A Maryland woman charged in connection with selling US nuclear submarine secrets to a foreign power wanted to flee the country because she despised President Donald Trump, not because she feared arrest, her lawyers said.
Diana Toebbe and her husband Jonathan were arrested in October and face espionage charges. Prosecutors have argued against freeing them on bail, citing a text message from Diana saying the couple would be "welcomed and rewarded by a foreign [government]."
At a hearing on Wednesday, her lawyers presented additional messages to argue she was motivated by disdain for the Republican president, not fear of being caught.
"Rather than scheming to escape capture and prosecution for crimes, Mrs Toebbe was clearly motivated to leave the country for political reasons," attorney Barry Beck wrote in a court filing.
The defense motion cites a message from Diana to Jonathan from March 2019, saying "We need to get out" and that "the entire system is rigged," in a reference to charges against Trump's former campaign manager Paul Maanafort.
When Jonathan responded that special counsel Robert Mueller's report was due soon, Diana texted back, "It's been too long. Nothing has changed. He's still in power."
Diana also texted about taking French President Emmanuel Macron "up on his offer to harbor scientific refugees," according to the brief. All of these messages dated more than a year before Jonathan allegedly made contact with a foreign buyer - a country that still remains unnamed, which then alerted the FBI. Since Trump is no longer in office, Beck wrote, the reason for Toebbe to leave the US no longer exists.
The Annapolis couple was arrested at a location in West Virginia where the FBI undercover agent posing as a buyer told them to meet. Jonathan, a US Navy engineer, was charged with trying to sell information about the Virginia-class nuclear submarines to a foreign government. Diana is accused of serving as a lookout for the "dead drop" exchanges.
In one instance, Toebbe allegedly placed a SD card containing classified nuclear reactor information inside a peanut butter sandwich and later provided a decryption key for the card, in exchange for a total of $30,000 worth of cryptocurrency, according to the indictment.