WASHINGTON - The historic federal indictment against Donald Trump was unsealed Friday afternoon as the embattled former president faces yet another legal challenge, this time for his alleged mishandling of classified government documents found at his Florida estate and his later attempts to obstruct investigations by a grand jury and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
It’s the first time in U.S. history that a former president has faced criminal charges from the government. He faces the possibility of prison if convicted on the 37 felony charges outlined in the indictment.
The 49-page document details Trump’s efforts to conceal the fact that he removed more than 300 documents from the White House without authorization after his presidency ended and moved them to his Mar-a-Lago home.
According to a timeline, in January 2022 — nearly one year after leaving office and following months of requests from the National Archives and Records Administration — Trump turned over 15 boxes containing 197 documents. Then in June, in response to a grand jury subpoena, he provided the FBI with 38 more classified documents.
But the slow drip of documents wasn't enough. The indictment says that "while claiming that he was cooperating fully," the federal government believed Trump had more items that he wasn't turning over, prompting the FBI's August raid on the Florida estate where they seized 102 additional classified documents.
The bold escalation sparked swift backlash from Trump and his supporters.
"After working and cooperating with the relevant Government agencies, this unannounced raid on my home was not necessary or appropriate," Trump said in a statement following the operation.
But the Department of Justice claims otherwise, stating that Trump conspired with his lawyers and staff to deliberately obstruct the federal probes into his possession of the documents and hide them. Officials say Trump suggested that his lawyers lie to the FBI and grand jury about the documents or destroy them.
Following the grand jury subpoena, Trump allegedly told one of his attorneys "I don't want anybody looking through my boxes," and was also quoted by his lawyer saying, "wouldn't it be better if we just told them we didn't have anything here?" and "isn't it better if there are no documents?"
They say he also directed his personal aide, Waltine ‘Walt’ Nauta — now named as a co-defendant in the case — to move boxes of documents to conceal them from Trump's lawyers, the FBI and the grand jury. Between May 23, 2022 and June 2, 2022, Nauta moved "approximately 64 boxes" from a storage room at Mar-a-Lago to the former president’s home "at Trump’s direction," according to the indictment, and was seen on surveillance video in some instances.
"The purpose of the conspiracy was for TRUMP to keep classified documents he has taken with him from the White House and to hide and conceal them from a federal grand jury," the indictment read.
The DOJ outlined the several types of sensitive documents that Trump had at the estate, many of which were marked Top Secret, Secret and confidential. They were stored in multiple places at the Florida home, which doubles as a private club, including the estate's ballroom, business center and even a bathroom and shower.
The document notes that as of January 2021, Mar-a-Lago "had hundreds of members and was staffed by more than 150 full-time, part-time and temporary employees" and more than 150 events were hosted there between January 2021 and August 2022.
The indictment also states that in May 2021, some of the boxes were taken to Trump's summer home at The Bedminster Club in New Jersey.
The DOJ says while there in July 2021, Trump showed a classified Department of Defense "plan of attack" against an unnamed country to a writer, a publisher and two members of his staff — none of whom had security clearance — while giving an interview. He told them the plan was "highly confidential" and "secret."
Officials say Trump once again showed classified documents to an individual without security clearance in either August or September 2021. They say the former president let a representative of his political action committee look at a classified map related to an ongoing military operation in another unnamed country. He reportedly told the PAC representative that he shouldn't be showing him the document and told him "not to get too close."
In the next paragraph, the prosecutors highlight a statement Trump made during a 2017 press conference addressing media leaks of classified information where he said that it's "an illegal process." He added that "the press should be ashamed of themselves. But more importantly, the people that gave out the information to the press should be ashamed of themselves. Really ashamed."
Prosecutors also noted that pictures of the boxes of documents, some of which had spilled out and were fully visible, were exchanged by members of Trump's staff. In one instance, Nauta shared two pictures that showed a document marked "SECRET//REL TO USA, FVEY," meaning that was only releasable to the Five Eyes intelligence alliance consisting of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the U.K. and the U.S.
Trump and Nauta are expected to appear in a federal courtroom in Miami at 3 p.m. Tuesday, according to a spokesperson for special counsel Jack Smith.
Trump-appointed Judge Aileen Cannon has been assigned to the case. Cannon previously presided over the dispute about appointing a special master to review what was taken executing the Mar-a-Lago search warrant.
Smith said he plans to request a speedy trial for both the country's sake and the defendants.
Two of Trump's attorneys, Jim Trusty and John Rowley, resigned just hours after he was indicted. Trump has directed Todd Blanche to take the reins. Blanche is also representing the president in the New York criminal case.
SEE THE FULL INDICTMENT BELOW