Democrats call for probe into Donald Trump's alleged theft of documents

Former US president could be investigated for breaching Espionage Act, which can carry a long jail term

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Two top House Democrats asked the US Director of National Intelligence to provide a “damage assessment” after the FBI said it seized highly classified documents at former president Donald Trump’s estate in Florida.

A classified briefing on the assessment’s progress is also sought “as soon as possible,” House Oversight Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney and Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff said in a letter to DNI Avril Haines on Saturday.

They cited an unsealed court-authorised search warrant and the inventory of property recovered at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club that describe numerous classified documents he held, including “top secret/sensitive compartmented information,” among the most highly protected information in the US government.

“Even as the Justice Department’s investigation proceeds, ensuring that we take all necessary steps to protect classified information and mitigate the damage to national security done by its compromise is critically important,” the politicians said in their letter.

On Friday it was revealed that Mr Trump was being investigated by the FBI for violating the Espionage Act, a law passed more than 100 years ago that prohibits the leaking of classified information that could assist a US adversary. The law also prohibits serving or retired officials from taking classified information home.

“Former President Trump’s conduct has potentially put our national security at grave risk,” Mr Schiff and Ms Maloney said. “This issue demands a full review, in addition to the ongoing law enforcement inquiry.”

In June, at least one lawyer for the former president signed a statement declaring all of the classified material stored at Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property was returned to the government, The New York Times reported Saturday, citing four sources.

The written declaration came after Jay Bratt, a senior official in the Justice Department’s national security division, visited Mr Trump’s residence on June 3, the paper said. The statement could mean Mr Trump or his aides were not fully forthcoming with federal investigators about the material being stored at Mar-a-Lago, according to the report.

Updated: August 15, 2022, 7:04 PM
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