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Former President Donald Trump indicted in classified documents probe

Trump has been charged with seven counts, including mishandling of classified documents.
Trump says he’s been indicted in classified documents probe
Posted at 5:58 PM, Jun 08, 2023

Former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a federal grand jury in relation to classified documents stored at his Mar-a-Lago residence.

Trump first announced in posts on his Truth Social media platform Thursday night he was indicted in connection with improperly handling classified documents. The Department of Justice said it seized over 100 classified documents from Mar-a-Lago last year.

The former president said he was due in federal court in Miami on Tuesday, June 13.

Trump faces charges of conspiracy to obstruct, making false statements, and willful retention of documents, citing sources familiar with the matter.

Trump's team had been informed of seven counts in total, shortly before Trump made his announcement on social media.

The Department of Justice did not immediately comment or confirm the indictment. The White House declined to comment on the developments, referring questions to the Department of Justice.

A federal indictment would make Trump the first sitting or former president to face federal charges.

Trump has not denied having the documents in his possession and has claimed that he declassified the documents before he left office.

"Number one, it was all declassified," Trump wrote last year. "Number two, they didn’t need to 'seize' anything. They could have had it anytime they wanted without playing politics and breaking into Mar-a-Lago. It was in secured storage, with an additional lock put on as per their request. They could have had it anytime they wanted—and that includes LONG ago."

According to a search warrant made public by a federal judge, 28 boxes of evidence were taken from Trump's residence, including multiple top-secret documents. 

There were three potential criminal statutes listed in the original search warrant. In order to obtain a search warrant, officials would have to prove they have probable cause and that they would find evidence of a crime.

The statutes listed were:

18 USC 2071 — Concealment, removal or mutilation generally

18 USC 793 — Gathering, transmitting or losing defense information

18 USC 1519 — Destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy

Federal grand juries are composed of 16-23 citizens. Their deliberations are considered secret. 

In order for a grand jury to return an indictment, at least 12 jurors have to believe it is probable that someone committed a crime. Unlike a conviction, jurors can issue an indictment even if they have reasonable doubt. 

An indictment would add to Trump's ongoing legal entanglements. Trump was indicted in New York in March, in connection with payments he made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016. That indictment made him the first sitting or former president to be indicted for a crime.

He was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Trump issued a not-guilty plea in a Manhattan courtroom in April. The case likely won’t go to trial for a number of months.

Trump also faces investigation in Georgia, in connection with alleged attempts to interfere with the state's 2020 presidential election results.

Regarding the latest charges, Trump’s campaign released a statement, saying in part, “President Trump will fight this unconstitutional abuse of power until he is ultimately vindicated. He will never stop fighting for the American people, and he will continue to work to restore the greatness of the United States of America.” 

Legal experts discuss the indictment

On Tuesday, Trump is expected to make his first court appearance in the case, with considerably higher stakes than the civil cases in which he has been involved in recent months.  Experts told Scripps News a federal indictment would represent a new level of legal jeopardy.

"This is a criminal case, with a potential very heavy criminal penalty if he's found guilty," said Laura McNeal, a lecturer and professor at Columbia University, in an interview with Scripps News. "And the fact that you have such an intense investigation by Jack Smith and the Department of Justice to bring an indictment against a former president of the United States — you'd better believe that they have evidence they believe to support every element of that indictment, of those charges."

But even with the unprecedented criminal trial of a president, some experts expect the case will advance promptly.

"I don't think it really needs more than several months," said Michael Zeldin, a former U.S. Department of Justice official. "The right judge will want to make this case go to trial as quickly as is conceivable, without prejudicing the defendant's rights."

A judge has not yet been decided for the case, but legal experts told Scripps News there is little risk of political influence on whoever hears the case.

"A judge is kind of the king of their little castle. It's not political. There is this constraint, let's say, that a criminal defendant has to deal with. A judge has quite a lot over a criminal defendant," said attorney Dina Doll.

"This is a federal court. It's very possible in south Florida, [Trump] may have a judge that he appointed and may be friendly to him," Doll said. "But in general, once you're in the justice system, there are constraints on a criminal defendant that I think constrain even somebody as powerful as a president."

This is a developing story. Stay with Scripps News for additional updates.

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