As U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Justice Department prosecutors consider whether or not (and when) to charge disgraced former president Donald Trump for violating several federal laws by illegally hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort, two other cases of espionage are being carefully studied.
Ken Dilanian of NBC News reports one of the cases comes from Hawaii and the other from Kansas.
In February, a week before the National Archives warned the Justice Department that former President Donald Trump had kept Top Secret documents at his Florida compound, Asia Janay Lavarello was sentenced to three months in prison. She had pleaded guilty to taking classified records home from her job as an executive assistant at the U.S. military’s command in Hawaii.
“Government employees authorized to access classified information should face imprisonment if they misuse that authority in violation of criminal law,” said Hawaii U.S. Attorney Claire Connors, who did not accuse Lavarello of showing anyone the documents. “Such breaches of national security are serious violations … and we will pursue them.”
In another example, a prosecutor advising the Mar-a-Lago team, David Raskin, just last week negotiated a felony guilty plea from an FBI analyst in Kansas City, who admitted talking home 386 classified documents over 12 years. She faces up to 10 years in prison.
The fact that the DOJ is looking at those two cases, according to former U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade, suggests Trump is in very hot water.
Appearing on MSNBC, McQuade noted:
“There are two questions that prosecutors ask themselves when deciding whether to bring charges. The first is: can we charge? That is, is there sufficient evidence to prove the case? That’s the first question, but then there’s that second question: should we bring a case? That’s when the government looks to whether or not there’s a federal — substantial evidence to bring a case.”
McQuade then explained her reasoning.
“We want to have uniformity in the kind of cases you prosecute. In cases involving the mishandling of classified documents, typically prosecutors look for some aggravating factor beyond just mishandling. If you innocently bring home a document in your briefcase, typically that is not prosecuted. you might be disciplined. you might lose your clearance you might lose your job, but probably not be criminally prosecuted.”
Other factors are also involved, McQuade concluded:
“It’s some of those factors that she mentioned in the Hawaii case and others, whether the person acted willfully, that is they knew they were violating the law. Whether they were disloyal to the United States, sold them to a foreign government for example, or whether they obstructed justice.
“That’s probably the factor that is most salient in the Trump investigation.”