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, then conspiring and lying to thwart the government’s efforts to recover them.
Justice Department prosecutors brought 37 counts against Trump in the indictment, relying on Mar-a-Lago photographs, surveillance videos, text messages between staffers, Trump’s own words, those of his lawyers and other evidence.
“This obviously comes across as a very strong case, if it can be proven,” said Mark Zaid, a Washington, DC-based attorney who works on national security issues. “I’m surprised at Trump’s personal involvement with the documents,” he added.
A Trump aide, Walt Nauta, has been charged as a co-conspirator on six counts.
Trump says he is innocent and has denounced the criminal case – the second indictment against him in months – as an attempt by his political opponents to obstruct his 2024 campaign. He is expected to make his first appearance before the court Tuesday in Miami.
Here are the main takeaways from Friday’s unsealed indictment:
WHAT ARE THE FEES?
Trump faces 31 counts of willfully withholding national defense information under the Espionage Act. Other charges include: conspiracy to obstruct justice; concealment by corruption of a document or file; concealment of a document in a federal investigation; and make false statements.
Each of the counts of willful retention relate to a specific classified document found at Mar-A-Lago marked “SECRET” or “TOP SECRET”. Topics covered in the documents include details of US nuclear weapons, a foreign country’s nuclear capabilities, and other countries’ military activities or capabilities.
The conspiracy charges relate to Trump’s alleged attempts to hide documents from his attorney or federal investigators. The misrepresentation charges stem from Trump pushing his lawyer to tell the FBI there were no more classified documents at Mar-a-Lago – but the FBI later found more than 100 documents in a search in August 2022.
The most serious charges carry prison sentences of up to 20 years each. But judges have discretion and, if convicted, first-time offenders rarely come close to 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 him a subpoena to turn them over.
The conspiracy allegation included a suggestion by Trump that his lawyer falsely told investigators that the former president no longer had classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. It also involved moving boxes to hide secret documents from Trump’s attorney and suggesting that Trump’s attorney hide or destroy documents sought by investigators.
The indictment says that, at Trump’s direction, Nauta moved approximately 64 boxes of documents from a Mar-a-Lago storage room to the former president’s residence in May 2022. He then returned ”about 30 boxes” to the storage room in June. 2 – the same day, Trump’s legal team came to examine the boxes and search for classified documents to be returned to the government, the indictment says.
Nauta had a brief phone call with Trump before returning those boxes, according to the indictment. Neither Trump nor Nauta told the former president’s attorneys that Nauta moved the contents of the storage room, according to the indictment.
IS TRUMP ACCUSED OF SHARING CLASSIFIED INFORMATION?
The indictment alleges that Trump showed classified documents to people who did not have security clearances on two separate occasions.
Court documents detail a meeting Trump had in July 2021 with a writer and publisher about an upcoming book. Trump told the couple ‘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 admitted at that meeting that the document was “highly confidential” and “secret information,” the indictment said. He also says he could have declassified the document if he was still president.
“Now I can’t, you know, but it’s still a secret,” he said, according to the indictment.
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, according to the indictment. charge. Trump acknowledged he shouldn’t show the person the card and told them not to get too close, prosecutors say.
WHAT EVIDENCE DO PROSECTOR HAVE?
In addition to the audio recording, prosecutors also relied on text messages between Trump employees, photos of boxes of documents stored in various rooms at Mar-a-Lago, and details of conversations between Trump and his associates. lawyers who were commemorated by one of them.
In a conversation with his attorneys, Trump said, “I don’t want anyone looking in my boxes.” Trump also asked one of his attorneys if it would be best “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 have tipped over in a storage room, including a document marked “SECRET/REL TO USA, FVEY”, which means information that can only be released to members of the alliance of “Five Eyes” intelligence from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, USA. Kingdom and the United States.
WHERE WILL THE CASE BE HEARD?
While Trump’s first court appearance is scheduled for Tuesday before a magistrate in Miami, the case was filed in West Palm Beach, about 70 miles north. The case went to Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, who ruled favorably on her last year and has repeatedly expressed skepticism of the Justice Department’s positions. .
Cannon was widely criticized last year for granting a request by Trump’s legal team for a special master to conduct an independent review of the hundreds of classified documents seized from his Florida property last year. The decision, which temporarily halted key aspects of the Justice Department’s investigative work, was overturned months later by a three-judge federal appeals court panel.
Associated Press reporters Michael R. Sisak in New York, Bill Barrow in Atlanta, Gary Fields in Washington contributed.