Overnight Defense

Defense & National Security — Trump probed over potential Espionage Act violations

Former President Trump
Greg Nash
Former President Trump arrives on stage to give a keynote address during the America First Policy Institute Summit in Washington, D.C., on July 26, 2022.

Federal agents who searched Mar-a-Lago this week suspected former President Trump potentially violated the Espionage Act, amid other laws.

Meanwhile, different tones are emerging from GOP lawmakers about the FBI raid and lawmakers are going about travel to Ukraine on their own terms.

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen MitchellSubscribe here.

Trump suspected of violating Espionage Act: warrant

Federal law enforcement suspected former President Trump had violated the Espionage Act and other laws when it sought and obtained a search warrant for his Mar-a-Lago estate, according to court records unsealed Friday.

The unsealed warrant shows that investigators were authorized to seize any documents or records with classified markings or related to the “transmission of national defense information or classified material.”

The warrant also authorized the seizure of “any evidence of the knowing alteration, destruction, or concealment of any government and/or Presidential Records, or of any documents with classification markings.”

Investigators listed 33 items that they had seized from the property, including the executive order of clemency for longtime Trump ally Roger Stone and information regarding the “President of France.” The receipt also included entries such as “Miscellaneous Top Secret Documents,” binders of photos and a handwritten note.

The inventory of documents seized during the search lays out 11 different sets of classified items seized during the search, including one set of documents as “various classified/TS/CSI documents,” meaning top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information. 

Read more here.

Also from The Hill: 

GOP displays split in tone on FBI’s Trump search

Republicans are starting to showcase different tones when it comes to the FBI’s search of former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate on Monday. 

The differences were on display Friday during a press conference by House Intelligence Committee Republicans. 

Ranking member Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), a former FBI agent, raised concerns with the FBI’s tactics and asked for answers from the Department of Justice about the rationale for conducting the search, saying that oversight is necessary to ensure that the agency wasn’t politicized. 

More ‘parity’ from one side: “Because many other options were available to them, we are very concerned about the method that was used in raiding Mar-a-Lago and the nine hours that transpired while they were in the president’s home,” Turner said. 

  • Fitzpatrick said that the committee needs to look at “parity” in the enforcement of the law.
  • “We’ve seen many cases involving national security information – Sandy Berger, Hillary Clinton and the like. The public needs to know that the law is being enforced equally when the circumstances dictate,” Fitzpatrick said. He added that he is concerned about “perpetual distrust across a lot of these institutions,” which hinders the FBI from being able to do its job. 

More confrontational: Others took a much more confrontational tone. 

Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), chair of the House GOP Conference, said that Republicans will investigate President “Joe Biden and his administration’s weaponization of the Department of Justice and FBI against Joe Biden’s political opponent,” calling it “brazen politicization” and adding that Trump is Biden’s “most likeliest political opponent in 2024.” 

  • “President Trump has been targeted from day one of his presidency by the FBI,” said Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), who is running for Senate. “[Attorney General Merrick] Garland goes out and says that no one is above the law. I agree with that statement. No one is. That includes you, Attorney General Garland. That includes you, [FBI] Director [Christopher] Wray.” 

A new intensity While GOP trust in the FBI plummeted along with Trump’s rise to power and his claims of a “witch hunt” against him, hostility toward the agency reached a new intensity in wake of the search warrant being executed at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home on Monday. Some Republicans, such as Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), have called to defund or dismantle the FBI. 

Read the full story here.

Lawmakers shed formal WH approval to visit Ukraine

Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) didn’t give the Biden administration a chance to reject his request to travel to Ukraine when he visited Kyiv and Odesa in May.    

The former FBI agent, who helped stand up Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau in 2015, traveled with Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), relying on a network of personal contacts and the Ukrainian government to ensure his safety. 

“Me and Dan just decided to go, because we were told that [trips] were not being approved,” Fitzpatrick told The Hill in an interview in his office in late July. “So that’s why we chose that course. Dan’s a Navy SEAL, I’m an FBI agent, so we can handle ourselves.” 

A first-hand look: A member of the House committees on Intelligence and on Foreign Affairs, Fitzpatrick was intent on seeing for himself what impact U.S. assistance in the country was having following the passage of a $40 billion aid package earlier that month.  

“A lot of people wanted, and still want to, go to Ukraine, a lot,” Fitzpatrick said.    

A no go: Before he went, he said he’d already got the word his trip was unlikely to be approved for support from the Biden administration. But he wasn’t going to let that stop him. 

  • At least one Democrat and six Republican lawmakers, including Fitzpatrick, have traveled to Ukraine independently between April and July. 
  • The lawmakers have made the trips without bothering to get permission from the Biden administration, which has warned of security risks.   

Security risk fears: The administration began withholding approval over fears that security provided by the U.S. military risked a direct confrontation with Russia if American service members were wounded or killed.   

Support for Ukraine remains strong among both parties in Congress, and many members want to visit the country.   

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who traveled independently to Kyiv in July, said approval for his trip was denied because the State Department didn’t feel that it had “the footprint on the ground to take care of us.” 

Read the full story here 

ON TAP FOR MONDAY

The American Enterprise Institute will hold an in-person event on “A New Approach to US-China Relations,” at 4 p.m. 

WHAT WE’RE READING

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you next week!

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Tags Brian Fitzpatrick Espionage Act FBI raid FBI search warrant Joe Biden Mar-a-lago fbi raid Mike Turner Trump
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