All eyes woke up this Friday on the Wilkie D. Ferguson federal courthouse, a glass building in downtown Miami, where next Tuesday they have summoned Donald Trump to testify. He is charged, according to his lawyers, with seven federal crimes for the handling of classified documents that he allegedly took without permission when he left the White House in 2021 at his Mar-a-Lago mansion.
The content of these charges is still secret, despite the calls of some prominent voices of the Republican Party, with its former Vice President Mike Pence at the head, who consider that transparency is the only possible tool to dispel suspicions that this, his second indictment in three months and the first for federal crimes to a former president, hide a political persecution. After all, the indictment comes from special counsel Jack Smith, appointed by the Department of Justice, who is part of Joe Biden's administration. And at this point, everything indicates that Biden and Trump will face each other again in the 2024 presidential elections.
These are the crimes Trump is accused of and the jail sentences they have.
Aileen Cannon, the judge (appointed by the former president) who has initially been assigned to oversee a case that will be examined by a grand jury of 12 citizens, has not yet made a decision whether or not to make public the most wanted legal document in the United States. Meanwhile, on Friday, the transcript of a 2021 recording came to light in which the tycoon admitted that he had "secret" military information in his private residence. Also, that he had not declassified it while he was president. "[Then] I could have done it, but now I can't," he said during a meeting, the contents of which CNN revealed.
In the conversation, Trump, who has always defended that the boxes he took from the White House contained declassified papers, talks about a Pentagon document with a plan to attack Iran. The transcript implies that the former president is showing his interlocutor or interlocutors that file. "Secret. This is secret information. Look, look at this," Trump says. "The military wrote it and gave it to me."
The context of the talk concerns the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Mark Milley. Shortly before the meeting, The New Yorker magazine had published a story that in the final days of Trump's presidency, Milley warned aides to be vigilant in case Trump issued illegal orders. And that if he did, that they should report it immediately.
The transcript continues: "Well, [speaking of] Milley. Leave me a second. I'll show you an example. He said [I] wanted to attack Iran. Isn't that amazing? I have a stack of papers. (...) They presented me with this [the military commanders], this is off the record, but, this is what they presented to me. He. This was from the Department of Defense and from him. We studied some [documents]. It was him. I didn't do it, he [Milley] did it." Then Trump adds, "[Here's] all sorts of things. Many pages, look. Wait a minute, let's see here. I just found this, isn't it amazing? This proves me absolutely right. With the caveat that it is highly confidential. Secret. Secret information. Look, look at this."
Another novelty in the case was the indictment, known at the end of the morning, of Walt Nauta, who worked as a military driver in the White House, before following the boss to Mar-a-Lago. Nauta had long been in the crosshairs of special counsel Jack Smith, after he was seen in a security recording moving boxes at the residence of the former president after he received a request in May 2022 to return all sensitive documents in his possession.
A wonderful man
To the announcement, Trump reacted on his social network Truth with one of his characteristic messages, which said: "I just learned that the 'thugs' of the Department of Injustice will accuse a wonderful man, Walt Nauta, a member of the United States Navy, who proudly served with me in the White House, retired and went on to civilian life as a personal assistant of mine. He's done a fantastic job!"
The former president took advantage of that forum to share news about his defense strategy, which he is in charge of in this process (he has others more pending; a list that includes from the illegal use of campaign funds to his role in the assault on the Capitol or his attempts to alter the result of the 2020 elections that declared Joe Biden the winner) the lawyer "Todd Blanche, and a law firm that, he said, will "be unveiled later." The message also thanked the previous legal team for their services.
Until Nauta's indictment broke, the morning after the bombing of seeing for the first time in history a president accused of federal crimes, she was entertained by the news of the appointment, still provisional, of Judge Cannon, an old acquaintance of the investigation. Elected to the position during the Trump administration, she will be in charge of directing the case and deciding what penalty applies to Trump in the event that the members of the grand jury find him guilty. Cannon came under fire in September when he acceded to a request from Trump's lawyers, who asked, as part of a ruse to delay the process, for a special expert to review the documents. That meant preventing FBI agents from doing so. The order was overturned by an appeals court.
The former president is preparing the defense at his golf club in Bedminster (New Jersey), and it is expected that in the next few hours, perhaps days, he will head towards his residence at Mar-A-Lago, located about 110 kilometers from the court. There, as usual, a few of his staunchest supporters will await him.
This Friday, the cascade of reactions also continued. Some of his most conspicuous party colleagues, as well as rivals in the crowded Republican race for the 2024 election, a race that Trump comfortably dominates, came out to defend or attack him.
Today is indeed a dark day for the United States of America.
It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him. Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades.
I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump...
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) June 9, 2023
Among the first, Kevin McCarthy, speaker of the House of Representatives and third authority of the country, who tweeted: "Today is undoubtedly a dark day for the United States of America. It is inconceivable that a president would prosecute the leading candidate who opposes him. Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades. I, and all Americans who believe in the rule of law, stand with President Trump in the face of this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this blatant political instrumentalization of justice accountable."
Among the latter, Asha Hutchinson, former Republican governor of Arkansas and opponent of the former president in the race for the White House, argued in a statement: "While Donald Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence, the ongoing criminal process will be a major distraction. Which reaffirms the need for him to abandon his presidential aspirations."
There is no indication that it will do so. The law does not prohibit it, even if he ends up behind bars. In addition, after the accusation was known, he launched another of his successful collection campaigns. The last time he went through a procedure like the one that awaits him next Tuesday in Miami served to stand out in the polls among Republican voters as the favorite candidate for the designation of his party, with differences of two percentage digits over his most direct competitor, Ron DeSantis, governor of Florida.
It was last April in New York. Then he was charged with 34 counts of falsehood derived from three payments to hide two scandals (above all, for an extramarital affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels) in the 2016 campaign. A New York judge has set March 25, 2014 for the start of that trial. Something similar is expected to happen this time, and the process will drag on for months, perhaps more than a year.
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