Former Federal Prosecutor: A Damning Pattern of Facts Against Trump | Opinion

A week after the unprecedented search warrant to retrieve classified documents stashed at former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club, the critical looming question is why did Trump conceal highly sensitive national security information even after he received a grand jury subpoena for them?

The fact pattern is damning.

In January 2022, seven months ago, the National Archives succeeded in retrieving 15 boxes of materials from Trump's time in the White House, which the Archives discovered included "classified national security information." This discovery prompted the Archives to refer the matter to the Department of Justice for further investigation, which later obtained all classified information found in the retrieved boxes.

Donald Trump With His Sons
Former President Donald Trump, Donald Trump Jr., and Eric Trump watch play on the 16th hole during day three of the LIV Golf Invitational at the Trump golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey on July 31, 2022. Jonathan Ferrey/LIV Golf via Getty Images

Sometime in the spring, DOJ issued a subpoena to Trump for additional documents that they believed he had not previously turned over. This in and of itself was an unusual escalation, since Trump surely would have been afforded the opportunity to cooperate with federal officials and provide any additional classified materials. Failure to comply with a subpoena can result in a fine—as Trump endured when the Trump Organization failed to comply with a subpoena from the New York Attorney General's Office—or even jail time.

But, as we learned this week, Trump did not fully comply with that subpoena. The FBI reportedly learned that from a confidential informant, who identified the specific nature and location of additional documents that Trump and his lawyers failed to provide in response to the subpoena. This information led to the last resort of executing a search warrant on Monday to obtain the remaining documents.

According to reports, those documents may include highly classified information related to U.S. nuclear programs, which are considered Special Access Programs that cannot be unilaterally declassified by the president. Seventeen months after leaving office, and after extensive negotiations with the DOJ and even a subpoena, Trump still concealed his possession of documents this sensitive.


Although we won't be able to see the search warrant affidavit that lays out the evidence demonstrating probable cause to support the search warrant, we do learn something from the search warrant itself, which was unsealed on Friday. In particular, the search warrant identifies three crimes supported by probable cause in the affidavit, including a violation of the Espionage Act and a law prohibiting the destruction of documents or records "with the intent to impede, obstruct or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter," which appears to relate to Trump's efforts to obstruct this investigation. Although the Espionage Act does include conduct with the intent to injure the United States or to help a foreign nation, there are other provisions of the Act that simply prohibit mishandling of national security secrets.

Although we don't know the specific evidence showing probable cause to support a violation of the Espionage Act, we do know that Trump went to great lengths over 17 months to hold onto highly classified information, perhaps relating to nuclear secrets, in such a way that the DOJ has probable cause to believe he has obstructed its investigation. But we do know that the documents, or the circumstances surrounding the documents, were of such grave concern to the DOJ that they pursued the unprecedented step of searching the home of a former president.

Dr. Maya Angelou wisely said, "When people show you who they are the first time, believe them."

Trump has no official use for such sensitive documents anymore. And given his track record of putting his self-interest over the country's interest, it's fair to conclude that Donald Trump remains a threat to the national security of the United States.

Dan Goldman was the lead counsel for Donald Trump's first impeachment and is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney at the Southern District of New York. He is currently running for Congress in New York's 10th District.

The views expressed in this article are those of the writer.