Federal grand jury indicts former US President Donald Trump in classified documents inquiry

Sunday, June 11, 2023

Records in a bathroom in the Lake Room at Mar-a-Lago.
Image: US Department of Justice.

A federal grand jury in Miami, Florida indicted former US President Donald Trump on 37 counts on Thursday, including willfully retaining national defense secrets, conspiracy to obstruct justice, concealing a document in a federal investigation, and false statements and representations, the first federal indictment of a former US president.

Trump lawyer Jim Trusty said Trump planned to attend a Tuesday court hearing after a summons.

Trump and staffers, the indictment said, shipped hundreds of classified papers from the White House to Mar-a-Lago, where he lived, in Palm Beach, Florida in January 2021 as his presidency ended. From May 2021, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) sought these documents. Trump employees handed over to it 197 documents with markings ranging from "CONFIDENTIAL" to "TOP SECRET" in January 2022, prompting NARA to ask the US Department of Justice (DoJ) the next month for an inquiry.

Allegedly classified documents the FBI found when searching Mar-a-Lago.
Image: US Department of Justice.

The indictment said staffer Walt Nauta, Trump's co-defendant in the case, in December 2021 found documents, one marked "SECRET//REL TO USA, FVEY" — indicating it should only be shared with US and other Five Eyes alliance members — spilled on the floor of a storage closet in Mar-a-Lago.

The indictment said Trump also stored documents at his Bedminster, New Jersey club, and included a partial transcript of a conversation in which Trump told an interviewer, a publisher, and two aides he was sharing secret information with them he had not declassified before leaving office, something he previously claimed of all documents at Mar-a-Lago.

The indictment accused a Trump attorney of making false statements to the FBI and DoJ last June she and her colleague were providing them all classified documents, as Trump allegedly directed Nauta to move document out of the room the second attorney searched for documents to comply with a May 2022 subpoena from the grand jury. The FBI, acting on security camera film purporting to depict Nauta moving the documents and with a warrant, searched Mar-a-Lago in August, claiming to seize 102 documents marked classified.

Special Counsel Jack Smith filed the charges in the Southern District of Florida District Court; US Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith to investigate the January 6 US Capitol attack and Trump's handling of classified documents.