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Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.Former President Donald Trump wrote on his social media site Thursday that he had been indicted for a second time, this time for taking classified documents with him to Florida when he left office in January 2021. The New York Times confirmed the indictment, reporting that he had been “charged with a total of seven counts, including willfully retaining national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, making false statements and an obstruction of justice conspiracy, according to people familiar with the matter.” Trump is the first former president in US history to be charged with federal crimes.
“I have been summoned to appear at the Federal Courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, at 3 PM,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States, who received far more votes than any sitting President in the History of our Country, and is currently leading, by far, all Candidates, both Democrat and Republican, in Polls of the 2024 Presidential Election. I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!”
Trump left the White House in 2021 with hundreds of documents that the National Archives and Records Administration considers federal records that do not belong to the former president. The charges against him, which the DOJ has not yet detailed to the public, would likely have resulted from his efforts to keep much of the material, some of it classified, despite repeated demands that he return it, including a May 2022 Justice Department subpoena. Trump lawyers claimed that he had complied with that subpoena, but a dramatic FBI search last year at Mar-a-Lago showed their claims were false. Trump was ultimately found to have taken to his club more than 300 documents with classified markings.
The charges, apparently related to illegal retention of documents, may strike many people relatively minor compared to some of conduct for which Trump has been investigated. Special counsel Robert Mueller found in 2019 that Trump’s campaign had hoped benefit from Russian hacking efforts designed to damage his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The House impeached Trump in 2020 over his effort to delay US military support from Ukraine in a bid to pressure that country to launch investigations Trump hoped would embarrass Joe Biden. Trump’s efforts to retain power after his 2020 election defeat—including his incitement of the January 6 attack on Congress, which led to his second impeachment—seems like a bigger deal than the documents case.
But lawyers and former prosecutors have argued that regardless of how bad Trump’s conduct in the documents matter may seem, the case is simpler than other matters for which Trump has been investigated. In other words, Trump appears to have clearly broken the law. Served with a federal subpoena after refusing to turn over records that belonged to the US government, he allegedly took steps to hide the material, some of it highly classified, from prosecutors.
On Wednesday, Trump posted on social media: “No one has told me I’m being indicted, and I shouldn’t be because I’ve done NOTHING wrong, but I have assumed for years that I am a Target of the WEAPONIZED DOJ & FBI.” Trump’s lawyers reportedly met with special counsel Jack Smith and other DOJ officials on June 5 in Washington to argue Trump should not face charges.
The federal charges follow Trump’s April indictment by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg for falsifying business records related to hush money payments that he allegedly made in 2016 to cover up an affair with adult film star Stormy Daniels. (Trump denies any such affair occurred.)
Trump could also face charges in Fulton County, Georgia, which includes Atlanta, for his efforts to subvert his election defeat in that state. And Smith, using a grand jury in Washington, DC, continues to investigate Trump’s efforts to retain power, including his actions related to the January 6 attack.
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith last year to take over the DOJ probes into the Mar-a-Lago case and Trump’s effort to retain power. Garland said the move aimed to help ensure the independence of the investigations, given Trump’s 2024 candidacy. Garland retains power to block prosecutorial decisions by Smith, but only if the attorney general deems them “so inappropriate or unwarranted under established departmental practices that [they] should not be pursued.”
This is a breaking news post and will be updated.