Senator Rand Paul has called for the repeal of the Espionage Act days after the Justice Department revealed that former President Donald Trump is under investigation for possible violations of the law.
Trump is being investigated for mishandling of government records and top-secret documents that FBI agents recovered during a search of his Mar-a-Lago estate last week.
On Friday, the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida unsealed the warrant authorizing the search.
The search warrant identifies three federal crimes that appear central to the federal investigation of Trump, including a possible violation of the Espionage Act of 1917.
Some documents found at Trump’s mansion were labeled as "secret" or "top secret."
"The Espionage Act was abused from the beginning to jail dissenters of WWI. It is long past time to repeal this egregious affront to the 1st Amendment," Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, wrote in a statement.
The Espionage Act, which went into effect after the World War I, illegalized obtaining national defense information or copying of government documents with the intent of using them against the US or for the interest of other countries.
Many important parts of the Espionage Act are still in effect and can be used in the court of law. In its modern iteration, the act has been used to prosecute spies and those who have leaked classified information.
Trump has reacted with anger to the unprecedented search of his private property and called for the return of the classified documents, some of which pertain to America’s nuclear secrets.
Congressional Republicans, meanwhile, appear to be divided on whether or how to defend Trump in the face of the widening controversy. Some are demanding to see an affidavit that justified the raid.
The unsealing of such affidavits is highly unusual and would require approval from a federal judge.