Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibility
Close Alert

Trump indicted in documents case, will appear in court Tuesday

Former President Donald Trump reacts to the crowd before speaking during the National Rifle Association Convention, Friday, April 14, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Former President Donald Trump reacts to the crowd before speaking during the National Rifle Association Convention, Friday, April 14, 2023, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Facebook Share IconTwitter Share IconEmail Share Icon

In an unprecedented event in American history, former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a federal grand jury over his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

This is the second indictment for the former reality TV star, who was indicted in April by the Manhattan district attorney’s office on 34 counts over hush money payments he made in 2016 to adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to cover up alleged affairs with both women.

He is expected to appear at a federal courthouse in Miami at 3 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon for the arraignment. This marks the first time in U.S. history that the federal government indicted a former commander-in-chief .

The indictment carries unmistakably grave legal consequences, including the possibility of prison if he's convicted.

The Justice Department did not immediately publicly confirm the indictment. But two people familiar with the matter who were not authorized to discuss it publicly said Trump's team had been informed that he had been indicted on seven counts and that prosecutors had contacted lawyers to advise them of the indictment.

ABC News reported the nature of the charges range “from everything from the willful retention of national defense information to conspiracy to a scheme to conceal, to false statements and representations.

The report follows predictions made by legal scholars like Andrew Weissman and Ryan Goodman – both professors at New York University's Law School – who noted Wednesday that charges could revolve around several issues, including obstruction of justice, violations of the Espionage Act, conspiracy, and charges on both the retention and dissemination of the information.

Goodman responded to the news of the indictments, and the limited information of the charges shared by ABC, Thursday night, “* Espionage Act * ABC News: The charges include "willful retention of national defense information (As I have long predicted.),” he wrote on Twitter. “That offense fits the alleged conduct, a perfect match.

His comments echoed a prediction he made last Wednesday, May 31, after CNN reported the Justice Dept. obtained audio of Trump discussing some of the classified material in his possession during a summer 2021 meeting at his Westminster golf club.

“Make no mistake There is now every reason to expect former President Trump will be charged under 18 USC 793(e) of the Espionage Act,” Goodman wrote on Twitter in May. “The law fits his reported conduct like a hand in glove.”

The recording has been provided to special counsel Jack Smith, whose team of prosecutors have spent months investigating the potential mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and whether Trump or anyone else sought to criminally obstruct the probe. The investigation reached the public eye last August, when the FBI served a search warrant on the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate and found a trove of over 300 documents with classified markings.

Smith, the former head of the Justice Department's Office of Public Integrity, was appointed in November 2022 to oversee the agency's multiple investigations into the former president, focusing on this case and an investigation into his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

He has been coordinating the investigation through two federal grand juries – one in Washington, D.C. and one in Miami – which led legal observers to wonder if the 45th president would be indicted in one or both of those cities.

Reports say Trump’s team was informed of the indictment shortly before the former host of "The Apprentice" broke the news himself, announcing through a series of posts on his Truth Social platform.

"The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax," he wrote in the first of a series of three posts.

"I have been summoned to appear at the Federal Courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, at 3 PM. I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States," he continued.

In a video released later Thursday night through other social media channels, Trump continued to proclaim his innocence.

I am an innocent man, I’m an innocent person,” he says in the video. “This is election interference at the highest level. There’s never been anything like what’s happened.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy jumped to Trump’s defense on Twitter late Thursday night, echoing the allegations of election interference and accusations by far-right members of his party that the Justice Dept. under President Joe Biden is being ‘weaponized’ against conservatives.

“Today is indeed a dark day for the United States of America,” the top Republican in Washington wrote on Twitter. “It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him. Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades. I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.”

However, one of the other Republicans out on the campaign trail with Trump – former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson – used the occasion to strongly criticize the former president and repeat a theme of his campaign that Trump is bad for the nation.

“With the news that Donald Trump has been indicted for the second time, our country finds itself in a position that weakens our democracy,” Hutchinson said in part through a statement sent out in a campaign press email. “Donald Trump’s actions—from his willful disregard for the Constitution to his disrespect for the rule of law—should not define our nation or the Republican Party.”

Hutchinson also repeated his call, which began with the news that the Justice Dept. informed Trump he was a target in this investigation, for the former president to suspend his campaign (and for the party to refuse to support him if he is found guilty of a serious felony).

“While Donald Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the ongoing criminal proceedings will be a major distraction. This reaffirms the need for Donald Trump to respect the office and end his campaign,” Hutchinson continued in the emailed statement.

On the other side of the aisle, prominent Democratic lawmakers also marked the news solemnly and seriously.

“Donald Trump indicted by the Department of Justice shows that no one is above the law, including the powerful. Like any person, Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” wrote Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., a frequent critic of the former president. “We should let law enforcement and the judicial branch do their jobs without political interference.”

Rep. Eric Swalwell, another California Democrat and a former Democratic candidate for president, offered similar commentary in a statement to The National Desk’s Ahtra Elnashar. “The American justice system endures due to principles that law and order apply equally to everyone, regardless of their name or position of power. My view has always been clear – the prosecution of criminal conduct should not be celebrated,” he said in the statement.

The Department of Justice did not issue these indictments lightly,” he added. “Charges were brought after months of meticulous investigations and interviews with Trump’s most trusted advisors.

However, Trump asserted in his video post Thursday might that the whole case was a “hoax” – a “boxes hoax” – similar to previous investigation against him, like the Mueller probe into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election.

In spite of that, the nature of the charges – and the fact that a federal judge needed to sign off on the indictment, just like one did for the August 2022 search warrant – suggest evidence of criminal intent.

Michael Steele, the former chair of the Republican party and a frequent Trump critic, noted this in a Thursday night tweet. “Remember: he is in this position because of his own actions; there was no ‘witch-hunt’,” Steele wrote. “A federal judge ruled there was probable cause Trump committed a crime. HE owns this.”

The investigation hit the public eye on Aug. 8, 2022, when FBI agents conducted a search warrant to raid the real-estate mogul’s Mar-a-Lago estate under suspicion he retained documents – classified and otherwise – from his time in office. While that was the American people’s introduction to the investigation, it was preceded by over a year of work.

Officials with the National Archives and Records Administration reached out to representatives for Trump in the spring of 2021 when they realized that important material from his time in office was missing from their collection.

According to the Presidential Records Act, White House documents are considered property of the U.S. government and must be preserved.

A Trump representative told the National Archives in December 2021 that presidential records had been found at Mar-a-Lago. In January 2022, the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of documents from Trump’s Florida home, later telling Justice Department officials that they contained “a lot” of classified material.

That May, the FBI and Justice Department issued a subpoena for remaining classified documents in Trump’s possession. Investigators who went to visit the property weeks later to collect the records were given roughly three dozen documents and a sworn statement from Trump’s lawyers attesting that the requested information had been returned.

But that assertion turned out to be false. With a search warrant, federal officials returned to Mar-a-Lago in August 2022 and seized more than 33 boxes and containers totaling 11,000 documents from a storage room and an office, including 100 classified documents.

In all, roughly 300 documents with classification markings — including some at the top secret level — have been recovered from Trump since he left office in January 2021.

While Trump and his defenders routinely say he is receiving unfair treatment over these documents, especially since both President Joe Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence discovered – or reported to have discovered – classified material in their homes and offices in the wake of the Mar-a-Lago raid. However, the National Archives nor those two politicians were aware of the missing documents in their possession, and they turned them over as soon as the documents were found.

The New York Times reported days after the raid that Trump received a subpoena in the spring of 2022 over federal investigators’ concerns he failed to turn over all relevant documents in January. “The subpoena suggests that the Justice Department tried other methods to account for the material before taking the politically explosive step of getting a search warrant and sending F.B.I. agents unannounced to Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s home and members-only club,” the Times wrote.

The former president still faces at least two more possible indictments before primary elections begin in early 2024. Smith is still pursuing an investigation into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election – and his role in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. capitol – and a grand jury in Georgia recently wrapped up its probe into similar allegations.


The Associated Press contributed to this report

Loading ...