TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The FBI recovered several documents that were labeled as “top secret” from former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, according to multiple reports Friday, including the Associated Press.
The FBI seized records, some marked as classified and top secret, from Mar-a-Lago during a Monday raid, according to reports. According to NBC News, the FBI was searching for “physical documents and records constituting evidence, contraband, fruits of crime and other items illegally possessed in violation of” three different laws — including the Espionage Act.
So what is the Espionage Act exactly?
According to the History Channel, the Espionage Act was passed on June 15, 1917, shortly after the United States entered World War I. The act was passed by Congress, enforced by the U.S. Attorney General at the time, A. Mitchell Palmer.
The act makes it a crime for anyone to convey information “intended to interfere with the U.S. armed forces prosecution of the war effort or to promote the success of the country’s enemies.”
Anyone found guilty under the Espionage Act would be subject to a $10,000 fine and 20 years in prison.
According to the History Channel, the Espionage Act was reinforced by the Sedition Act in 1918, which penalized anyone “found guilty of making false statements that interfered with the prosecution of the war; insulting or abusing the U.S. government, the flag, the Constitution or the military, agitating against the production of necessary war materials; or advocating, teaching or defending any of these acts.”
No specific details about the documents from Mar-a-Lago or what information they might contain were released. In a statement Friday, Trump claimed that the documents seized by agents at his Florida club were “all declassified,” and argued that he would have turned over the documents to the Justice Department if asked, according to the Associated Press.
The AP goes on to explain that while incumbent presidents have the power to declassify information, they cannot do so when they leave office. The AP notes it was not clear if the documents in the investigation were declassified.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.