Donald Trump’s indictment for mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate has drawn attention to one of the most notable cases in Justice Department history.
The federal charges pose Trump’s greatest legal danger yet, less than three months after he was charged in New York with 34 counts of falsifying business records.
Here’s an overview of the charges, the special counsel’s investigation, and how Trump’s case differs from those of other politicians known to be in possession of classified documents:
WHAT ARE THE FEES?
Trump has been charged with seven counts related to the mishandling of classified documents, according to two people familiar with the indictment but not authorized to speak about it publicly. The charges themselves are unclear and remain under seal, one person said.
Trump announced Thursday night on his Truth Social social media site that DOJ attorneys have notified his legal team that he has been charged. He said he was due in court in Miami on Tuesday afternoon.
It was not immediately clear if anyone else would be charged in the case.
HOW DID THIS CASE ARISE?
National Archives and Records Administration officials contacted Trump officials in the spring of 2021 when they realized important documents from his tenure were missing from their collection.
According to the Presidential Records Act, White House records are considered the property of the US government and must be retained.
A Trump representative told the National Archives in December 2021 that presidential records were found at Mar-a-Lago. In January 2022, the National Archives recovered 15 boxes of documents from Trump’s home in Florida, later telling Justice Department officials that they contained “a lot” of classified documents.
In May, the FBI and the Justice Department issued a subpoena for the remaining classified documents in Trump’s possession. Investigators who went to visit the property weeks later to retrieve the records received about three dozen documents and an affidavit from Trump’s lawyers attesting that the requested information had been returned.
But this claim turned out to be false. Armed with a search warrant, federal officials returned to Mar-a-Lago in August 2022 and seized more than 33 boxes and containers totaling 11,000 documents from a storage room and office, including 100 classified documents.
A total of about 300 documents with classification marks — some at the top secret level — have been recovered from Trump since he left office in January 2021.
HOW DID A SPECIAL ADVISOR GET INVOLVED?
Last year, US Attorney General Merrick Garland selected Jack Smith, a veteran war crimes prosecutor with experience investigating public corruption, to lead investigations into the presence of classified documents in Trump’s estate in Florida, as well as key aspects of a separate investigation involving the January 6, 2021, insurgency and efforts to void the 2020 election.
Smith’s nomination was an acknowledgment by Garland of the politics involved in an investigation of a former president and current White House candidate. Garland himself was selected by Democratic President Joe Biden, whom Trump is seeking to challenge for the White House in 2024.
Special advocates are appointed in cases where the Department of Justice perceives itself to have a conflict or when it is deemed in the public interest to bring in someone outside of government and take responsibility for a case.
According to the Code of Federal Regulations, a special advocate must have “a reputation for integrity and impartiality in decision-making,” as well as an “informed understanding of criminal law and Department of Justice policies.”
WHAT IS AN INCHARGE?
An indictment is the formal charge brought against someone after a grand jury – which is made up of members of the community – votes and enough members agree that there is enough evidence to charge someone. of a crime.
The indictment against Trump remains sealed. But once the document is made public, it will expose the crime or crimes Trump is accused of committing. Sometimes indictments include a long narrative with lots of detail about the allegations, while others are more basic and simply outline the charges an accused faces.
DID BIDEN AND FORMER VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE ALSO CLASSIFY DOCUMENTS?
Yes, but the circumstances of their cases are very different from the situation involving Trump.
After classified documents were found in Biden’s think tank and Pence’s home in Indiana, their attorneys notified authorities and quickly arranged for their release. They also authorized further searches by federal authorities to search for additional records.
There is no indication that either knew of the existence of the documents before they were discovered, and no evidence has so far emerged that Biden or Pence sought to cover up the discoveries. . This is important because the Department of Justice historically seeks the will to decide whether to pursue criminal charges.
A special counsel was appointed earlier this year to investigate how the classified documents ended up at Biden’s home and former office in Delaware. But even if the Justice Department were to conclude that Biden’s case could be prosecuted based on the evidence, its Office of Legal Counsel concluded that a president is immune from prosecution while in office.
As for Pence, the Justice Department informed its legal team earlier this month that it would not pursue criminal charges against him for his manipulation of the documents.
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.