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United States

Donald Trump 'took secret US nuclear program documents' and faces 37 felony counts, indictment shows

The indictment accuses Trump of storing classified documents in various locations at his Mar-a-Lago estate, including “a ballroom and a bathroom”.

DONALD TRUMP TOOK secret documents dealing with US nuclear and weapons programs from the White House after leaving office, potentially putting national security at risk, according to the newly unsealed indictment of the former president.

The documents show the former president has been indicted on 37 felony counts related to retaining classified information, obstructing justice and false statements.

It marks the Justice Department’s first official confirmation of a criminal case against Trump arising from the retention of hundreds of documents at his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago.

Also charged was Walt Nauta, a Trump aide who was seen on surveillance camera removing boxes at Mar-a-Lago.

The indictment accuses Trump of having improperly removed scores of boxes from the White House to take them to Mar-a-Lago, many of them containing classified information.

“The classified documents Trump stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United
States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to foreign attack,” the indictment reads.

“The unauthorized 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 intelligence collection methods.”

this-image-contained-in-the-indictment-against-former-president-donald-trump-shows-boxes-of-records-stored-in-a-bathroom-and-shower-in-the-lake-room-at-trumps-mar-a-lago-estate-in-palm-beach-fla This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, shows boxes of records stored in a bathroom and shower in the Lake Room at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The indictment outlined two circumstances in which Trump allegedly showed the documents to others.

One occurred in a meeting with a writer at his Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he described federal officials’ “plan of attack” against him and purportedly acknowledged that he knew the information “is still a secret”.

In a later meeting with a representative from his political action committee, Trump displayed “a classified map related to a military operation”, acknowledging he “should not be showing it to the representative and that the representative should not get too close”, prosecutors said.

In the next paragraph, prosecutors note how Trump, at a press conference while president in 2017, addressed media leaks and said that leaking classified information is “an illegal process” and people involved “should be ashamed of themselves”.

It further states that Trump stored boxes containing classified documents in various locations at Mar-a-Lago, including “in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom and a storage room”.

The case carries grave legal consequences, including the possibility of prison if Trump is convicted.

But it also has enormous political implications, potentially upending a Republican presidential primary that Trump had been dominating and testing the willingness of party voters and leaders to stick with a now twice-indicted candidate who could face still more charges.

And it sets the stage for a sensational trial centred on claims that a man once entrusted to safeguard the nation’s most closely guarded secrets wilfully and illegally hoarded sensitive national security information after leaving office.

this-image-contained-in-the-indictment-against-former-president-donald-trump-shows-boxes-of-records-that-had-been-stored-in-the-lake-room-at-trumps-mar-a-lago-estate-in-palm-beach-fla-after-they This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, shows boxes of records that had been stored in the Lake Room at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The indictment arises from a 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 former president has insisted he was entitled to keep the classified documents when he left the White House and has claimed without evidence that he had declassified them.

According to the Presidential Records Act, White House documents are considered property of the US government and must be preserved.

The investigation also aims to determine whether the former president took steps to obstruct the government’s efforts to recover the records.

Prosecutors have said the former president took roughly 300 classified documents to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House, including around 100 which were seized by the FBI in August during a search of the home that underscored the gravity of the Justice Department’s investigation.

In September 2022, a US court allowed the Justice Department to resume its use of classified records seized from former president Donald Trump’s Florida estate as part of its ongoing criminal investigation.

Court appearance

Trump is to appear in court in Miami on Tuesday for an initial hearing in the case, the first ever in which a former US president faces federal criminal charges.

Trump announced on his Truth Social platform yesterday that he had been indicted by the “corrupt Biden Administration” in what he called the “Boxes Hoax.”

this-image-contained-in-the-indictment-against-former-president-donald-trump-shows-boxes-of-records-being-stored-on-the-stage-in-the-white-and-gold-ballroom-at-trumps-mar-a-lago-estate-in-palm-beac This image, contained in the indictment against former President Donald Trump, shows boxes of records being stored on the stage in the White and Gold Ballroom at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

In a defiant video, Trump repeatedly declared his innocence and framed the indictment as election interference by a Justice Department “weaponised” by the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden.

“They come after me because now we’re leading in the polls again by a lot against Biden,” Trump said in the clip.

He has already been indicted in New York on 34 counts of falsifying business records and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that could lead to criminal charges.

His first indictment spurred millions of dollars in contributions from angry supporters and did not damage Trump in the polls as the 2024 presidential race ramps up.

Trump’s legal troubles extend beyond the New York indictment and classified documents case.

The special counsel has a separate probe underway focused on efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election while the district attorney in Georgia’s Fulton County is investigating Trump over alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election in that state.

Meanwhile, Trump’s lawyers have asked a judge in New York to reduce the five million dollars awarded to writer E Jean Carroll in a civil suit to less than one million dollars.

The payment was awarded by a jury in May for sexual abuse and defamation after E Jean Carroll had claimed the former president raped her in a department store in 1996.

Additional reporting from © AFP 2023

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