Why a grand jury looking into secret White House docs at Mar-a-Lago is so serious

Why a grand jury looking into secret White House docs at Mar-a-Lago is so serious
Grand juries aren’t impaneled to do damage assessments but to investigate crimes.

The New York Times, citing two people who’d been briefed on the matter, reported Thursday the convening of a federal grand jury that is investigating the handling of 15 boxes of classified White House documents that were squirreled away at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s Florida home. It’s easy to understand why this reporting didn’t lead most newscasts that day given the more dramatic story of the decision by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2001, attack on the U.S. Capitol to subpoena five sitting members of Congress. But that story shouldn’t distract us from the big news that a grand jury has reportedly been impaneled to find out how and why national secrets were packed up in Washington and parked in Palm Beach.

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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