Donald Trump has been indicted on criminal counts relating to his handling of classified documents and is set to appear in court Tuesday, the former president said in a video released Thursday night.
Update 2 p.m. EDT June 9: The indicting document concerning charges stemming from Trump’s treatment of sensitive government materials he took with him when he left the White House in January 2021 has been released by the Department of Justice.
Trump faces 37 criminal counts including charges of unauthorized retention of classified documents and conspiracy to obstruct justice, according to federal court documents made public on Friday.
As of Friday morning, the U.S. Department of Justice and special counsel Jack Smith’s office have yet to acknowledge that Trump was indicted or charged with any crime, however, Trump attorney Jim Trusty told CNN on Thursday that “some of the language” in a summons Trump’s legal team received last week “suggests what the seven charges” he is facing look like.
“They basically break out from an Espionage Act charge … several obstruction-based-type charges and false statement charges,” Trusty said.
The indictment includes at least seven federal charges, including willfully retaining national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, making false statements and an obstruction of justice conspiracy, according to The New York Times.
Trusty confirmed Trump faces a charge of willful retention of certain documents and said that “there was a conspiracy charge as well.”
According to Trusty, the charges fall under the main charge — the willful retention of defense information which is a violation of the Espionage Act.
The Espionage Act of 1917 prohibits obtaining information, recording pictures, or copying descriptions of any information relating to the national defense with intent or reason to believe that the information may be used for the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.
What are the charges?
In addition to willful retention of defense information, the charges, according to Trusty, include:
- Obstruction of justice.
- Destruction or falsification of records.
- False statements.
It is unclear if the Justice Department will ask a judge to unseal the indictment before Trump heads to court on Tuesday.
An indictment is a document that sets out details of charges against a person. It ensures that the person being accused of a crime has notice of any criminal charges against them.
What must the government prove?
The government must prove that the information Trump kept in his possession when he left the White House was a matter of national defense. They must also prove that Trump knowingly and intentionally violated the law, according to David Super, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center.
“Willful retention is not accidental, negligent, or reckless,” according to the Journal of National Security Law and Policy.
The audio tape
An audio tape that CNN is reported to have obtained a transcript of records Trump acknowledging that he kept a classified document detailing U.S. invasion plans for Iran. The audio shows Trump telling someone he is with that he cannot share the document because it was classified.
Super told the BBC that that recording could be evidence that Trump understood exactly how declassification works, “and that the document … was still classified”.
The obstruction of justice charge would pertain to how Trump responded to requests from federal agencies for the return of material he took with him when he left the White House. Trump’s aides provided the government with boxes containing 222 classified documents, but when the FBI executed a search warrant of his Mar-a-Lago home in August, agents discovered material that was supposed to have been returned, an additional 103 classified documents, including 18 marked “Top Secret.”
According to Trusty, the counts also included a conspiracy charge, but he said he did not have any information on that charge.
Could he go to jail?
The penalties that Trump faces depend on the exact charges in an indictment.
An obstruction of justice charge includes fines and a recommended prison sentence of “not more than 20 years.” Espionage Act violations result in fines and prison for up to 10 years, according to the act.