DOJ details its charges against Trump; read the full indictment here


Federal prosecutors on Friday unsealed a sweeping 49-page indictment against Donald Trump alleging the former president hung on to sensitive military secrets he knew he shouldn’t have retained access to, shared them with others anyway, and directed his staff to help him evade authorities’ efforts to get them back. 

Trump faces a total of 37 counts, including charges of willful retention of national-defense information, withholding a record, conspiracy, false statements, and obstruction. On five of the counts, Trump was charged alongside his military valet, Walt Nauta, who went to work at Mar-a-Lago resort after working in the White House. Nauta separately faces a false-statements charge.

    The classified documents Trump kept in his boxes included information about U.S. and foreign defense and weapons capabilities, U.S. nuclear programs, potential vulnerabilities of the U.S. and its allies to military attack, and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack, the indictment said. 

    The indictment highlighted two instances in which Trump allegedly shared classified information with people not allowed to receive it. In July 2021, at his golf club in New Jersey, he told a writer, a publisher, and two staff members about a secret attack plan. Weeks later, he showed an associate a classified map related to a military operation, and told the person, who was a representative of his political action committee, that he shouldn’t be showing it to the person.

    The federal case against Trump and Nauta has been initially assigned to U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by Trump in 2020 and last year approved a request from the Trump team to appoint an outside arbiter—known as a special master—to review documents the FBI seized from Mar-a-Lago in an August search. A three-judge appeals court panel later overturned her ruling and disbanded that review process, saying it represented a radical departure from past criminal cases. 

    Walt Nauta, an associate of former President Trump, earlier this year in West Palm Beach, Fla. PHOTO: JABIN BOTSFORD/THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY IMAGES

    Trump said he was naming former prosecutor Todd Blanche to lead his defense in the Mar-a-Lago case and indicated he was parting ways with two lawyers, Jim Trusty and John Rowley, who have represented him through the investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith. The Trump team is looking to further bulk up its legal representation in Florida now that it is clear that the case is being brought there, according to people familiar with the matter. 

    Blanche was hired in April to defend Trump in a separate criminal case brought by the Manhattan district attorney, but his role had expanded in recent weeks to include representing the former president in the special counsel investigation.

    While charges are generally unsealed only after a defendant makes an initial court appearance, Trump isn’t scheduled to go before the judge until Tuesday, and Justice Department officials debated whether to press for the case to be made public sooner, according to a person familiar with the matter. 

    Law-enforcement officials were preparing for the possibility of unrest in the wake of the indictment, according to people familiar with the plans. FBI employees registered a spike in threats after the August search of Mar-a-Lago, including an armed attacker at the bureau’s Cincinnati field office and a western Pennsylvania man charged with threatening to kill FBI agents.

    Trump was charged on Thursday with seven counts, including violations of the Espionage Act, which bars the misuse of classified information, as well as obstruction and false statements. It isn’t clear what charges the other person indicted would face. 

    Legal actions involving Donald Trump and when they began



    Jan. 20, 2021

    Trump’s last day in office

    Stormy Daniels payment case

    NY: Valuation of real estate assets

    E. Jean Carroll defamation

    Jan. 6 violence

    Georgia 2020 election interference

    Handling of Mar-a-Lago documents

    Post-2020 election actions and Jan. 6*

    Trump’s presidential term started Jan. 2017.







    *Special counsel probe
    Note: Data as of June 9

    Source: WSJ analysis of the proceedings

    For months, prosecutors have been building a case alleging that Trump deliberately withheld sensitive documents related to U.S. intelligence and defense plans, even after prosecutors demanded the return of all such documents last year. 

    Nauta has long been a focus of that investigation after he was seen on surveillance footage moving boxes from a storage room before and after investigators issued a May subpoena seeking the return of all government documents in Trump’s possession, The Wall Street Journal reported. Natua told investigators that he did so at Trump’s request.

    Investigators spoke with Nauta at least twice and asked him to submit to further questioning, in part to clarify what prosecutors believed to be contradictory statements. He refused further questioning, the Journal reported, out of concerns about whether prosecutors are considering charges against him.

    Trump himself—after emerging unscathed from one special counsel, two impeachment trials, and multiple criminal investigations—is facing the biggest legal threat in his life. 

    The charges—and the investigation that preceded it—point to the possibility of prison time if Trump is convicted. 

    In a separate case in Florida, an Air Force veteran was sentenced last week to three years in prison after pleading guilty to violating the same classified-information law. Law-enforcement officers had found more than 300 classified files or documents, including more than 30 items marked top secret, at Robert Birchum’s home, on a hard drive and a storage pod in his driveway.

    After FBI agents searched Mar-a-Lago last August and removed boxes of documents, including around 100 marked classified, prosecutors disclosed that they were investigating, among other issues, potential violations of the Espionage Act. After that search, prosecutors obtained additional evidence, coalescing around a recording of Trump talking with aides and notes from his lawyer as enough to merit taking the unprecedented step of filing federal charges against a former president. 

    The issues dated to Trump’s chaotic final days in office, as the West Wing started to empty out, Trump was preoccupied with contesting his election loss and staffers rushed to pack up, ultimately sending scores of boxes of documents to Mar-a-Lago. 

    Trump’s lawyers have pointed to his broad authority as president to declassify information in his defense—and to the apparent parallels in both President Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence similarly finding classified material improperly stored in their homes. 

    After the Jan. 6, 2021, riot by a mob of Trump supporters at the U.S. Capitol trying to stop the certification of President Biden’s election, the Justice Department launched one of the biggest and most sprawling investigations in its history and has charged more than 1,000 Trump supporters, including several who have been convicted of engaging in a seditious conspiracy against the U.S. But they have not to date filed cases against people beyond those who were closely involved in the violence of the attack. 

    Some former prosecutors said the Mar-a-Lago inquiry presented a more straightforward one for investigators to piece together, given that it involved classified documents where the government has broad authority, as compared to an investigation like that into Jan. 6, which brushes up against political speech and First Amendment rights. 

    “This case is just a more discrete and compartmentalized set of facts,“ said Timothy Heaphy, who was the chief investigative counsel for the House Jan. 6 panel. “It’s a simpler case, did you possess this material? The people who know about that is a more limited number,” he said. 

    While Trump already faces state criminal charges after a Manhattan grand jury earlier this year indicted him for his role in paying hush money to a porn star on the eve of the 2016 election, he is unlikely to face jail time in that case if convicted, legal experts have said. The charges he faces in New York—of falsifying business records in the first degree—are Class E felonies, the lowest level, and carry a maximum sentence of four years in jail, though first-time offenders usually receive a much lighter punishment.

    For six years, federal prosecutors have on-and-off examined a wide range of activities by Trump. In 2019, Special Counsel Robert Mueller detailed how Trump had tried to curtail an investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia—relying in part on extensive notes from his White House counsel at the time—but recommended no charges against him. 

    Later that year, prosecutors examined—but didn’t ultimately pursue an investigation into—a recording of a phone call then-President Trump made in which he alluded to making aid to Ukraine contingent on Ukrainian authorities investigating his Democratic rival. 

    Trump may have an easier time defending himself in Miami rather than in Washington, D.C., some former prosecutors said, pointing to the makeup of any potential jury in Washington, which is dominated by Democratic voters. 

    Southern Florida, meanwhile, is a mixed district, with pockets of staunch Trump supporters and immigrants from Cuba and Venezuela who sometimes have negative views about the federal government given their experiences in their native countries, lawyers who practice in the district said. 

    “The jury pool is more dynamic politically and in terms of diversity,” said Michael Sherwin, who was a prosecutor both in Miami and in Washington, and previously led the Jan. 6 inquiry as the Trump-appointed acting U.S. attorney in Washington. 

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