Former US President Donald Trump has been indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents, the second time he has been charged criminally this year.
Though the Justice Department did not immediately publicly confirm the indictment, Donald Trump's attorney Jim Trusty said on Thursday night that Trump has been charged with seven counts. "It does have some language in it that suggests what the seven charges would be. Not 100% clear that all of those are separate charges, but they basically break out from an Espionage Act charge," he told CNN.
This would be the first time a former President is facing federal criminal charges. Trump is also making a run for the White House in 2024 and is the Republican Party’s frontrunner for the nomination.
The former President, however, began to fundraise off the news. He issued an email appeal to donors under the heading "BREAKING: INDICTED."
He also took to Truth Social to declare his innocence. "I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States," Trump said in a statement. "I am an innocent man. 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!," he added.
Trump had been summoned to appear at a federal court in Miami on Tuesday afternoon. Trusty added that they were expecting a copy of the indictment ''sometime between now and Tuesday afternoon. "If they want to continue to play games, they'll give it to us at 3:01 pm, Tuesday. ''
The indictment comes from the months-long investigation by special counsel Jack Smith into whether Trump broke the law by holding onto hundreds of documents marked classified at his Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago. The probe also covered whether Trump took steps to obstruct the government's efforts to recover the records.
As many as 11,000 documents were found at Mar-a-Lago residence by the FBI in the search conducted last August after Trump left the White House. The FO had seized over 100 documents marked as classified, some labelled top secret.
Trump's lawyers had previously claimed that all records with classified markings had been returned to the government and defended keeping the documents, suggesting he declassified them while President. However, Trump has not provided evidence and his attorneys have declined to make that argument in court filings.
It is illegal for federal officials, including the president, to remove or keep classified documents at an unauthorised location.
Legal experts, including Trump's former attorney general, had anticipated an indictment in the classified documents case and court records unsealed last year showed federal investigators believed they had probable cause that multiple crimes had been committed.
This includes retention of national defence information, destruction of government records and obstruction of an investigation.
Though the indictment could pose a legal challenge for Trump, it won't stop him from running for the top post. "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. He added that Trump could continue to run for office even if convicted in the case.