Donald Trump charged in Florida over secret documents case

(Bloomberg) – Donald Trump has been charged over his refusal to return classified documents found at his home in Florida, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Bloomberg’s Most Read

The indictment in federal court in Miami is extraordinary because a former president has never been charged with committing any federal crimes.

It will almost certainly upend the race to be the Republican presidential nominee in the 2024 election and means Trump could face jail time or a ban from holding public office depending on the charges if found guilty. guilty.

The indictment was filed under seal and contains seven counts, including willful withholding of national defense information, concealment of documents by corruption, conspiracy to obstruct justice and false statements, according to a person familiar with the matter who requested anonymity to discuss confidential information. The document could be made public on Friday.

A conviction for concealing or willfully destroying government documents carries a penalty of disqualification, but legal experts disagree on whether this applies to the presidency. Violating the Espionage Act by withholding national defense information could result in up to 10 years in prison, and obstructing justice could result in up to 20 years behind bars, although Trump is unlikely to face maximum penalties.

Trump maintained his innocence in a Thursday night post on his Truth Social platform and said he was summoned to the federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday.

“I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States,” he wrote.

The Trump campaign called the indictment an “act of open legal ‘war’.”

The White House declined to comment, as did the Justice Department.

Trump’s indictment is piling up on legal and political pressure, as he was also indicted in an unrelated New York case. It also comes for a week when three other potential rivals – his own former Vice President Mike Pence, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum – announced they were running against him for the GOP nomination in 2024.

Trump appears to be the frontrunner for the nomination with a base of support that has been unwavering thanks to his indictment by New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg over silent payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, as well as his indictment by New York District Attorney Alvin Bragg. a civil decision in New York that found him liable for sexual assaults against author E. Jean Carroll.

Read more: What Trump’s many legal perils mean for his 2024 candidacy: QuickTake

But with candidates like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and South Carolina Senator Tim Scott offering alternative platforms in an increasingly crowded field, Trump risks losing support from moderate Republicans, independents and suburban voters. .

Trump also faces a civil lawsuit from New York Attorney General Letitia James over valuations of his company’s assets and ongoing investigations by the Justice Department and the Atlanta-area attorney into his efforts. to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden.

Trump claimed that all cases against him were political witch hunts designed to prevent him from being re-elected to a second term in the White House.

The investigation into classified Justice Department documents has focused on a long effort to get Trump to return government records taken from the White House when he left office in 2021 and stored at his Mar- a-Lago. Last August, the FBI obtained a warrant and conducted the unprecedented search of the home of an ex-president amid fears Trump had not returned all top-secret documents to the National Archives, where they belong, even after received a federal subpoena requiring him to do so. .

Prosecutors also subpoenaed a range of people who worked at Trump’s Florida residence to testify and provide evidence to grand juries in Washington and Florida in connection with the investigation.

The National Archives, which holds presidential and other US government records, also found that Pence and Biden took documents when they left office, but both men invited authorities to their homes and offices for them. retrieve. Pence’s legal case on the documents was closed without charges; Biden, who is led by another special counsel, is still on hold.

Trump said he issued a “standing order” to declassify all documents and at one point claimed he could declassify documents just by thinking about it. However, there is no known documentation to support its declassification request.

Read more: Trump’s hideout at Mar-a-Lago included highly classified documents

Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November to lead the investigation into the classified documents and a separate ongoing investigation into efforts by Trump and others to undo Biden’s 2020 victories in the field states. battle.

Trump faces serious crimes that carry significant prison sentences, according to former federal prosecutor Barbara McQuade.

“Trump is presumed innocent, like all of the defendants, but these are important charges because they endanger the security of the nation,” she said.

–With help from John Harney and Joe Schneider.

Bloomberg Businessweek’s Most Read

©2023 Bloomberg LP

Leave a Comment