Former President Donald Trump indicted for illegal possession of classified documents

2023-06-09 00:55:52

This is the first time in US history that a former president has faced federal indictment. RUSSELL CHEYNE / REUTERS

The former American president is accused of having kept boxes of documents, some of which are classified as “secret-defense”, after his departure from Washington in 2021 and of having refused to return them, in violation of federal laws.

Former US President Donald Trump was charged Thursday, June 8 by the federal justice of his country for having illegally kept confidential documents in his private residence since his departure from the White House. Trump himself announced in the evening on his Truth Social network his new indictment. He said he was due in federal court in Miami next Tuesday at 3 p.m. An act with seven counts has been filed with the judge, but their details are not yet known.

This is the first time in the history of the United States that a former president has been indicted by federal justice. The case of classified documents is also the most perilous for Trump, because the easiest to prove. The former president is accused of illegally taking hundreds of classified documents from his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, after he left the White House in 2021, and likely obstructing the Justice to get them back.

The investigation had begun in the spring of 2022, after lengthy efforts by the National Archives throughout the previous year to get Trump to turn over the documents he had taken with him illegally, since the presidential archives are owned by the government. Trump had handed over 15 boxes of documents in January 2022. These boxes contained highly sensitive documents bearing classified markings, which had led to an investigation by the Department of Justice.

FBI raid

The investigation had culminated over the summer with a search by FBI agents of Trump’s private club in Palm Beach, during which 103 new confidential documents were discovered stored in a room. This discovery was all the more devastating since Trump’s advisers had claimed a few weeks earlier to have handed over all the documents they could find.

Since then, investigators have accumulated evidence that the former president deliberately obstructed attempts by US authorities to recover the top-secret documents he continued to hold. Testimony and video recordings have been collected by the FBI, which could support a charge of obstruction of justice. A video could even show that boxes of documents were moved the day before the FBI’s raid on Mar-a-Lago.

“Act of legal warfare”

The investigation has been entrusted since November 2022 to a special prosecutor, Jack Smith, to allow the Ministry of Justice not to carry out the investigations directly against a former president, and especially against a candidate for the next presidential election. But Trump has already accused his accusers of politicizing justice, and trying to harm him. “The act of open legal warfare perpetrated today by the highly partisan Ministry of Injustice has reached a new level and set a dangerous precedent”wrote the Trump campaign. “President Trump broke no law…He will fight this unconstitutional abuse of power until he wins his case.”

Trump claims he is the innocent victim of a cabal, and that he had full latitude as president anyway to declassify the documents as he pleased. Some of the files found in his possession are known, such as letters from North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Other top-secret documents, potentially more damaging to US security, could also be found in the files kept by Trump.

Already convicted of civil rape

An additional twist had further complicated the matter politically when classified documents had also been discovered in the old offices, then in the garage of Joe Biden, dating from the time when he was vice-president of Obama. Democrats argued, not without argument, that Biden promptly returned the documents. But Republicans have not failed to denounce the difference in treatment of the two cases, even if a special prosecutor has also been appointed to investigate Biden.

Two months ago, Trump had already been indicted in a civil court in New York for a fraud case related to the payment of money to a porn star, Stormy Daniels. He was also sentenced, still in civil proceedings and in Manhattan, for having defamed a journalist, Jean Carroll, who accused him of having raped her.

A federal investigation is much more serious, and potentially more serious, even if the absence of precedents makes it difficult to know what it could lead to, and when. Prosecutor Jack Smith is also investigating Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election result, and the Jan. 6, 2021 mob storming of the Capitol, another politically charged case.

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