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Former President Donald Trump is facing charges of mishandling hundreds of classified documents, including sensitive information about US nuclear secrets and military plans. The indictment, consisting of 37 counts, accuses him of storing these files at his Florida estate, including in unconventional places like a ballroom and a shower, while also misleading investigators. Furthermore, it alleges that he attempted to obstruct the investigation into the mishandling of these documents. Despite these allegations, Mr. Trump, who is currently running for president again in 2024, denies any wrongdoing. However, legal experts assert that if convicted, he could face significant prison time.

Alongside Mr. Trump, charges have been filed against Walt Nauta, a personal aide who worked closely with him. Nauta, a former White House military valet, is accused of relocating files in an attempt to hide them from the FBI. This indictment is historic, as it marks the first time federal charges have been brought against a former US president. The classified documents found within Mr. Trump’s possession contained information regarding various subjects:

  • United States nuclear programs
  • Defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign nations
  • Potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attacks
  • Plans for potential retaliatory actions in response to foreign aggression

Prosecutors claim that when Mr. Trump left office, he took approximately 300 classified files with him to Mar-a-Lago, his oceanfront home in Palm Beach, which also serves as a private members’ club. Notably, Mar-a-Lago hosted numerous events for tens of thousands of members and guests, including the ballroom where some of the documents were discovered.

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Prosecutors further allege that Mr. Trump attempted to impede the FBI’s investigation into the missing documents. According to the indictment, he suggested to his lawyer that they “hide or destroy” the files or falsely claim that they did not possess them. “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?” Mr. Trump supposedly remarked to one of his attorneys.

Mr. Trump’s initial court appearance for this case is scheduled for Tuesday, in Miami, Florida, coinciding with the eve of his 77th birthday. The indictment emphasizes that Mar-a-Lago was not an authorized location for the storage or discussion of classified documents. It reveals that some of these files were allegedly kept on stage in the ballroom, where events and gatherings took place. Later on, they were found in unconventional places such as a bathroom, shower, office space, and even Mr. Trump’s bedroom.

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Additionally, the indictment claims that on two occasions in 2021, Mr. Trump showed classified documents to individuals lacking the required security clearance. This includes a writer and two staff members. Furthermore, at his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey, another unauthorized location, he reportedly exhibited and described a “plan of attack” which he claimed had been provided to him by the Department of Defense. “As president, I could have declassified it. Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret,” Mr. Trump is alleged to have said, as per an audio recording. Prosecutors state that he exhibited classified documents once again in August or September 2021 at the Bedminster club, showing a classified map to a representative of his political action committee who lacked security clearance. He cautioned the person not to share it and to keep their distance.

Special Counsel Jack Smith, responsible for overseeing the investigation, emphasized the importance of upholding laws safeguarding national defense information. In a brief statement, he affirmed that “We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone.” In response, Mr. Trump took to social media, branding Mr. Smith a “deranged lunatic” and claiming that he harbored animosity towards him. He posted on his Truth Social platform, insinuating that classified files were also discovered in President Joe Biden’s former office and Delaware home, including the garage. The White House has previously stated its immediate cooperation with officials upon the discovery of those files, contrasting with Mr. Trump’s alleged efforts to obstruct investigators.

Furthermore, there is an ongoing federal investigation into Mr. Biden’s handling of classified documents, led by Special Counsel Robert Hur. Prior to the public announcement of the criminal charges against Mr. Trump, two of his lawyers abruptly resigned from the case without providing extensive explanation, describing it as a “logical moment” to do so. It is worth noting that this is the second criminal case for Mr. Trump, as he is also set to stand trial in New York next year in a state case related to a hush-money payment to a porn star.

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