Donald Trump indictment: Key highlights of chargesheet and what makes this case unique
Former President Donald Trump faces a 37-count indictment, including willful withholding of classified documents, obstruction of justice, and fabricating statements.
Prosecutors on Friday unsealed the 49-page indictment against Former US President Donald Trump, which made stunning accusations of wilful withholding of classified documents and lying about the facts. Trump has been no stranger to legal trouble, but the latest 37-count charge from the US Justice Department represents the most serious charges he faces to date, which may lead to a conviction with up to 20 years of imprisonment. Federal prosecutors accuse Trump of willfully retaining over 300 pieces of classified documents, including dozens of top secret ones, wilfully obstructing investigations, and falsifying statements and records.
Flagrant Handling of Confidential Information
The Justice Department detailed stunning allegations against the former President. The indictment reveals that in July 2021 at Trump’s Bedminster golf course in New Jersey Trump showed a “plan of attack” that had been prepared by the Defense Department and a senior military official to a writer, a publisher and two of his staff members — none of whom had a security clearance. The brazen admission from Trump was recorded on audio, while he was aware that the conversation was being recorded. Trump stated the plan was “highly confidential” and admitted he no longer had the ability to declassify the document.
The admission also goes against Trump’s claims that he had all documents declassified when he took them with him after leaving the Oval Office.
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Classified Documents Found in Unsecured Locations
According to the indictment, Trump stored hundreds of classified documents, including information about US defense capabilities, nuclear programs, and plans for retaliation in response to a foreign attack, in various places around his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, even in a bathroom and shower. The classified documents, including dozens of top-secret papers, were shown to be strewn about in boxes and moved repeatedly from one location to the other. Several documents were also transferred to another Trump-owned golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. Prosecutors allege that Trump was personally involved in ordering the boxes to be moved around, providing several SMS receipts between Trump employees as evidence.
Trump’s Defiance Against Legal Inquiry
When a grand jury in May 2022 issued a subpoena for classified records at Mar-a-Lago, Trump sought to defy the order, telling his attorneys, “I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes.” The former president even questioned his attorneys if it would be better “if we just told them we don’t have anything here” and asked them “'what if we don't play ball (i.e. do not cooperate)?”. Such statements could be damning for the former president when facing off against the obstruction of justice charges.
One of Trump’s lawyers identified 38 documents with “classified” markings in June 2022 and discussed the folder with Trump. However, Trump hinted that the attorney should identify “anything really bad” and “pluck it out” from the collection. The attorney, adhering to the law, instead immediately contacted the FBI and another Trump attorney.
Concealment from Legal Team and FBI
In an attempt to further conceal documents, Trump directed his valet to move boxes of documents to hide them from the FBI, the grand jury, and one of his own lawyers. Despite agreeing to have his lawyers examine the storage boxes at Mar-a-Lago for classified documents, Trump directed the valet to remove 64 boxes from the storage room and bring them to his residence before the lawyer's return. It was also alleged that several of Trump's boxes were loaded onto an aircraft that flew Trump and his family north for the summer, thereby removing them from the lawyer's reach.
Two of Trump’s lawyers, James Trusty and John Rowley, quit his legal team a day after the grand jury voted to indict him. The two will not be presenting Trump in the confidential document case as well as a separate investigation into whether Trump tried to illegally overturn the results of the 2020 US Presidential elections.
Reactions To Trump’s Indictment
While many have called the indictment a slam dunk against the former president, who holds the ignominy of being the only US President to be criminally charged, Republican political leaders and die-hard Trump supporters have criticised the indictment. Many House Republicans have called the move politically motivated.
“Today is indeed a dark day for the United States of America. It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him. Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades. I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponisation of power accountable,” wrote Speaker of the House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy on Twitter.
Today is indeed a dark day for the United States of America.
It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him. Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades.
I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump_
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) June 9, 2023
Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and world’s richest man, also threw his two chips in stating that there was a bigger interest in pursuing Trump compared to other people in politics.
“There does seem to be far higher interest in pursuing Trump compared to other people in politics. Very important that the justice system rebut what appears to be differential enforcement or they will lose public trust,” Elon Musk tweeted.
There does seem to be far higher interest in pursuing Trump compared to other people in politics.
Very important that the justice system rebut what appears to be differential enforcement or they will lose public trust.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 8, 2023
Trump will be making his first appearance before court on Tuesday in Miami. It is not yet known when the trial can be expected to start though the Justice Department estimates that the trial should run for 21 days. Trump’s other criminal trial, where he was indicted earlier this year, will begin almost exactly a year after he was indicted for the crime.
'With inputs from agencies'
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