Former US President Donald Trump is facing a new legal struggle, this time from the government he formerly headed, with charges for illegally storing sensitive papers and other offenses set to be brought in federal court in Miami next week.
The indictment of a former president on federal charges is unique in American history, made even more remarkable by the fact that Trump is also the Republican Party’s front-runner for the Republican presidential election next year.
According to a source familiar with the situation, Trump faces seven felony counts connected to his handling of classified government data that he took with him when he left the White House in January 2021.
Nearly a year ago, investigators seized approximately 13,000 documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. One hundred were classified, despite the fact that one of Trump’s lawyers earlier stated that all records with secret markings had been returned to the government.
Trump has previously said he declassified those documents while president, but his attorneys have declined to make that argument in court filings.
“I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on Thursday, after he announced that he had been indicted.
According to Trump’s lawyer, Jim Trusty, the allegations include conspiracy, false statements, obstruction of justice, and illegally retaining sensitive documents in violation of the Espionage Act. He stated that he expects to get the charging paper by Tuesday, when Trump is scheduled to appear in court.
Trump is the first president, current or past, to face criminal accusations.
It is Trump’s second criminal prosecution. He is presently the leading Republican candidate for the presidency in 2024. He is scheduled to stand trial in New York in March in a state case involving a hush-money payment to a porn star.
Trump’s legal woes have not dented his popularity with Republican voters, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. His main rivals have so far lined up behind him to criticize the case as politically motivated.
Trump served as president from 2017 to 2021, and he has shown an uncanny ability to weather controversies that might torpedo other politicians. He describes himself as the victim of a witch hunt and accuses the Justice Department of partisan bias.
Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is heading the investigation, is also leading a second criminal probe into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.
He has been given a degree of independence from Justice Department leadership to pursue politically sensitive cases.
Trump also faces a separate criminal probe in Georgia related to efforts to overturn his loss to Biden in that state.
Smith convened grand juries in both Washington and Miami to hear evidence, but has opted to bring the case in the politically competitive state of Florida, rather than the U.S. capital, where any jury would likely be heavily Democratic.
Legal experts say that could head off a drawn-out legal challenge from Trump’s team over the proper venue.
Trump is not the only top government official to draw scrutiny for retaining classified documents.
Attorneys for Biden and for Trump’s then-vice president, Mike Pence, have said the Justice Department is also looking into their handling of sensitive papers they retained after leaving office.
Biden’s documents dated back to his tenure in the U.S. Senate and as vice president. The Justice Department last week closed its investigation into Pence without filing any charges.