Indictment: Trump Kept, Shared Papers 06/10 08:23
The federal indictment against Donald Trump accuses the former president of
illegally hoarding classified documents at his Florida estate after leaving the
White House in 2021, and then scheming and lying to thwart government efforts
to recover them.
MIAMI (AP) -- The federal indictment against Donald Trump accuses the former
president of illegally hoarding classified documents at his Florida estate
after leaving the White House in 2021, and then scheming and lying to thwart
government efforts to recover them.
Justice Department prosecutors brought 37 felony counts against Trump in the
indictment, relying upon photographs from Mar-a-Lago, surveillance video, text
messages between staffers, Trump's own words, those of his lawyers, and other
"It comes across as obviously a very strong case, if it can be proven," said
Mark Zaid, a Washington, D.C.-based lawyer who works on national security
issues. "I'm surprised as to how personally involved it alleges Trump was with
respect to the documents," he added.
An aide to Trump, Walt Nauta, was charged as a co-conspirator with six
Trump says he is innocent and has decried the criminal case -- the second
indictment against him in a matter of months -- as an attempt by his political
opponents to hinder his 2024 campaign. He is expected to make his first court
appearance on Tuesday in Miami.
Here are key takeaways from the indictment unsealed Friday:
WHAT ARE THE CHARGES?
Trump faces 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information
under the Espionage Act. Other charges include: conspiracy to obstruct justice;
corruptly concealing a document or record; concealing a document in a federal
investigation; and making false statements.
Each of the willful retention counts pertains to a specific classified
document found at Mar-A-Lago marked "SECRET" or "TOP SECRET." Topics addressed
in the documents include details about U.S. nuclear weapons, the nuclear
capabilities of a foreign country and the military activities or capabilities
of other countries.
The conspiracy charges deal with Trump's alleged attempts to hide documents
from his lawyer or federal investigators. The false statement charges stem from
Trump causing his lawyer to tell the FBI that no more classified documents were
at Mar-a-Lago -- but then the FBI later found more than 100 documents during an
August 2022 search.
The most serious charges carry potential prison sentences of up to 20 years
each. But judges have discretion and, if convicted, first-time offenders rarely
get anywhere near the maximum sentence. Being a former president would also
likely be a major consideration in any sentencing.
WHAT IS THE ALLEGED CONSPIRACY TO OBSTRUCT JUSTICE?
The indictment accuses Trump and Nauta of conspiring to hide the secret
documents from the grand jury, which in May 2022 issued a subpoena for him to
turn them over.
The conspiracy allegation included a suggestion from Trump that his lawyer
falsely tell investigators that the former president didn't have any more
classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. It also involved moving boxes to hide the
secret documents from Trump's lawyer, and suggesting that Trump's lawyer hide
or destroy documents that investigators were seeking.
The indictment says that, at Trump's direction, Nauta moved about 64 boxes
of documents from a Mar-a-Lago storage room to the former president's residence
in May 2022. He then returned "approximately 30 boxes" to the storage room on
June 2 -- the same day Trump's legal team came to examine the boxes and search
for classified documents to return to the government, the indictment says.
Nauta had a brief phone call with Trump before returning those boxes, the
indictment says. Neither Trump nor Nauta told the former president's lawyers
that Nauta had moved any of the storage room contents, the indictment says.
IS TRUMP ACCUSED OF SHARING CLASSIFIED INFORMATION?
The indictment alleges Trump showed classified documents to people who
didn't have security clearances on two occasions.
The court papers detail a meeting Trump had in July 2021 with a writer and
publisher about an upcoming book. Trump told the pair "look what I found" and
showed them what he described as a senior military official's "plan of attack,"
according to an audio recording of that conversation obtained by investigators.
Trump acknowledged during that meeting that the document was "highly
confidential" and "secret information," the indictment says. He also says that
he could have declassified the document if he was still president.
"Now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret," he said, according to
A few months later, Trump showed a representative of his political action
committee a classified map of a foreign country while discussing a military
operation in the country that was not going well, the indictment says. Trump
acknowledged that he shouldn't be showing the map to the person and told him
not to get too close, prosecutors allege.
WHAT EVIDENCE DO PROSECTORS HAVE?
In addition to the audio recording, prosecutors also relied upon text
messages between Trump employees, photos of boxes of documents stored in
various rooms throughout Mar-a-Lago and details about conversations between
Trump and his lawyers that were memorialized by one of them.
In one conversation with his lawyers, Trump said: "I don't want anybody
looking through my boxes." Trump also asked one of his lawyers if it would be
better "if we just told them we don't have anything here," the indictment says.
Photographs in the indictment show boxes stacked on a stage in a ballroom as
well as in a bathroom. Another shows boxes that spilled over in a storage room,
including a document marked "SECRET/REL TO USA, FVEY," which means information
releasable only to members of the "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance of
Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
WHERE WILL THE CASE BE HEARD?
While Trump's first court appearance on Tuesday is expected to be in front
of a magistrate judge in Miami, the case was filed in West Palm Beach -- about
70 miles to the north. The case was assigned to Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump
appointee, who issued rulings favorable to him last year and expressed repeated
skepticism of Justice Department positions.
Cannon was broadly criticized last year for granting the Trump legal team's
request for a special master to conduct an independent review of the hundreds
of classified documents seized from his Florida property last year. The move,
which temporarily halted core aspects of the Justice Department's investigative
work, was overturned months later by a three-judge panel of a federal appeals