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Donald Trump kept secret nuclear files, indictment says

June 9, 2023

The US Justice Department accused Trump of putting the country's national security at risk by keeping secret documents at his estate in Mar-a-Lago.

Donald Trump raising his fist at a press conference
Trump has denied the charges made against himImage: Evan Vucci/AP Photo/picture alliance

The indictment against former US President Donald Trump was made public on Friday, revealing 37 felony charges over his handling of secret documents taken during his time in office.

Among the stash of documents found at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home were highly sensitive files on US nuclear capabilities, as well as those of other countries.

The various documents came from Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies.

Donald Trump indictment unsealed

"The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States," the Justice Department said.

The top charges carry a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.

The former president is set to make his first court appearance on Tuesday in Miami, a day before his 77th birthday.

What does the indictment reveal?

The 49-page indictment accuses Trump of wilfully ignoring demands from the Justice Department to return the documents he had taken.

"I don't want anybody looking through my boxes," the indictment quoted Trump as saying after he received a subpoena in May 2022 over the classified documents in Mar-o-Lago. "Wouldn't it be better if we just told them we don't have anything here?" the indictment added.

The Justice Department also charged Trump with mishandling sensitive information, giving two examples of when the former president showed secret documents to unauthorized individuals.

In one case, Trump — after leaving the White House — allegedly showed someone on his political committee a map detailing a military operation in a foreign country, according to the indictment.

In a second example put forward by the Justice Department, Trump allegedly showed a military "plan of attack" to a writer, a publisher and two of his staffers — none of whom had security clearance to view the information.

The prosecutors claimed Trump knew that the information was secret and that he "should not be showing it to the representative and that the representative should not get too close."

More Trump indictments could cost him votes: Michaela Küfner

Alongside Trump, one of his former aides, Walt Nauta, was also charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and scheming to conceal, among others. He was allegedly seen on a surveillance camera moving boxes believed to contain classified documents.

Where did Trump keep the classified documents?

According to the indictment, Trump kept some of the classified documents in the bathroom and shower of Mar-a-Lago, among various other rooms of the Florida estate, including a ballroom, storeroom, office and bedroom.

Prosecutors noted that "tens of thousands of members and guests" visited the "active social club" of the estate between January 2021, when Trump's presidency expired, and when the FBI search was conducted in August 2022.

Who will be trying the former president?

US District Judge Aileen Cannon has been initially assigned to the case, a source familiar with the matter said.

Cannon could also preside over the trial, which would make her determine the date of the trial as well as Trump's sentence if he were found guilty, among other things.

Appointed by Trump in 2019, Cannon made headlines last year after deciding in his favor at a critical stage of the case. The decision was overturned on appeal.

What have been the reactions to the indictment?

Reactions to the former president's indictment have been pouring since the announcement was made. 

US President Joe Biden, who won against Trump in the 2020 race and might face him again in the 2024 vote, denied having spoken to US Attorney General Merrick Garland after the indictment. He added that he had no intention of speaking to the attorney general about it.

Jack Smith, special counsel in the case, stressed that US laws which protect national defense information are "critical to the safety and security of the United States and must be enforced," pointing to the risk their violation poses to the country.

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy warned in comments to Fox News that the charges would "disrupt this nation because it goes to the core of equal justice for all, which is not being seen today. And we're not going to stand for it."

rmt, ab/jcg (AP, Reuters)