Trump faces US criminal charges for mishandling documents, obstruction, source says

By Reuters   June 8, 2023 | 06:36 pm PT
Trump faces US criminal charges for mishandling documents, obstruction, source says
Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump attends a campaign event in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., April 27, 2023. Photo by Reuters/Brian Snyder
Former U.S. President Donald Trump has been indicted by a federal grand jury for retaining classified government documents and obstruction of justice, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The criminal case, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice, amounts to another legal setback for Trump as he seeks to regain the U.S. presidency next year. He already faces a criminal case in New York that is due to go to trial in March.

Trump said on social media that he had been summoned to appear at the federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday. "I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!" he wrote on his Truth Social platform.

Trump's attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment. It is illegal for the government to comment publicly on any sealed grand jury matter.

A spokesperson for Special Counsel Jack Smith, the Justice Department official who is handling the investigation, declined to comment.

Trump faces seven criminal counts in the federal case, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The indictment remains under seal, and even Trump himself has not yet seen what it says. His legal team was notified about the seven charges as part of a summons ordering Trump to appear in court on Tuesday in Miami, the source said.

Reuters could not immediately learn what specific charges Trump is facing. In a sworn statement to a federal court last year, an FBI agent said there was probable cause to believe several crimes were committed, including obstruction and the illegal retention of sensitive defense records.

The Justice Department has been investigating whether Trump mishandled classified documents he retained after leaving the White House in 2021.

Investigators seized roughly 13,000 documents from Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, nearly a year ago. One hundred were marked as classified, even though one of Trump's lawyers had previously said all records with classified markings had been returned to the government.

Trump has previously defended his retention of documents, suggesting he declassified them while president. However, Trump has not provided evidence of this and his attorneys have declined to make that argument in court filings.

It marks the second time that Trump, the first former president in U.S. history to face criminal charges has been indicted.

In April, he pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records relating to hush money paid to a porn star before the 2016 election.

President from 2017 to 2021, Trump is the front-runner in the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Through the years Trump has shown an uncanny ability to weather controversies that might torpedo other politicians. He describes himself as the victim of a politically motivated witch hunt and accuses the Justice Department of partisan bias.

Trump's lead has grown over his rivals in the Republican nominating contest since he was indicted in the New York case, Reuters/Ipsos polling shows.

A second investigation

Special Counsel Smith, appointed last year by Attorney General Merrick Garland, is also leading a second criminal investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Although Garland is a Biden appointee, special counsels appointed to investigate politically sensitive cases do their jobs with a degree of independence from Justice Department leadership.

In the current case, the Justice Department examined whether Trump unlawfully removed classified documents when he left office in January 2021. Part of the investigation has also looked into whether Trump or others sought to obstruct the government's investigation.

The classified documents investigation was first referred to prosecutors in 2022 after the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration tried for more than a year to retrieve presidential records from Trump.

Trump handed over 15 boxes of records in January 2022, a year after leaving office, but federal officials came to believe he had not returned all the government documents he had taken.

The Justice Department issued Trump a grand jury subpoena in May 2022 asking him to return any other records bearing classified markings, and top officials traveled to Mar-a-Lago to retrieve the materials.

Trump's attorneys turned over 38 pages marked as classified to FBI and Justice Department officials and showed them a storage room at Mar-a-Lago, but they did not permit the agents to open any of the boxes.

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