The ex-president faces up to 20 years in prison on the most serious counts in an indictment over his handling of state secrets
Former US President Donald Trump has been hit with a 37-count criminal indictment alleging that he purposely retained classified documents after leaving office, conspired to prevent them from being returned to federal authorities and showed state secrets to other people.
The charges were unsealed on Friday, detailing the government's allegations against the former commander-in-chief. CNN and other US media outlets first reported on the indictment on Thursday, saying Trump faced seven charges. He's scheduled to be arraigned in Miami on Tuesday.
The historic federal indictment - the first against a former US president - deepens America's political divide at a time when Trump is polling as the top candidate for the Republican Party's 2024 presidential nomination. Republicans have accused President Joe Biden of weaponizing the legal system to take out his top political rival heading into next year's election. Ironically, it came to light in January that Biden had improperly retained classified documents at multiple locations, including the garage at his home in Delaware, for years.
"Today is indeed a dark day for the United States of America," said US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, the top-ranking Republican in Congress. "It is unconscionable for a president to indict the leading candidate opposing him. Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades. I and every other American who believes in the rule of law stand with President Trump against this grave injustice."
Most of the charges against Trump concern his retention of state defense secrets, some of which he allegedly showed to other people on at least two occasions. He also stands accused of conspiring to obstruct justice and conceal classified records. His valet, Walt Nauta, also was indicted in the case, for allegedly conspiring with his boss to hide the records from investigators.
Trump has claimed that he did nothing wrong and that unlike Biden, whose classified documents were from his years serving as vice president, he had the power to declassify the records in his possession. "I'm an innocent man," Trump said on Thursday. "I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former president of the United States."
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Trump made history in April as the first former US president to be indicted on state criminal charges. A 34-count case against him in New York City accuses him of falsifying his business records. He faces two other pending criminal investigations - one concerning his alleged efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia, the other focusing on his alleged role in the January 2021 US Capitol riot.
Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by the US Department of Justice to investigate Trump's handling of classified records and his alleged instigation of the Capitol riot, said he will seek a speedy trial in the documents case. "We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone," Smith said on Friday. "Applying those laws, collecting facts, that's what determines the outcome of the investigation."