As US federal prosecutors unsealed a 37-count indictment against Donald Trump, more details have emerged about the charges against the former president. Trump has been accused of risking some of the country's most guarded secrets, including information on defence capabilities and nuclear programmes, by storing classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after he left the White House in 2021.
Trump left the documents in cardboard boxes, unsecured at the residence where he hosted tens of thousands of guests. "The unauthorised disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive collection methods," the indictment said.
This is the first time a former US president has faced federal charges. Trump, who is running for president again in 2024, has denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors have also alleged that Trump tried to obstruct FBI enquiry by telling investigators he did not have them, and instructing his staff to 'hide or destroy them'. Some of the classified documents were stored in the ballroom, in a bathroom, shower and Trump's bedroom. Charges have also been filed against Walt Nauta, Trump's personal aide who is accused of moving files to hide them from the FBI.
According to reports, Trump showed the classified documents to unauthorised people, including a writer and two members of his staff. Trump acknowledged during that meetings that the "document was highly confidential and secret information," the indictment said. He also said that he could have declassified the document if he was still president.
What did the boxes contain
A document marked TOP SECRET/////ORCON/NOFORN that the indictment says concerned "nuclear capabilities of a foreign country."ORCON means that the material in the document cannot be disseminated outside the US government department that originated it without prior approval, Reuters reported.
Another document, the indictment says, concerned 'nuclear weaponry' of the United States.
A document marked TOP SECRET//SI//NOFORN//FISA that the indictment says concerned "military capabilities of a foreign country and the United States, with handwritten annotations.
Six top-secret documents marked TK, standing for Talent Keyhole, a classification for materials related to US spy satellites, Reuters reported. The indictment says these documents concerned the military capabilities of foreign countries.
What next for Trump
Trump is facing 37 criminal counts of unauthorised possession of classified material, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to law enforcement. This including 31 counts of "willful retention of national defense information". The US Secret Service on Friday met the former president's staff and the Secret Service officers assigned to him. He is expected to appear in court in Miami on Tuesday for the first hearing in the case. These developments, however, do not prevent Trump from pursuing a second term in the White House while facing charges.
Besides audio recordings, prosecutors have also relied on text messages between Trump employees, photos of boxes of documents stored in various rooms throughout Mar-a-Lago and details about conversations between Trump and his lawyers. The case has been assigned to Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, who issued rulings favourable to him last year, US media reported. This has upset critics who feel Cannon will handle the case in a biased manner.