Trump in 'Very Substantial Legal Jeopardy' After FBI Search: Conway

Conservative lawyer George Conway said Friday that former President Donald Trump could face legal problems after the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida on Monday to retrieve classified documents that the ex-president allegedly took with him when he left the White House last year.

During his interview, CNN anchor Erin Burnett asked the lawyer whether or not he thinks Trump is in trouble after the raid, in which Conway responded: "Yeah, I think he's in very substantial legal jeopardy."

"If anybody else had done this, as I said last night on your show, if a national security adviser had done this, if an assistant to the president had done this, if I had done this or you had done this, we'd probably be already charged," he added.

The FBI, with the approval of Attorney General Merrick Garland, carried out a search warrant of Mar-a-Lago looking for top secret (TS) and sensitive compartmentalized information (SCI) as well as other classified documents. The Washington Post reported on Thursday that records related to nuclear weapons were sought by the federal agents, but Trump has described that reporting as a "hoax."

Trump in ‘very substantial legal jeopardy’: Conway
Donald Trump could face "very substantial" legal problems after the FBI raided his Mar-a-Lago residence on Monday to retrieve classified documents, conservative lawyer George Conway said Friday. Above, the ex-president speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on August 6 in Dallas. Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images

"Nuclear weapons issue is a Hoax, just like Russia, Russia, Russia was a Hoax, two Impeachments were a Hoax, the Mueller investigation was a Hoax, and much more. Same sleazy people involved," Trump wrote on his social media platform Truth Social, responding to the Post report.

Meanwhile, sources told Newsweek that the raid was mainly based on tips received from an informer, who identified the type of highly classified documents that were still in Trump's possession and where they were located.

Trump and the Espionage Act

Some legal experts said that the former president might be in violation of the Espionage Act. Additionally, the New York Times reported that the FBI recovered documents that included information that was related to "some of the most highly classified programs" in the country.

"He had no business bringing top secret SCI materials from the Situation Room or Oval Office up to the residence," Conway said Friday on CNN.

Last February, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) questioned whether the presidential records turned over to the federal agency for historical preservation were complete or not. The Justice Department was later asked to investigate whether Trump unlawfully kept national security information.

"He had no business having these documents and as soon as the archives pointed that out, every single one of them should have been returned to the government, and he didn't do that. And that falls squarely under the prohibition of Section 793 and the Espionage Act," Conway added.

Newsweek reached out to Trump's media office for comment.

The Espionage Act was first enacted in 1917 shortly after the United States entered World War I. The law bans individuals from obtaining "any information related to the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information may be used for the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation," according to the First Amendment Encyclopedia on the Middle Tennessee State University's website.

The law also applies to the improper handling of sensitive information related to national security and imposes a punishment of a fine and/or up to 10 years of imprisonment to those who violate it.

Former violators of this law include the Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who could face up to 175 years in prison for 17 espionage charges after allegedly helping former U.S. Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal thousands of classified diplomatic cables and military files.

American whistleblower Edward Snowden is also facing espionage charges and could face up to 30 years in jail if convicted over leaking highly classified information from the National Security Agency (NSA) concerning global surveillance programs.