Special Counsel Jack Smith delivers remarks on a recently unsealed indictment against former President Donald Trump at the Justice Department on June 9, 2023, in Washington, DC. Former U.S. President Donald Trump has been indicted on 37 felony counts in the special counsel’s classified documents probe. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Donald Trump has been indicted by a federal grand jury, making him the first former president to face federal criminal charges.
The 37-count indictment in the Southern District of Florida, handed up by a grand jury there, was unsealed Friday. According to the indictment, Trump schemed with an aide to keep possession of top secret and other sensitive national security documents from his presidency and concealed those documents even from his own lawyers, who sought to comply with a federal order to return them.
Special Counsel Jack Smith, who has headed the investigation, said during a brief appearance Friday at the Department of Justice that his office plans to “seek a speedy trial in this matter, consistent with the public interest and the rights of the accused.”
Smith said Americans should read the full indictment in order to “understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged.”
Trump, who disclosed news of his indictment on his Truth Social platform on Thursday night, also said he would be arraigned on Tuesday in Miami.
Trump took dozens of boxes of records, some of which held highly classified material, to his Mar-a-Lago estate in South Florida when he moved out of the White House in 2021.
He knowingly held onto documents that he wasn’t supposed to have and shared classified information he knew he wasn’t supposed to share, according to the indictment, which was first obtained by CNN.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing.
“I’m an innocent man,” he said in the video he posted to Truth Social on Thursday.
‘This is secret information’
The first 31 counts of the indictment charge Trump with withholding 31 individual classified documents. Those documents were seized during an Aug. 8, 2022, FBI raid on Trump’s home that turned up 102 total documents with classification markings.
Most of the 31 documents cited in the indictment were marked top secret, the highest level of classification and one that indicates disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security,” according to the indictment.
The classified documents Trump took with him to Florida contained information about defense and weapons capabilities — including nuclear capabilities — of the U.S. and foreign governments, military vulnerabilities of the U.S. and allies, and plans for possible retaliation to a foreign attack, according to the indictment.
Trump was careless about storing the documents and cavalier about sharing classified information, the indictment says.
He stored boxes throughout Mar-a-Lago, his South Florida private club and primary residence, prosecutors say. The indictment included a photo of boxes of presidential records stacked at one point on a ballroom stage.
Trump took boxes of documents to his Trump National Golf Club Bedminster in New Jersey, and at least twice shared some of their contents with people who lacked security clearance, prosecutors alleged. He knew he was improperly sharing confidential information, the indictment says, citing Trump’s private conversations.
In a July 2021 interview with a writer and publisher who are unnamed in the indictment, Trump pulled out a document he said showed a military official’s plan to attack a country identified in the indictment as “Country A.”
The New Yorker magazine had published a story that month that reported Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley dissuaded Trump from attacking Iran. The indictment identifies neither the military official nor the foreign country, but it quotes Trump as saying the military official, not he, was the one who advocated for attacking another country.
“This totally wins my case, you know,” Trump said, according to the indictment. “Except it is, like, highly confidential … Secret. This is secret information.”
Later in the conversation, Trump said he could have declassified the document as president but lacked the power at the time of the interview.
In September 2021, Trump showed a classified map of another unidentified country with an ongoing military operation to a representative of his political action committee, the indictment says.
Trump told the representative that he “should not be showing the map,” according to the indictment.
Allegations of concealment
The final six counts of the indictment relate to allegations Trump directed Waltine Nauta, a former Navy valet to Trump during his presidency and an executive assistant to the former president, to conceal classified documents from the FBI and from Trump’s own lawyers who sought to comply with directives to return the documents.
The National Archives and Records Administration began demanding presidential records from Trump in May 2021, according to the indictment.
Trump sent the archives 15 boxes of documents containing 197 documents with classification markings in January 2022.
The FBI opened an investigation in March 2022 into potential criminal retention of classified documents. A federal grand jury convened in April and issued a subpoena in May for all documents with classification markings. Trump produced 38 more documents in June.
But Trump interfered with that document production and secretly kept more than 100 responsive documents, the indictment says.
He asked his attorneys if it would be better to just claim they had no responsive documents, according to the indictment. The indictment does not say how his attorneys responded but said that an attorney planned to search for documents responsive to the subpoena in early June 2022.
Before that search, Trump directed Nauta to move dozens of boxes out of a storage room to hide them from the attorney, according to the indictment. Nauta removed 64 boxes from a Mar-a-Lago storage room to Trump’s residence, and moved 30 boxes back into the storage room, according to the indictment. Trump’s attorney searched only the storage room.
Trump later directed another attorney, who had no role in the search, to certify that a diligent search to find all responsive documents was conducted, and those documents were turned over. That was a false certification, the indictment says.
Trump sent only 38 documents responsive to the subpoena, the indictment says.
The FBI found 102 more in its August 2022 search of his property.
Smith says laws must be enforced
“Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced,” Smith, the special counsel, said. “Violations of those laws put our country at risk.”
One of the bedrock principles of the United States justice system, Smith said, is that there is one set of laws that apply to everyone.
“Applying those laws, collecting facts, that’s what determines the outcome of an investigation,” Smith said. “Nothing more and nothing less.”
Smith spoke for less than three minutes and did not take questions from reporters.
Senior Washington reporter Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.
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