The Department of Justice formally indicted Donald Trump over his alleged theft of classified documents yesterday.
Trump, the first president in American history to be charged with a federal crime, is being accused of violating the 1917 Espionage Act and could face decades in prison if convicted.
The decision to pursue the 45th president has been dismissed in some conservative circles as politically motivated, and there are obvious shades of this, but new information regarding the nature of the “mishandled” documents in question add an additional layer of intrigue.
If the facts put forward in the indictment are accurate, Trump was recorded repeatedly declaring that he was breaking the law as he showed his personal biographer, Mark Meadows, along with a New Yorker journalist, sensitive documents detailing a secret Pentagon plan to attack Iran. Federal prosecutors also allege that they have hard evidence of Trump conspiring with his lawyer Evan Corcoran and co-defendant Walter Nauta to deceive federal investigators and destroy pertinent evidence.
Though the list of documents featured in the charges against Trump is anonymized, military analysts have stated that the majority of the disputed classified information relates to nuclear secrets, Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria.
One of the major exposures Trump is accused of relates to a 2021 interview with Jewish journalist Susan Glasser of the New Yorker for an article claiming that General Mark Milley had to intervene to prevent the president from waging war on Iran prior to leaving office.
Milley, the likely source for the accusation, claimed that Trump was seeking to attack Iran in his final days as president. Trump disputed this and showed Glasser his personal collection of classified documents in an attempt to prove that it was in fact Milley and the Department of Defense who urged him to consider war against Israel’s geopolitical nemesis.
The Iran war plan was so cherished by Trump that he allegedly kept it folded in his pocket. The original document appears to have mysteriously vanished.
There is reason to believe Trump could be telling the truth. In Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig’s book I Alone Can Fix It, Milley is portrayed as a fanatic who aggressively advised Trump to order the brazen assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qasem Soleimani on January 3rd, 2020. Milley continues to serve as the head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Biden administration.
The existence of a detailed plan for war with Iran could snowball into a scandal. Washington has been publicly telegraphing that it is eagerly pursuing talks to restore the Iran nuclear deal — diplomatic overtures which could appear to be in bad faith.
Why Trump would want to take home so many documents detailing the military capabilities of Iran and its allies in the region without using his power to declassify them first is up for speculation. One possibility is that these were requested of him by his extensive Israeli contacts, who wish to possess the information without it being declassified. The second option is that he independently took the documents home in hopes of having something to barter with Jewish donors in exchange for support for a 2024 run. Another possible scenario is that the highly controversial decision to punish Trump was made in part by the Israelis, who fear that their extensive joint operations with Washington against Iran could be accidentally exposed thanks to the former president’s notoriously loose lips.
Either way, Trump is finding surprisingly few allies in the conservative movement in this debacle, which suggests that the incident transcends the usual Democrat/Republican dog and pony show.