Trump charged in sweeping indictment with mishandling classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago resort

Tribune Content Agency

Former President Donald Trump was charged with 37 felonies in a historic indictment unsealed Friday, accusing him of disclosing highly sensitive national secrets within classified documents he stashed in bathrooms and ballrooms at his Mar-a-Lago, Florida, resort.

The federal indictment unsealed by a Florida judge a day after Trump learned he had been indicted by a Miami grand jury marks the first in the nation’s history against a former president and, incredibly, his second criminal indictment in as many months.

It accuses the Republican presidential front-runner of putting the entire world at risk by haphazardly hoarding classified information about nuclear programs, defense and weapons capabilities of both the U.S. and foreign nations, and military vulnerabilities at the country club where he entertains guests in the tens of thousands.

“Over the course of his presidency, (Trump) gathered newspapers, press clippings, letters, notes, cards, photographs, official documents, and other materials in cardboard boxes that he kept in the White House. Among the materials (Trump) stored in his boxes were hundreds of classified documents,” reads the complaint.

The indictment charges that when Trump left the White House, he illegally took scores of boxes with him to Palm Beach.

“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,” the complaint reads.

The 49-page indictment says Trump kept more than 100 stolen documents in office boxes stacked in his bathroom and shower and some of them in the resort ballroom, showing photos of some tucked beside a toilet and underneath a crystal chandelier.

The case cites audio recordings of Trump waving documents about top secret U.S. military plans in front of people without security clearance on at least two separate occasions at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.

“We have one set of laws in this country that apply to everyone,” special counsel Jack Smith, the respected former Brooklyn prosecutor who brought the case, said in a cursory statement. “We very much look forward to presenting our case to a jury.”

Smith said Trump violated laws designed to protect Americans by keeping national security secrets out of the hands of adversaries. He praised federal investigators and vowed to give Trump a “speedy trial.”

Trump, about to turn 77, faces 37 felony counts for breaking seven federal laws, including violating the Espionage Act by withholding national defense information, making false statements, and hiding possession of stolen documents.

Trump’s co-defendant, his loyal White House valet Waltine Nauta, was hit with six counts alleging he conspired with the former president to obstruct justice, in part by helping him hide boxes of stolen records subpoenaed by a grand jury. Nauta’s lawyer did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Trump, whose attorney Todd Blanche declined comment, forcefully denied the allegations on Truth Social.

“I had nothing to hide, nor do I now,” Trump said.

Trump derided Smith and his probe as a partisan “witch hunt” aimed at derailing his 2024 White House comeback campaign.

“(Smith) is a Trump hater — a deranged ‘psycho’ that shouldn’t be involved in any case having to do with ‘justice,’” Trump wrote Friday on his social media site.

The indictment is chock full of details about Trump’s lengthy efforts to hang on to the classified documents, which authorities retrieved last August, including by asking his lawyer to break the law.

Trump’s lawyer, identified as Attorney 1, told prosecutors his client implored him to try to dodge a federal grand jury subpoena in May 2022 requesting the documents.

“What happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play ball with them?” Trump is quoted. “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here? Well look, isn’t it better if there are no documents?”

Trump is accused of revealing national secrets twice at his Bedminster golf resort. The first was a summer 2021 meeting where he waved a supposed plan for a potential U.S. invasion of Iran, according to a transcript of a damning audiotape CNN reported on Friday.

“See, as president, I could have declassified it,” Trump said, later adding, “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.”

According to the tape transcript, the former president boasted the document was highly classified.

“It’s, like, confidential. This is secret information. Look, look at this,” Trump adds, according to the transcript. “This was done by the military and given to me.”

In a later meeting with an unnamed representative from his political action committee, Trump displayed “a classified map related to a military operation,” acknowledging he “should not be showing it to the representative and that the representative should not get too close,” prosecutors said.

Among the agencies Trump illegally stored documents from were the CIA, the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Energy, and the Department of State and Bureau of Intelligence and Research, according to the charges.

Trump is set to appear in Miami federal court on Tuesday. The case will initially be overseen by U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee who delayed the probe with several controversial rulings in his favor, later overturned by Florida appeals courts.

The charges carry up to 100 years in prison, though it’s highly unlikely Trump would receive such a stiff sentence.