Ex-FBI special agent talks about Trump’s self-inflicted legal trouble over documents

Jun 12, 2023, 6:00 PM

This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, shows boxes of recor...

This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, shows boxes of records stored in a bathroom and shower in the Lake Room at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. Trump is facing 37 felony charges related to the mishandling of classified documents according to an indictment unsealed Friday, June 9, 2023. (Justice Department via AP)

(Justice Department via AP)

SALT LAKE CITY — As former President Donald Trump prepares for a court appearance in Miami on Tuesday facing criminal charges about classified documents allegedly taken from the White House after his presidency, a former FBI special agent discusses the historic case.

The US Justice Department named Trump in a 37-count indictment on Friday in its investigation of sensitive government documents retrieved at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s residence in South Florida. 

Trump was under investigation for the alleged removal or destruction of records, obstruction of justice and potentially violating a provision of the Espionage Act related to gathering, transmitting or losing defense information, according to CBS News

The FBI’s raid of Aug. 8, 2022,  on Mar-a-Lago netted about 300 documents marked classified, according to CBS News.

Special agent’s view

Retired FBI special agent for counterintelligence/terrorism, Karl Schmae deployed to Afghanistan during the war and joins Dave & Dujanovic.

Schmae said US presidents receive a daily briefing intelligence briefing from the FBI, CIA and NSA on security threats against the United States from foreign military capabilities.

“[The briefing] is drawing from some of our most sensitive sources. . .  there’s SCI [sensitive compartmented] information in here. Another marking that I see is top secret HCS. So that refers to information that’s come from human sources. That is our most sensitive type of information. . . You have literally people that could be killed, who risked their lives trying to gather this type of information.” Schmae said. 

The Documents Trump Hoarded Are Even More Sensitive Than We Thought

“For me to see this stuff stored in a bathroom at an unsecured location [Mar-a-Lago] where it could have been accessed by anybody. I mean, that’s just shocking,” Schmae said.

“I find it fascinating that the real crime here is not the fact that he had these documents, but that he wouldn’t turn the documents back,” Dave said. ” . . . Over months and months, they [National Archives and Records Administration] were trying to negotiate with the Trump team to get them back. And because he ran them around, that’s the real crime. In fact, 31 counts of willful retention could face 10 years in federal prison.”

15 months between the request for documents and FBI raid

May 2021 . . .

The National Archives and Records Administration ( NARA) emails Trump’s lawyers, notifying them that about two dozen boxes of original records were not turned over, according to The Washington Post.

. . . August 8, 2022

Federal agents execute a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida property, uncovering 13 boxes or containers with documents marked classified — “more than twice the amount produced June 3 in response to the grand jury subpoena.”

Trump was not at the property at the time. Media reports showed him at Trump Tower in Manhattan.

A photo released in a court filing later that month shows some of the seized documents with clear markings of “Top Secret” and “Secret.”

See the full timeline of the Trump documents inquiry here.

Failure to return classified information has consequences

“Why did they spend months and months trying to negotiate with the Trump folks to try to get them back? If they were so dangerous, and there was such a breach here, why didn’t they just go get it?” Dave asked.

“The government wanted to work with the Trump administration — with Trump. They gave him several opportunities to turn over stuff. He did, sort of piecemeal, but then there was this kind of game where he was hiding other material. And that’s ultimately what forced the FBI to go in to do the search,” Schmae said.

What about Biden’s documents?

“The difference with what we’ve seen with other folks like [President Joe] Biden and with [former Vice President Mike] Pence is that those guys screwed up as well, and apparently had taken some stuff with them. But when it was discovered, they were cooperative, and they immediately turned it back over, which meant the FBI didn’t have to go conduct a search,” Schmae said.

Related reading

Trump and his allies escalate attacks on criminal case as history-making court appearance approaches


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Ex-FBI special agent talks about Trump’s self-inflicted legal trouble over documents