US ex-president Trump faces 37 criminal counts in unsealed federal indictment on retention of classified documents News
Courtesy C-SPAN
US ex-president Trump faces 37 criminal counts in unsealed federal indictment on retention of classified documents

US federal prosecutors Friday unsealed an indictment against ex-President Donald Trump and his former aide Waltine Nauta. Special Counsel Jack Smith, appointed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to oversee the investigation into Trump, charged Trump with 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information. Trump was also charged—alongside Nauta—with six additional counts, spanning conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record, concealing a document in a federal investigation, scheme to conceal, false statements and representations. Nauta is also charged on his own with providing false statements and representations.

The indictment details how Trump and Nauta, along with other staffers, packaged classified documents relating to US and foreign allies’ defense and weapons capabilities, nuclear information, potential vulnerabilities, and retaliation plans into cardboard boxes. The indictment clearly states that Trump was not authorized to possess or retain the classified documents.

In the filing, Smith asserted that “[t]he 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.”

Once at Mar-a-Lago, Trump stored the boxes at times in a ballroom event space, bathroom, shower, office space, his personal bedroom and a storage room. The indictment includes a lengthy recounting of Trump’s orders to move the boxes from location to location—including off-grounds to another Trump property in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The timeline also includes two instances where Trump showed classified documents to individuals without appropriate security clearances. In the first instance, in July 2021, Trump was captured stating that the documents are “highly confidential” and “secret” to a writer and publisher. In the same meeting, Trump confessed that while he could have declassified the documents while he was still president, he was unable to do so after leaving the White House—refuting Trump’s previous claims in legal filings from a special master review of the same documents.

The indictment also describes Trump’s efforts to thwart or subvert federal prosecutors’ efforts to obtain the classified documents from him. In May 2022, the indictment describes how Trump ordered Nauta to move some of the cardboard boxes from a storage room to his personal bedroom. This was done shortly before Trump’s lawyers went to the storage room to see if any documents needed to be turned over the federal authorities to comply with a subpoena for all classified documents. Trump told his attorneys, “I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don’t, I don’t want you looking through my boxes.”

The 31 counts against Trump for the willful retention of national defense information involve a series of documents uncovered by federal authorities’ investigations into the mishandled documents. The documents include various intelligence briefings from government agencies such as the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Department of Defense (DOD), the National Security Agency (NSA), the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Energy (DOE), the Department of State and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research.

There are an additional six charges listing Trump alongside his alleged co-conspirator Nauta, as well as a false statements and representations charge against Nauta as an individual.

At a press conference Friday afternoon, Smith encouraged people to read the 49-page indictment in full “to understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged.” Smith stated, “Adherence to the rule of law is a bedrock principle at the Department of Justice,” and emphasized that, in the US, the law applies to everyone. Smith closed his remarks by stating that his office would pursue a speedy trial date.

Trump is already scheduled to make an initial appearance at a Miami federal courthouse next Tuesday, June 13. The case will appear before US District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee.