Donald Trump is charged with a total of more than 35 crimes. © Sue Ogrocki/AP/dpa
Trump took hundreds of secret documents with him from the White House. Later, he is said to have shown them to guests. The indictment is explosive. Could put the presidential candidate in jail?
Washington - Secret documents in the bathroom, chats about military attack plans: The U.S. judiciary raises serious allegations against the former U.S. president with its indictment of Donald Trump in the document affair. Now the 49-page indictment against the Republican presidential candidate has been published.
A total of seven categories of offenses are listed, Trump is charged with a total of more than 35 offenses. Among other things, he is accused of conspiracy to obstruct the investigation and the unlawful retention of highly sensitive information, including details of nuclear capabilities of the United States and other states as well as military emergency plans of the United States.
The background is the affair of Trump's handling of secret government documents after his departure from the White House. In August, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) searched his private estate Mar-a-Lago in Florida and seized various classified documents, some of which were classified at the highest level.
State secrets in shower, bath and ballroom
After the change of power, Trump had no authority to possess or keep secret government records, according to the indictment. His Mar-a-Lago estate was not an approved place to store the documents. Boxes of classified information were stored there by Trump in his bedroom, a bathroom, a shower, a ballroom and a storage room, among other things.
Boxes of documents are in a storage room at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. © Uncredited/Justice Department/AP/dpa
Some boxes of intelligence documents were temporarily stored in a room where public events were held. A storage room for documents in more than 80 boxes was easily accessible via a public pool area in Mar-a-Lago. Trump's residence is not a cordoned-off private home, but a club with rooms for paying guests and many events such as weddings.
Papers on Nuclear Weapons and Plans of Attack
Trump is accused, among other things, of intentionally retaining national defense information. This point falls under the US Espionage Act and can be punished with up to ten years in prison alone. According to the indictment, documents found at Trump's home included defense capabilities of the United States and other states, including nuclear weapons, as well as military vulnerabilities in the defense of the United States and its partners.
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It was also about potential military options of unnamed states. Other documents dealt with foreign support for terrorist attacks on the United States and "the timing and details of the attack in a foreign country."
"Look at this"
The investigators also list in detail in the indictment how Trump spoke with other people about the sometimes top-secret information or showed it to third parties. An audio recording, for example, documents a meeting between Trump and a writer for an interview. Trump said he had found a "highly confidential" document about the US military's plan to attack a country whose name was omitted from the text. According to the transcript of the recording, Trump said a short time later: "This is classified information. Look, look at this." None of those present had a right to read the top-secret paper.
Obstruction of investigations
Trump actively tried to obstruct the investigation against him, the indictment continues. To this end, he had forged a plot with his personal assistant Walt Nauta, against whom charges were also filed. Trump had instructed the employee, among other things, to bring boxes elsewhere. He is said to have advised a lawyer to hide or destroy documents.
An excerpt from the indictment against Trump. © Jon Elswick/AP
Trump is said to have talked to his lawyers about the secret documents in May 2022 - before the FBI search of his estate. He is said to have said: "Wouldn't it be better if we just told them that we don't have anything here?" and: "Isn't it better if there are no documents?"
After Trump officially announced in November that he would run again in the 2024 election, the Justice Department appointed independent special counsel Jack Smith to outsource the politically sensitive investigation against Trump. Smith held out the prospect of a speedy trial in the case in Washington on Friday and called on the public to read the indictment in its entirety to understand the scope and seriousness of the crimes.
Trump smells "election interference at the highest level"
It is the first time that an ex-president of the United States has been indicted at the federal level. Trump had already been indicted in April in connection with hush money payments to a star at the state level in New York. However, Trump is still being investigated in other cases. So far, however, the allegations in connection with the documents weigh the most heavily from a legal point of view.
The unprecedented indictment comes amid an already charged campaign for the 2024 presidential election and once again puts US democracy to the test. In polls, Trump is far ahead in the field of Republican presidential contenders. He considers the charges against him to be "electoral interference at the highest level" and "warfare" by legal means. US President Joe Biden, against whom Trump wants to run again in 2024, again rejected this, saying he had no contact with the attorney general on the matter. Dpa