Trump Indicted in Classified Docs Case 06/09 06:09
Donald Trump has been indicted on charges of mishandling classified
documents at his Florida estate, a remarkable development that makes him the
first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges by the federal
government that he once oversaw.
MIAMI (AP) -- Donald Trump has been indicted on charges of mishandling
classified documents at his Florida estate, a remarkable development that makes
him the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges by the
federal government that he once oversaw.
The Justice Department was expected to make public a seven-count indictment
ahead of a historic court appearance next week in the midst of a 2024
presidential campaign punctuated by criminal prosecutions in multiple states.
The indictment carries unmistakably grave legal consequences, including the
possibility of prison if Trump's convicted.
But it also has enormous political implications, potentially upending a
Republican presidential primary that Trump had been dominating and testing anew
the willingness of GOP voters and party leaders to stick with a now
twice-indicted candidate who could face still more charges. And it sets the
stage for a sensational trial centered on claims that a man once entrusted to
safeguard the nation's most closely guarded secrets willfully, and illegally,
hoarded sensitive national security information.
The Justice Department did not immediately confirm the indictment publicly.
But two people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to discuss
it publicly said that the indictment included seven criminal counts. One of
those people said Trump's lawyers were contacted by prosecutors shortly before
he announced Thursday on his Truth Social platform that he had been indicted.
Within minutes of his announcement, Trump, who said he was due in court
Tuesday afternoon in Miami, began fundraising off it for his presidential
campaign. He declared his innocence in a video and repeated his familiar
refrain that the investigation is a "witch hunt."
The case adds to deepening legal jeopardy for Trump, who has already been
indicted in New York and faces additional investigations in Washington and
Atlanta that also could lead to criminal charges. But among the various
investigations he faces, legal experts -- as well as Trump's own aides -- had
long seen the Mar-a-Lago probe as the most perilous threat and the one most
ripe for prosecution. Campaign aides had been bracing for the fallout since
Trump's attorneys were notified that he was the target of the investigation,
assuming it was not a matter of if charges would be brought, but when.
Appearing Thursday night on CNN, Trump attorney James Trusty said the
indictment includes charges of willful retention of national defense
information -- a crime under the Espionage Act, which polices the handling of
government secrets -- obstruction, false statements and conspiracy.
The inquiry took a major step forward last November when Attorney General
Merrick Garland, a soft-spoken former federal judge who has long stated that no
one person should be regarded as above the law, appointed Jack Smith, a war
crimes prosecutor with an aggressive, hard-charging reputation to lead both the
documents probe as well as a separate investigation into efforts to subvert the
The case is a milestone for a Justice Department that had investigated Trump
for years -- as president and private citizen -- but had never before charged
him with a crime. The most notable investigation was an earlier special counsel
probe into ties between his 2016 campaign and Russia, but prosecutors in that
probe cited Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president.
Once he left office, though, he lost that protection.
The indictment arises from a monthslong investigation into whether Trump
broke the law by holding onto hundreds of documents marked classified at his
Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago, and whether Trump took steps to obstruct the
government's efforts to recover the records.
Prosecutors have said that Trump took roughly 300 classified documents to
Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House, including some 100 that were seized
by the FBI last August in a search of the home that underscored the gravity of
the Justice Department's investigation. Trump has repeatedly insisted that he
was entitled to keep the classified documents when he left the White House, and
has also claimed without evidence that he had declassified them.
Court records unsealed last year showed federal investigators believed they
had probable cause that multiple crimes had been committed, including the
retention of national defense information, destruction of government records
Since then, the Justice Department has amassed additional evidence and
secured grand jury testimony from people close to Trump, including his own
lawyers. The statutes governing the handling of classified records and
obstruction are felonies that could carry years in prison in the event of a
Even so, it remains unclear how much it will damage Trump's standing given
that his first indictment generated millions of dollars in contributions from
angry supporters and didn't weaken him in the polls.
The former president has long sought to use his legal troubles to his
political advantage, complaining on social media and at public events that the
cases are being driven by Democratic prosecutors out to hurt his 2024 election
campaign. He is likely to rely on that playbook again, reviving his
longstanding claims that the Justice Department -- which, during his
presidency, investigated whether his 2016 campaign had colluded with Russia --
is somehow weaponized against him.
Trump's legal troubles extend beyond the New York indictment and classified
Smith is separately investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to
overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. And the district
attorney in Georgia's Fulton County is investigating Trump over alleged efforts
to subvert the 2020 election in that state.
Signs had mounted for weeks that an indictment was near, including a Monday
meeting between Trump's lawyers and Justice Department officials. His lawyers
had also recently been notified that he was the target of the investigation,
the clearest sign yet that an indictment was looming.
Though the bulk of the investigative work had been handled in Washington,
with a grand jury meeting there for months, it recently emerged that
prosecutors were presenting evidence before a separate panel in Florida, where
many of the alleged acts of obstruction scrutinized by prosecutors took place.
The Justice Department has said Trump repeatedly resisted efforts by the
National Archives and Records Administration to get the documents back. After
months of back-and-forth, Trump representatives returned 15 boxes of records in
January 2022, including about 184 documents that officials said had classified
markings on them.
FBI and Justice Department investigators issued a subpoena in May 2022 for
classified documents that remained in Trump's possession. But after a Trump
lawyer provided three dozen records and asserted that a diligent search of the
property had been done, officials came to suspect even more documents remained.
The investigation had simmered for months before bursting into front-page
news in remarkable fashion last August. That's when FBI agents served a search
warrant on Mar-a-Lago and removed 33 boxes containing classified records,
including top-secret documents stashed in a storage room and desk drawer and
commingled with personal belongings. Some records were so sensitive that
investigators needed upgraded security clearances to review them, the Justice
Department has said.
The investigation into Trump had appeared complicated -- politically, if not
legally -- by the discovery of documents with classified markings in the
Delaware home and former Washington office of President Joe Biden, as well as
in the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence. The Justice Department
recently informed Pence that he would not face charges, while a second special
counsel continues to investigate Biden's handling of classified documents.
But compared with Trump, there are key differences in the facts and legal
issues surrounding Biden's and Pence's handling of documents, including that
representatives for both men say the documents were voluntarily turned over to
investigators as soon as they were found. In contrast, investigators quickly
zeroed on whether Trump, who for four years as president expressed disdain for
the FBI and Justice Department, had sought to obstruct the inquiry by refusing
to turn over all the requested documents.