Indictment: Trump stored, showed off and refused to return classified documents
MIAMI — Donald Trump improperly stored in his Florida estate sensitive documents on nuclear capabilities, repeatedly enlisted aides and lawyers to help him hide records demanded by investigators and cavalierly showed off a Pentagon “plan of attack” and classified map, according to a sweeping felony indictment that paints a damning portrait of the former president’s treatment of national security information.
The conduct alleged in the historic indictment — the first federal case against a former president — cuts to the heart of any president’s responsibility to safeguard the government’s most valuable secrets. Prosecutors say the documents he stowed, refused to return and in some cases showed to visitors risked jeopardizing not only relations with foreign nations but also the safety of troops and confidential sources.
“Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced,” Jack Smith, the Justice Department special counsel who filed the case, said in his first public statements. “Violations of those laws put our country at risk.”
Trump, currently the leading contender for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is due to make his first court appearance Tuesday afternoon in Miami. In a rare bit of welcome news for the former president, the judge initially assigned to the case is someone he appointed and who drew criticism for rulings in his favor during a dispute last year over a special master assigned to review the seized classified documents. Meanwhile, two lawyers who worked the case for months announced Friday that they had resigned from Trump’s legal team.
All told, Trump faces 37 felony counts — 31 pertaining to the willful retention of national defense information, the balance relating to alleged conspiracy, obstruction and false statements — that could result in a substantial prison sentence in the event of a conviction. A Trump aide who prosecutors said moved dozens of boxes at his Florida estate at his direction, and then lied to investigators about it, was charged in the same indictment with conspiracy and other crimes.
Trump responded to the indictment Friday by falsely conflating his case with a separate classified documents investigation concerning President Joe Biden. Though classified records were found in a Biden home and office, there has been no indication that the president, unlike Trump, sought to conceal them or knew they were there.
“Nobody said I wasn’t allowed to look at the personal records that I brought with me from the White House. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Trump said in a post on his Truth Social platform.
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 has faced, 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.