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Justice Department unseals Donald Trump indictment—and reveals the charges against him

Justice Department unseals Donald Trump indictment—and reveals the charges against him

Washington — The historic federal indictment filed against former President Donald Trump was made public Friday, detailing the charges the former president is facing related to his handling of sensitive government records after leaving the White House.

The 44-page indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida alleges that Trump “endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal retention of classified documents.” The indictment names Walt Nauta, an aide to Trump who served as a White House valet, as a co-conspirator.

The indictment lists 37 counts in all against Trump: 

  • 31 counts of willful retention of classified documents
  • 1 count of conspiracy to obstruct justice
  • 1 count of withholding a document or record
  • 1 count of corruptly concealing a document or record
  • 1 count of concealing a document in a federal investigation
  • 1 count of scheme to conceal
  • and one count of making false statements and representations.

At least four of the charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. 

Trump was summoned to appear in federal district court in Miami on Tuesday for an arraignment.

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What information was in the boxes stored by Trump?

“The classified documents Trump stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack,” the indictment states. “The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods.”

The 38 counts in the indictment — the final count, also of making false statements, is specific to Nauta — stem from special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into documents recovered from Trump’s South Florida residence, Mar-a-Lago, after he left the White House in January 2021. Roughly 300 documents marked classified in all were retrieved from Mar-a-Lago in the months after the end of Trump’s presidency.

The indictment states that Mar-a-Lago “was not an authorized location for the storage, possession, review, display, or discussion of classified documents” after Trump left office.

“Nevertheless, Trump stored his boxes containing classified documents in various locations at The Mar-a-Lago Club — including in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom, and a storage room,” according to the filing, which includes photos showing boxes stacked on the ballroom stage and in a bathroom next to a shower and toilet.

Another photograph contained in the indictment shows one box located in the storage room at Mar-a-Lago tipped over on the ground, with materials spilling out from it. The indictment states that on Dec. 7, 2021, Nauta discovered the fallen box and texted an unidentified Trump employee, “I opened the door and found this…” with two photos of the scene. Contained among the items in the box was a document marked “SECRET/REL TO USA, FVEY,” meaning it was releasable only to the “Five Eyes” intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the U.S., prosecutors said.

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Trump allegedly showed classified documents to others

It also alleges Trump showed classified documents to others and notes that on multiple occasions, the former president spoke of the importance of protecting classified information, both as a candidate in 2016 and then as president. The former president did not inform U.S. Secret Service he was storing records with classification markings at Mar-a-Lago.

According to the indictment, there were two occasions in 2021 when Trump showed classified documents to others. The first occurred in July 2021 at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, during a recorded meeting with a writer, publisher and two staff members, none of whom had security clearances. Trump “showed and described a ‘plan of attack’ that he said was prepared for him by the Defense Department” and called the plan “highly confidential” and “secret.” He then said, “As president I could have declassified it … Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret,” the filing states.

The second occasion took place weeks later, in either August or September 2021, also at the Bedminster property. The indictment states that Trump showed an official with his political action committee who also lacked a security clearance a classified map related to a military operation and “told the representative that he should not be showing it and that the representative should not get too close.”

Trump “caused some of his boxes” to be moved to Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in May 2021, which the indictment notes “was not an authorized location.”

Unlawful retention and obstruction

The indictment lays out the efforts by the National Archives and Records Administration, then the Justice Department, to recover presidential records. Those demands began with the Archives in May 2021 and escalated over the next 15 months, with a federal grand jury issuing a subpoena on May 11, 2022, for all documents with classification markings.

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Trump met with two of his lawyers to discuss the response to the subpoena days after it was issued, during which the attorneys said they needed to search for documents that would be responsive to it. Citing comments by Trump memorialized by one of his lawyers, the indictment states the former president said, “I don’t want anybody looking, I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don’t, I don’t want you looking through my boxes,” and asked, “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?”

In between the meeting with his lawyers on May 23, 2022, about the subpoena, and June 2, 2022, when one of Trump’s lawyers returned to Mar-a-Lago to sift through boxes kept in the storage room, Nauta moved “at Trump’s direction,” 64 boxes to the former president’s residence, prosecutors claim. Thirty were brought to the storage room, according to the indictment.

In response to the subpoena, a total of 38 documents marked classified were given to Justice Department officials who traveled to Mar-a-Lago to collect them. A third Trump attorney — who did not search the boxes on the property — was present on June 3, 2022, when the records were turned over and signed a certification stating that “[b]ased upon the information that [had] been provided to” … “a diligent search was conducted of the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida.”

“These statements were false because, among other reasons, Trump had directed Nauta to move boxes before Trump Attorney 1’s June 2 review, so that many boxes were not searched and many documents responsive to the May 11 Subpoena could not be found — and in fact were not found — by Trump Attorney 1,” the indictment states.

The attempts to recover the records culminated in an extraordinary court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago by the FBI on Aug. 8, 2022. The indictment notes that “more than 100 documents with classification markings remained at The Mar-a-Lago club” until the FBI’s August search. 

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The FBI opened its investigation into the alleged unlawful retention of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago at the end of March 2022, and a federal grand jury investigation started the next month.

Prosecutors detailed what they said were the former president’s efforts to obstruct the probe, includinge suggesting his attorney falsely represent to investigators that Trump didn’t have documents relevant to a grand jury subpoena and directing Nauta to move boxes of records to conceal them from Trump’s lawyer, the FBI and grand jury. 

He also suggested his attorney hide or destroy documents covered by the subpoena, which was issued in the spring of 2022. Prosecutors allege that Trump directed his attorney to sign a “sworn certification” that all the classified documents had been turned over to the FBI — when Trump knew there were more classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. 

The government says Trump knew this because he “had directed that boxes be removed from the Storage Room [at Mar-a-Lago] before Trump Attorney 1 conducted the June 2, 2022 search” for documents with classified markings. As a result, Trump Attorney 1’s search “would not and did not locate” documents responsive to the May 11 Subpoena” — and were not provided to the FBI. 

After the June 3, 2022 search, the government says “more than 100 documents with classification markings remained at The Mar-a-Lago club until the FBI search on August 2022.”

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The indictment asserts that Trump kept classified documents “originated by, or implicating the equities of” number agencies within the intelligence community, including the CIA, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, and Departments of Energy, Defense and State.

The criminal case brought by federal prosecutors in Florida is unrelated to the state charges leveled against him in April in New York. That indictment entails allegations of falsification of business records. 

Smith is also examining efforts to stop the transfer of power after the 2020 presidential election and events surrounding the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol, and that investigation remains ongoing.

Published: 2023-06-09 19:54:00

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