Sen. Rand Paul is calling for the repeal of the Espionage Act in the wake of the FBI‘s raid of former President Donald Trump‘s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida.
The Kentucky Republican says the World War I-era federal law that bars the unauthorized retention of national security information that could harm the U.S. has been consistently abused by the government and threatens First Amendment rights.
“The espionage act was abused from the beginning to jail dissenters of WWI,” Mr. Paul tweeted Saturday. “It is long past time to repeal this egregious affront to the 1st Amendment.”
Anyone convicted of violating the statute could face a $10,000 fine and up to 20 years in prison.
In his post, Mr. Paul linked to a 2019 article from the Future of Freedom Foundation blasting the “tyrannical law” which was used to prosecute those who criticized the first and second World Wars and opposed military drafts. They included Eugene Debs, an American socialist leader whom President Woodrow Wilson labeled as a “traitor to his country” for opposing the military draft during World War I.
More recently, the law has been used to indict Wikileaks founder Julian Assange for publishing classified information online.
The Department of Justice revealed that Mr. Trump is under investigation for violations of the Espionage Act when it revealed details behind last week’s raid on his estate, though it is unclear from the search warrant why investigators believe Mr. Trump violated the law.
The DOJ revealed that agents seized 11 sets of classified materials, including some labeled “top secret” among the roughly 28 boxes removed from Mar-a-Lago during their search last Monday.
Agents also seized an item labeled “Info re: President of France,” and an item related to Mr. Trump granting clemency to longtime associate Roger Stone.
The Washington Post reported last week that investigators were seeking documents related to nuclear weapons, though the warrant did not refer to nuclear secrets.
Mr. Trump said the materials found on his property had all been declassified under his authority while in office.
The FBI‘s search of the former president’s estate sparked outrage among Mr. Trump‘s supporters on Capitol Hill.
Republican lawmakers, who have long accused the Democrats of weaponizing the DOJ against their political opponents, said the raid signaled the continuation of the FBI‘s longtime probe of supposed Trump-Russia collusion.
GOP lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee said they remain concerned about the perception of an unwarranted escalation by the FBI that led to the raid and reports that the FBI had an informant placed within Mr. Trump‘s inner circle, despite the unsealing of the warrant leading to the Mar-a-Lago search.
They vowed to continue to press Attorney General Merrick Garland and FBI Director Christopher A. Wray for answers.
“We’ve been here before,” said House Republican Conference Chair Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York. “I remember getting questions on the Russia collusion for years. So before you jump to conclusions and just accept information from sources who are not the attorney general or director of the FBI, let’s see what the facts are. That’s why transparency is key here.”