DemDaily: 37 Counts
June 12, 2023
Former President Donald Trump on Friday was indicted on 37 felony counts, 31 of which relate to violation of the Espionage Act through “willful retention” of classified records, and six counts of obstruction of justice and false statements.
The federal indictment is the culmination of an 18-month long probe that began in February 2022, when the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate possiible violations by Trump of the Presidential Records Act related to classified information.
|The Act requires all records created by a sitting president to be turned over to the National Archives at the end of his or her administration. Since NARA first contacted Trump’s team over missing documents in May 2021, to the present, federal authorities have recovered more than 325 classified documents from Trump's Florida Estate.
As a part of his brief statement, Independent Special Counsel Jack Smith, appointed in November 2022 by US Attorney General Merrick Garland to take over the criminal investigation, said, “We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone...I invite everyone to read it in full to understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged.”
Smith and DOJ prosecutors allege that Trump conspired to move the highly sensative materials from Washington to his private residence at Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House in January 2021; and that he obstructed justice and the investigation by illegally concealing and covering up the national security documents by lying to law enforcement officials and the grand jury.
Most of the documents, which the former president haphazardly hid in different corners of his estate, concerned the “defense and weapons capabilities” of the United States and foreign countries. The information was shared with staff, on at least two documented occasions to visitors, and were accessible to club employees.
As noted in the charges, "The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety or the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods."
Legal experts say the volume and specificity of the charges listed in the indictment are unusually meticulous in their evidence, detailing the depth of Trump's deception and disregard for the security of the country's intelligence secrets and those that protect them.
Trump's longtime aide, Walt Nauta, has also been charged with six felonies related to his part in the alleged cover-up.
Among the most damning evidence were transcriptions of Trump's text messages and a recording of his acknowledging in a 2021 meeting that he was in possession of “secret” military information that was not declassified.
There is also the testimony of a former Trump attorney regarding Trump's resistance to a grand jury subpoena for the remaining documents. "What happens if we just don't respond at all or don't play ball with them?" asked Trump, and "Wouldn't it be better if we just told them we don't have anything here?"
The former president will be arraigned this Tuesday in federal court in Miami before US District Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee who last September controversially granted Trump’s request for a special master to review seized materials from Mar-a-Lago.
A federal appeals court overturned her decision, heavily rebuking Cannon and writing that she tried to “interfere” with the criminal probe and had created a biased “special exception” in the law to help Trump.
Unless she chooses to recuse herself, Cannon will determine how quickly the case goes to trial, oversee the selection of jurors and determine what evidence can be presented to the jury.
The maximum penalty for each count of unlawful retention of national defense information is 10 years in prison. Conspiracy to obstruct justice, tampering with grand jury evidence, and concealing evidence in a federal investigation all carry punishments of up to 20 years. Each false statement charge is punishable by up to five years in prison.
|The twice-impeached Trump is the first United States president in history to be charged with a crime. This marks Trump's second indictment, but assuredly not his last.
DemList will keep you informed.
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Sources: CNN, NBC, Washington Post, LATimes, KCRA, ABC