining government documents.
As a basis for the search warrant, the department cited three criminal laws for which prosecutors need not prove that a mishandled document was classified. The harshest charge filed was the obstruction statute.
According to the F.B.I.’s inventory, the search found and retrieved numerous remaining government documents. Some are marked as highly classified.
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Against this backdrop, Ms. Sullivan noted that most interactions between the government and Mr. Trump’s camp went through his lawyers.
She said if charged with obstruction, Trump’s only defense would be to say he did not know what was still at Mar-a-Lago. And that his lawyers and aides handling the documents matter had misled him or messed up.
“He would probably look to throw his lawyers under the bus and deny that he knew he was concealing them with the intent to obstruct the return of the documents,” she said.