Secret documents in the bathroom, gossip about military attack plans: With its indictment of Donald Trump in the document affair, the US judiciary is making serious allegations against the former US President. Now the 49-page indictment against the Republican presidential candidate has been published.
A total of seven categories of offenses are listed, with Trump being charged with more than 35 criminal offenses. He is accused of, among other things, conspiracy to obstruct investigations and unlawful retention of highly sensitive information, including details of US and foreign nuclear capabilities and US military contingency plans.
The background is the affair surrounding Trump's handling of secret government documents after he left the White House. The federal police FBI had searched his private home Mar-a-Lago in Florida in August and confiscated various classified documents, some with the highest classification level.
State secrets in the shower, bath and ballroom
After the change of power, Trump had no authority to possess or keep secret government documents, according to the indictment. His Mar-a-Lago property was not an approved place to store the records. Trump kept boxes of classified information in his bedroom, a bathroom, a shower, a ballroom and a storage room, among other things.
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 private house but a club with rooms for paying guests and many events such as weddings.
Papers on nuclear weapons and plans of attack
Among other things, Trump is accused of intentionally storing national defense information. This point falls under the US espionage law and alone can be punished with up to ten years in prison. According to the indictment, documents found on Trump's premises dealt, among other things, with the defense capabilities of the USA and other countries, including nuclear weapons, and with military weaknesses in the defense of the USA and its partners.
Potential military options from unnamed states were also discussed. Other documents discussed foreign support for terrorist attacks on the United States and "the timing and details of the attack in a foreign country."
"Look at that"
The investigators also detail in the indictment how Trump spoke to other people about the information, some of which was top secret, or showed it to third parties. A sound recording documents a meeting between Trump and a writer for an interview. Trump said he had found a "highly confidential" document detailing 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 it." None of those present were authorized to read the top-secret paper.
obstruction of the investigation
According to the indictment, Trump actively tried to obstruct the investigation against him. To this end, he conspired with his personal assistant, Walt Nauta, against whom charges were also brought. Among other things, Trump instructed the employee to take boxes elsewhere. He is said to have suggested to a lawyer to hide or destroy documents.
Trump is said to have talked to his lawyers about the secret documents in May 2022 - i.e. before the FBI searched his property. 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 used independent special counsel Jack Smith to outsource the politically sensitive investigation into Trump. Smith promised a speedy trial in Washington Friday and urged the public to read the full indictment to understand the scope and seriousness of the crimes.
Trump denounces "election interference at the highest level"
It is the first time a federal indictment has been filed against a former US President. Trump had already been charged at the state level in New York in April in connection with hush money payments to a porn star. But other cases are being investigated against Trump. So far, however, the allegations in connection with the documents weigh the heaviest from a legal point of view.
The unprecedented indictment comes in the midst of the already fraught 2024 presidential election campaign and will once again test US democracy. In polls, Trump is far ahead in the field of Republican presidential candidates. He sees the charges against him as "election interference at the highest level" and "waging war" with legal means. US President Joe Biden, against whom Trump wants to run again in 2024, rejected this again: He has no contact with the Attorney General on the matter.