Rand Paul Calls for Espionage Act Repeal as Trump Fumes Over FBI Search

Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, called for repealing the Espionage Act less than a week after the FBI executed a search warrant at former President Donald Trump's Florida residence, with the legal document citing a provision of the federal law that the federal agency suspected had been violated.

The FBI, with the approval of Attorney General Merrick Garland, carried out the Monday raid of Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort home, searching for top secret and sensitive compartmentalized information, as well as other classified documents. Trump and his allies have condemned the raid, with the ex-president calling it part of a "hoax" and an ongoing "witch hunt" targeting him.

On Friday, the warrant for the search was unsealed, revealing that it cited potential violations of federal laws 18 USC 2071—Concealment, removal or mutilation, 18 USC 793—Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information, and 18 USC 1519—Destruction, alteration or falsification of records in Federal investigations. The federal statute 18 USC 793 is part of the Espionage Act.

Rand Paul
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) called for the repeal of the Espionage Act in a Saturday Twitter post. Above, Paul attends a Senate Homeland Security Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Spending Oversight on Capitol Hill on August 3 in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Paul, a supporter of the former president, took issue with the Espionage Act in a Saturday Twitter post.

"The espionage act was abused from the beginning to jail dissenters of WWI. It is long past time to repeal this egregious affront to the 1st Amendment," he wrote. The GOP senator included a link to a June 2019 article titled "Repeal the Espionage Act" published by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

Newsweek reached out to Paul's press representatives for comment.

The article shared by the senator, which was written by the foundation's founder and president, Jacob Hornberger, said that the World War I-era law should be repealed in connection to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Hornberger called the Espionage Act "a tyrannical law" that had been enacted and used to "punish" political dissidents.

"In fact, it is that World War I relic that U.S. officials are now relying on to secure the criminal indictment of Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks head who released a mountain of evidence disclosing the inner workings and grave wrongdoing on the part of the U.S. national-security establishment, especially with respect to the manner in which it has waged it undeclared forever wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan," he wrote.

Paul has previously called for Assange to be granted immunity from prosecution.

"I think that he should be given immunity from prosecution in exchange for coming to the United States and testifying," the Kentucky Republican told The Gateway Pundit in August 2018. "I think he's been someone who has released a lot of information, and you can debate whether or not any of that has caused harm, but I think really he has information that is probably pertinent to the hacking of the Democratic emails that would be nice to hear."

Paul's Democratic opponent, former state Representative Charles Booker, slammed the GOP senator's call for repealing the federal law.

"Rand Paul is now calling to repeal the Espionage Act after the world learned Donald Trump is under investigation for violating it. When I am elected to the Senate, you will never have to question my loyalty to our country," Booker wrote in a Saturday tweet.

"Rand Paul's actions are shameful," the Democratic candidate added in a follow-up post.

Paul also previously said, without any evidence, that the FBI may have planted classified information at Mar-a-Lago during the raid. "Do I know that the boxes of material they took from Mar-a-Lago, that they won't put things into those boxes to entrap him?" Paul asked during an interview with Fox News show Fox & Friends on Wednesday. "How do we know?"

News first broke in early February that the former president had improperly taken classified documents to his Florida home, with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) confirming that it had been searching for 15 boxes of records. The ex-president did not deny the story at the time, saying that it was a mix-up as his staff hastily moved him out of the White House.

After the boxes were returned to the NARA, the collection led to additional concern that the former president still had additional classified materials. Federal investigators began interviewing Trump staffers to determine what had been taken from the White House. The interviews, and a broader investigation overseen by a U.S. attorney, resulted in a grand jury subpoena served against Trump in late May to produce specific documents.

When the documents were not turned over, the FBI and the Justice Department chose to take the unprecedented step of carrying out a search warrant against a former president. A federal judge, as is required due process, approved the warrant—believing that the FBI had demonstrated probable cause.