Donald Trump has been charged with 37 counts in relation to the mishandling of records at Mar-a-Lago as well as his efforts to block the government from recovering the documents.
An indictment unsealed by the Justice Department Friday underscores the high-level material the former president kept after leaving office, the times he improperly shared it with those without clearances and the extent he sought to block any efforts to retrieve them.
The filing indicates Trump weighed a number of methods to avoid returning them, asking his attorney to “hide or destroy” the documents in his possession following a June subpoena last year.
“The classified documents Trump stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack,” the filing states.
“The 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.”
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Trump is facing 31 counts on the Espionage Act alone, with a breakdown of the documents detailing that most of them dealt with intelligence collected on foreign countries or American military capabilities. The law prohibits improper retention of national defense information and does not require the documents be classified.
Violations of the Espionage Act carry up to 10 years in prison, while some of the obstruction of justice charges carry up to 20.
In his first public appearance following the indictments unsealed, special counsel Jack Smith encouraged people to read the filing in full “to understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged.”
“The men and women of the United States intelligence community and our Armed Forces dedicate their lives to protecting our nation and its people. Our laws that protect national defense information are critical, the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced,” he said.
“Violations of those laws put our country at risk.”
The filing details two specific instances where Trump is alleged to have shared highly sensitive materials with individuals at his Bedminster, N.J., club who did not have security clearances.
The first came in July 2021, when Trump is said to have shown and described a “plan of attack” prepared for him by Pentagon officials while in the White House. The meeting, which was with a writer, a publisher and two staff members, was recorded. CNN earlier Friday reported on the transcript of the audio, which included Trump acknowledging the document was secret and that he did not declassify it while he was president.
The filing details a second incident in August or September of 2021 in which the former president showed a representative of his political action committee who did not possess a security clearance a classified map related to a military operation. Trump is said to have told the associate during the meeting at his Bedminster, N.J., club that he should not be showing it to the person and that they should not get too close.
The filing also alleges that Trump tried to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal his continued possession of classified documents by suggesting his attorney falsely represent to the FBI that he did not have the documents in question.
Prosecutors alleged Trump directed Walt Nauta, a longtime aide also charged in the case, to move boxes of documents to conceal them, suggested his attorney hide or destroy documents included in a grand jury subpoena and falsely claiming he had turned over all the necessary documents while knowing that was not the case.
In another instance after Trump attorney Evan Corcoran went to gather records in response to a May subpoena, Trump gestured for Corcoran to “pluck out” any documents he did not think they should return to the government.
The indictment alleges Trump coordinated directly with Nauta to move 64 boxes in and out of the Mar-a-Lago storage room in the weeks between a discussion with Corcoran about a subpoena for the documents, and the lawyer’s return to collect the records. The indictment notes Corcoran was not informed of the movement.
Prosecutors allege that Trump after leaving office retained classified documents originating from or with connections to the CIA, the Pentagon, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Energy, the Department of State and the Bureau of Intelligence and Research within the State Department.
The filing details how Trump instructed aides to move boxes within his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. In May 2021, Trump is said to have directed the storage room on the ground floor of the club be cleaned out so it could be used to put the boxes containing classified materials in there.
In December 2021, prosecutors said that Nauta found several documents spilled on the floor of the storage room that were labeled “secret” and only releasable to members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance of the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand.
The indictment also dedicates an entire page to Trump’s past statements on the need for tough treatment for those who mishandle classified records.
“We can’t have someone in the oval office who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word confidential or classified,” he said as a 2016 candidate.
“In my administration I’m going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information. No one will be above the law.”
—Updated at 3:44 p.m.