Donald Trump indictment: Seven charges over classified documents case

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Donald Trump in New HampshireImage source, The Washington Post
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The charges include conspiracy, false statements and illegally retaining classified documents, says Mr Trump's attorney

Former US President Donald Trump has been charged over his handling of classified documents after he left the White House.

Mr Trump, 76, faces seven counts, including mishandling classified documents and obstructing efforts to investigate the storage of the files at his Florida home, his lawyer said.

Both are federal crimes which can carry a prison sentence on conviction.

Mr Trump is campaigning to make a return to the White House in 2024.

Legal experts say the indictment does not prevent him running for the presidency again.

It is the second time Mr Trump has been charged with a crime, but now he is facing a federal case. These typically carry harsher sentences.

He is the first former president ever to be criminally prosecuted by the government he once headed.

In a post on Truth Social on Thursday, Mr Trump said he had been summoned to appear on Tuesday afternoon at a federal court in Miami, Florida, where the charges against him will be read.

"I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former president of the United States," Mr Trump wrote.

He added: "This is indeed a dark day for the United States of America. We are a country in serious and rapid decline, but together we will Make America Great Again!"

The charges have not yet been made public, but the details were laid out by his lawyer Jim Trusty. He told CNN they include conspiracy, false statements, obstruction of justice, and illegally retaining classified documents under the Espionage Act.

Mr Trump was at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Thursday when news of the indictment broke.

On Friday, the US Secret Service will meet Mr Trump's staff and security officers to plan his journey to the Miami court next week.

Prosecutors had also presented evidence in court in Washington DC, but a decision to file the indictment in southern Florida instead may offer some consolation for the Trump team.

Legal experts say the state - where the former Republican president is popular - is likely to produce a less Democratic-leaning jury pool than if the case had been prosecuted in the US capital.

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Watch: How much do you know about classified documents?

The investigation into Mr Trump's handling of classified documents has been overseen by special prosecutor Jack Smith, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November.

Mr Smith, a former war crimes investigator, is also overseeing a separate probe into Mr Trump's role in the storming of the US Capitol.

In the documents case, prosecutors have said that Mr Trump took about 300 classified files to his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, after leaving the White House.

About 100 of those - some labelled top secret - were seized when the FBI searched the Palm Beach mansion last August.

Reports surfaced last week that prosecutors had obtained an audio recording of Mr Trump acknowledging he kept a classified document after leaving the White House in January 2021. Transcripts of that tape circulated in US media on Friday.

It is against US law for federal officials - including a president - to remove or keep classified documents at an unauthorised location.

Legal experts say Mr Trump will still be able to enter the White House race.

"He can be indicted any number of times and it won't stop his ability to stand for office," says David Super, a professor at Georgetown University Law Centre.

Opinion polls show Mr Trump is currently the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. He could continue running even if convicted in the documents case.

As Mr Trump issued a fundraising email with the subject line "BREAKING: INDICTED" on Thursday, several leading Republicans voiced their support for him.

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, said it was "unconscionable for a president to indict the leading candidate opposing him".

"House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponisation of power accountable," he wrote on Twitter.

Image source, Getty Images
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An itemised list of property seized in the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago

Mr Trump's rival for the 2024 nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, said: "We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation.

"The DeSantis administration will bring accountability to the DOJ, excise political bias and end weaponisation once and for all."

Mr Trump became the first former president to be charged with a crime in April, after he pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records over a hush-money payment to a porn star.

He faces a trial in that case in New York next year.

Adding to his legal jeopardy, a prosecutor in Georgia is expected to announce this summer whether Mr Trump will be charged over alleged efforts to overturn the outcome of the 2020 presidential election in that state.

Additional reporting by Madeline Halpert