Friday, August 12, 2022

Trump Says He Declassified Docs. With the Espionage Act, That Doesn't Matter.

Donald Trump's defenses against claims he did anything wrong, relating to his improperly holding classified documents — including being under investigation for potentially violating parts of the Espionage Act, per the search warrant of his Mar-a-Lago property that was made public Friday — are, to no surprise, not accurate.

On his Truth Social account (where anything BUT the truth is ever uttered, it seems), Trump listed a couple of reasons why (in his mind) criticism of him harboring top secret, classified information at his Palm Beach resort (including potential info on nuclear weapons) was fine. 

Let's look at what he had to say.

Number one, it was all declassified.
Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia
Well, no, it most likely wasn't. There's a process for declassifying information as top secret as the documents Trump was harboring. Just saying "I declassified this" isn't how it works.  

Additionally, according to The Wall Street Journal, the documents that were extracted WERE classified. So, Trump is lying.

But let's give Trump the benefit of the doubt, and say that his claim is true. That's STILL NOT AN EXCUSE for what he's done, as Charlie Savage at The New York Times points out:

For one thing, two of the laws that a search warrant executed at Mar-a-Lago this week referenced — Sections 1519 and 2071 of Title 18 of the United States Code — make the taking or concealment of government records a crime regardless of whether they had anything to do with national security.
Savage goes on to note that:
The Espionage Act makes no reference to whether a document has been deemed classified. Instead, it makes it a crime to retain, without authorization, documents related to the national defense that could be used to harm the United States or aid a foreign adversary.
Let's look at the other claim Trump made in his Truth Social posting:
Number two, they [the DOJ] didn’t need to “seize” anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago.
This contradicts what we know about the whole situation from this week. Trump is gaslighting here, hoping his loyalists don't know any better.

Trump was subpoenaed this spring to turn over additional documents that the National Archives didn't collect in January. Within that very subpoena, it said the former president had to turn over other documents, if he had any, that were classified.

An informant indicated to DOJ that Trump still had classified documents in his possession (and as pointed out above, reporting from The Wall Street Journal confirmed that). This means that Trump violated the conditions within the subpoena.

Search warrants generally happen when investigators believe that a person will not voluntarily comply with subpoenas. The DOJ had reason to believe that, with these additional documents the informant told them about, Trump wouldn't comply. But they also had reason to believe this because Trump didn't comply in the first place — he didn't turn these docs over when he knew he had to.

Trump is in a lot of hot water — hotter than he's ever been in before — with these latest developments. The unsealed warrant suggests the DOJ is looking to charge him with crimes relating to the Espionage Act, which is not a slap-on-the-wrist kind of law, to say the least.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Decades-Old U.S. Law, Still on the Books, Could Imprison Anyone Discussing Abortion Online

A provision that's never been enforced since it was passed as part of a larger law in the way-back-times of former President Bill Clinton could land anyone talking online about abortion (in the U.S.) in prison for several years.

Per The New Republic:

[Q]uietly sitting on the books, where it’s been for nearly three decades, is a law that explicitly makes it a crime to discuss abortion online.
TNR's Melissa Gira Grant elaborates on how this came to be, and what it could mean:
The Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the first major attempt by Congress to define what would be lawful on the internet. The act includes a provision that criminalizes discussing abortion, with potential punishment of up to five years in jail, $250,000 in fines, or both.
Obviously, this law is a violation of free speech protections that exist within the First Amendment. But with Republicans all-but-guaranteed to win Congress next year, the potential for a GOP president to win in 2024, and the Supreme Court's 6-3 far-right majority, it's possible that the law could be enforced — particularly if Republicans continue pushing to become a "Christian nationalist" party — and there would be no remedy to go about challenging it (let alone reversing the awful decision that the Court imposed in the first place). 

Any talk of abortion online, and you could find yourself sitting inside a federal prison. That's it. That's the law, potentially, if Republicans gain the power to govern without any checks and balances again.

Public Domain