Former President Trump has been indicted related to his handling of classified records, he said on social media Thursday, making him the first U.S. president charged with a federal crime.
“The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax,” he said on his Truth Social platform. “I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States… I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!”
Multiple media outlets confirmed the news Thursday evening. Trump said he has been summoned to appear in federal court in Miami on Tuesday afternoon.
The unprecedented decision comes after a more than yearlong investigation into whether Trump knowingly retained top-secret and other classified government records when he left office in 2021 and disregarded a subpoena to return all classified documents in his possession, and whether he and his staff obstructed FBI efforts to ensure all documents had been returned.
Presidential and other government records in the White House’s possession must be turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration by the day a president leaves office. Archives staff quickly questioned why some materials were not received from Trump in 2021, prompting a months-long negotiation with the former president and his staff and resulting in the return of over 15 boxes of material in January 2022, including nearly 200 documents marked as classified.
The Archives notified the Justice Department about the classified materials, and officials sought a subpoena demanding that Trump return any other classified material in his possession. Trump’s legal team produced about three dozen additional documents and a letter stating that a diligent search had turned up nothing more.
The FBI had information indicating more classified records might be in the former president’s possession and secured a warrant to search Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate last August. More than 100 additional documents labeled classified and top-secret were found.
Special counsel Jack Smith was appointed in November by U.S. Atty. Gen. Merrick Garland to oversee the classified documents investigation and another probe scrutinizing Trump’s actions in his effort to remain in office after losing the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.
Reports in recent weeks fueled speculation that an indictment was imminent. According to news reports, Trump is heard acknowledging in an audio recording of a summer 2021 meeting that he retained a classified Pentagon document after leaving office. His lawyers have reportedly been unable to find that document, which related to military planning for confronting Iran.
Other reporting indicated that Trump and his aides may have obstructed efforts to retrieve security camera video, and that the special counsel’s team has been asking witnesses about potential damage from the flooding of a room where computer servers containing video surveillance logs were stored.
Garland has adhered to precedent and not overruled Smith’s charging decision.
Smith’s decision adds to the mounting legal challenges Trump faces heading into the 2024 presidential election.
In March, he was indicted in New York City on 34 felony charges related to an alleged hush-money payment made to porn actor Stormy Daniels in the final days of the 2016 campaign. It marked the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been criminally prosecuted.
In addition to Smith’s concurrent investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election, Fulton County, Ga. Dist. Atty. Fani Willis is leading a criminal probe related to Trump’s alleged efforts to convince Georgia officials to change results there.
The legal challenges are likely to complicate Trump’s campaign. The judge presiding over the New York criminal trial has ordered Trump to be present during the proceedings, which are scheduled to start in March 2024.
Last fall, the handling of classified documents became an unexpected flashpoint ahead of the 2024 presidential campaign with the news that President Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence — who joined the race on Monday — had both discovered they still possessed classified records from their time in the vice president’s office. Those instances stand apart from the Trump case because both men voluntarily turned the documents over to the Justice Department upon their discovery.
On June 1, the Justice Department informed Pence it was closing its investigation into his handling of classified documents without filling charges. Garland appointed a special counsel in January to review Biden’s handling of classified documents; that investigation is ongoing.
Source: LA Times