TRUMP, JUSTICE

Donald Trump vs. Reality Winner

His DOJ ruled harshly in whistleblower release of one document

Vanessa Gallman
3 min readJun 15, 2023

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Whistleblower and Air Force veteran Reality Winner / Photo: Wikipedia

To understand how much deference the Justice Department has given former president Donald Trump in his handling of government records, consider how an Espionage Act case was handled during his administration.

Reality Winner, a former Air Force veteran and National Security Agency translator, served a five-year, three-month prison sentence for leaking one document. In 2018, she was given the longest prison sentence ever imposed for an unauthorized release of government information to the media.

While working for a federal contractor, she gave an intelligence report about Russian hacking and phishing during the 2016 elections to the Intercept website. She pleaded guilty, later saying she should have raised concerns through official channels. The Texas resident, now 31, is still on probation.

Trump faces 37 federal charges, including unlawfully retaining government secrets and conspiring to obstruct justice. Despite official requests that began in early 2021, he refused to return all of the documents. The FBI showed up at his Florida resort in August to collect the ones still there.

Some of the documents in Trump’s possession included information on this country’s nuclear programs, U.S. and foreign defense capabilities, potential national vulnerabilities to attacks and plans for retaliatory attacks.

“This is probably one of the most egregious and cut-and-dry cases,” Winner said about the Trump charges in a recent NBC interview. The contrast with his case, she said, could provide more leverage for those who act “out of moral conscience.”

It’s uncertain why Trump kept highly classified documents in boxes stacked in a ballroom, bathroom and storage areas. It could be for profit, political leverage or just ego-stroking. We do know from recordings, testimony from former attorneys and comments from former Cabinet members, that he knew he was violating the law.

The biggest contrast between the two cases: Winner said she leaked the information in “service to the American people.” Trump, despite legal advice, held on to documents belonging to the…

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Vanessa Gallman

Experienced journalist, educator and retired opinion-page editor with occasional musings