A new report from The New York Times claims that a federal grand jury has been convened to investigated the handling of over a dozen boxes of classified documents that were taken from the White House and stored at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida residence of former President Donald Trump.

via Twitter / @kylegriffin1

MSNBC explains the process:

“To borrow a concept from the world of classified information access, here’s what you ‘need to know’ to process this development. First, a grand jury means the Justice Department believes a crime may have been committed. While some pundits have asserted that convening the grand jury is part of a routine damage assessment to explore the national security aspects of what the intelligence community calls a ‘spill’ of classified documents, that’s a misleading explanation.”

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The Washington Post first reported back on February 10 that classified documents, including some that were “top secret,” had been discovered at Mar-a-Lago, a Trump spokesperson gave the Post the following statement:

“It is clear that a normal and routine process is being weaponized by anonymous, politically motivated government sources to peddle Fake News. The only entity with the ability to credibly dispute this false reporting, the National Archives, is providing no comment.”

About a month later, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, got a letter from the archivist of the US, David S. Ferriero, saying that the National Archives and Records Administration “has identified items marked as classified national security information within the boxes” and “identified certain social media records that were not captured and preserved by the Trump Administration” and that it has “learned that some White House staff conducted official business using nonofficial electronic messaging accounts that were not copied or forwarded into their official electronic messaging accounts.”

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The letter continued “Because NARA [National Archives and Records] identified classified information in the boxes, NARA staff has been in communication with the Department of Justice.”

The New York Times asked Budowich for a new statement in response to the convening of the Grand Jury to which he replied, “President Trump consistently handled all documents in accordance with applicable law and regulations. Belated attempts to second-guess that clear fact are politically motivated and misguided.”

MSNBC further explains the possible outcomes of this story:

“Trump may assert that as president he had the authority to classify and declassify information as he saw fit, which, with certain caveats, is correct. Or he could claim he didn’t know the content of the boxes and that some low-level staffer mistakenly included the documents — which purportedly contained some “top secret”-level data — in Trump’s move from the White House. Those defenses are difficult to disprove. So why would the Justice Department go to the trouble of opening a criminal case and convening a grand jury unless prosecutors believed they could effectively counter them?”

And concludes:

“A sentence in The New York Times story may shed some light on what the Justice Department may have: “The documents in question are believed to have been kept in the residence of the White House before they were boxed up and sent to Mar-a-Lago.” Fifteen boxes of classified documents sitting in the residential wing of the White House doesn’t sound like a mistake to me. That sounds deliberate and less like an error that could be attributed to staff. Virtually every day during my 25 years with the FBI, I handled classified information. It was my experience that staffers, whose job is to know and comply with the rules and regulations for handling such data, don’t deliberately break those rules unless someone at a high level makes them break those rules. That’s why I don’t believe this grand jury is targeting low-level staffers.”

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Christopher Powell