Former President Donald Trump said Thursday that he has been indicted on charges connected to his handling of classified national security records, writing on social media that he has been summoned to federal court on Tuesday in Miami.
Prosecutors are charging the former president with seven criminal counts, according to a person familiar with the indictment granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
The precise charges that federal prosecutors have obtained against Trump were not immediately clear. But one of Trump’s attorneys indicated that a summons issued by prosecutors listed a provision of the Espionage Act and a federal statute criminalizing the obstruction of an official proceeding.
The Justice Department notified Trump’s lawyers on Thursday that a grand jury had returned the indictment. Todd Blanche, an attorney whom Trump has tasked with helming his defense, called the former president to inform him of the news. Trump has been staying recently at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The documents investigation has been overseen by special counsel Jack Smith and appeared to be nearing the charging phase in recent days. Smith’s team recently sent Trump a target letter and Trump’s lawyers met with senior Justice Department officials in Washington in what now appears to have been an unsuccessful bid to head off criminal charges against the former president.
A Justice Department spokesperson referred questions about the indictment to Smith’s spokesperson, who declined to comment Thursday evening. The White House also declined to comment.
Trump immediately began fundraising off the news, issuing an email appeal to donors under the heading “BREAKING: INDICTED,” even as he railed against the charges and rebuked the Justice Department.
“I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States,” Trump said in a statement. “I am an innocent man.”
Jim Trusty, a member of Trump’s legal team, said in a CNN interview that, while he had not seen the actual indictment, the summons Trump received listed several laws Trump is likely to face charges under. They include the Espionage Act, which prohibits the retention of classified materials, obstruction of an official proceeding — a charge frequently lodged against those who disrupted Congress on Jan. 6, 2021 — and falsifying or destroying records pertinent to a federal investigation. Trusty also said there were false statements charges listed on the summons, as well as a conspiracy count.
Since Smith has been using grand juries in Florida and Washington, D.C. in recent days, it’s unclear whether the indictment Trump disclosed Thursday is the only set of charges he will face from the special prosecutor in connection with the classified documents probe.
Still, it’s a moment as fraught as it is historic: the first-ever federal charges against a former president, who also happens to be the Republican Party’s frontrunner for the 2024 nomination. The charges ignite what is sure to be a protracted and intense period of pretrial litigation that will overlap with the GOP nominating contest and galvanize Republican voters who have so far been unfazed by Trump’s legal entanglements.
Trump, who is already facing state felony charges in Manhattan related to alleged hush money payments to a porn star, has now been tagged with his second set of criminal charges, with more potentially looming. An Atlanta-based district attorney is gearing up to make a charging decision in a long-running probe of Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election as soon as next month. And Smith is similarly investigating Trump for his effort to derail the transfer of power to Joe Biden.
Trump has spent months railing against Smith and other investigators, seeking to cast their probes as a politically motivated conspiracy against him — and he spent the days preceding the latest indictment attacking the Justice Department by making false comparisons to Biden’s own handling of classified information.
The documents probe has its origins in a dispute between Trump and the National Archives, which began shortly after Trump left office in January 2021. Archives officials, who realized Trump had retained some presidential papers, began asking him to return the records because they were property of the federal government.
But Trump resisted, triggering a lengthy round of negotiation that stretched to January 2022, when he agreed to return 15 boxes of material to the Archives. That’s when Archives officials discovered several documents that were marked classified and alerted the Justice Department.
By April 2022, DOJ issued a subpoena to Trump’s office for all remaining classified documents at his Mar-a-LAgo estate. They also subpoenaed for surveillance footage from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, which his company, the Trump Organization, monitored remotely. In early June 2022, top DOJ officials visited Mar-a-Lago to meet with Trump’s lawyers Evan Corcoran and Christina Bobb, who handed over another sealed folder containing classified records. Accompanying the folder was a signed letter assuring DOJ that the folder represented all of the remaining classified material at Trump’s property.
But that turned out to be false. In August, based on evidence that Trump had not fully turned over additional classified documents, the FBI raided Trump’s estate and recovered additional boxes containing highly classified material mixed with Trump’s personal items and other non-classified presidential records.
The raid galvanized public attention to the documents probe and drew Trump’s fury in a way it hadn’t before. Two weeks later, he sued to reclaim his property, igniting a legal fight that would briefly delay the Justice Department’s investigation. That fight stretched into November, when Trump announced his latest bid for the White House.
That announcement also triggered Attorney General Merrick Garland’s decision to appoint Smith as special counsel to oversee both the documents investigation and the probe of Trump’s 2020 election gambit. Garland indicated that Smith, who returned to the United States from a stint as a war crimes prosecutor at the Hague, would maintain the rapid pace of the investigations, which had been ongoing for months by the time he arrived.
Although the election probe drew higher-profile witnesses, like former Vice President Mike Pence and other senior figures in Trump’s White House, the documents probe always seemed poised to wrap first, and Smith brought in a steady stream of witnesses — employees of Trump’s estates, advisers and even Corcoran, Trump’s lawyer.
To secure Corcoran’s testimony, Smith fought a secret grand jury battle that was ultimately decided in his favor by U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, who ruled that attorney-client privilege did not apply to Corcoran’s testimony and documents because they likely included evidence of a crime.
Even before he received news of the indictment on Thursday, Trump sought to mobilize his allies and prepared attacks on the Justice Department.
He spoke earlier in the day with, among other people, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) about GOP investigations and oversight, according to a person familiar with the calls who was not authorized to speak about them publicly. After the indictment came down, Trump made more calls to allies both on and off the Hill to discuss the developments. His political team was with him at his golf club in New Jersey.
Jessica Piper contributed to this report.
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