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(UPDATED:) Trump indictment unsealed by Federal prosecutors

(UPDATED:) Trump indictment unsealed by Federal prosecutors

U.S. Department of Justice photo

By Steve Schuster

[email protected]

Federal prosecutors unsealed the government’s case against former President Donald J. Trump Friday providing evidence of how the former President allegedly mishandled classified documents after leaving office and obstructed government attempts to reclaim said documents.

“I would like to thank the dedicated public servants of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, with whom my office is conducting this investigation and who worked tirelessly every day upholding the rule of law in our country. I’m deeply proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with them,” Special Counsel Jack Smith said.

The indictment includes 38 counts of crimes and 31 separate counts of willful retention of national defense information under the Espionage Act, according to the 49-page indictment obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal.

“The men and women of the United States intelligence community and our armed forces dedicate their lives to protecting our nation and its people. Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced. Violations of those laws put our country at risk,” Smith added.

On March 30, 2022, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) opened a criminal investigation into the unlawful retention of classified documents at The Mar-a-Lago Club. A federal grand jury investigation began the next month. The grand jury issued a subpoena requiring Trump to turn over all documents with classification markings. Trump endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations, and conceal his continued retention of classified documents, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, Trump shared a classified Pentagon “plan of attack” and map detailing a top-secret military operation.

Also according to the indictment, Trump failed to inform the Secret Service that he was storing boxes containing class classified documents at The Mar a-Lago Club. In May 2021, Trump directed that a storage room on the ground floor of The Mar-a-Lago Club to be cleaned out so that it could be used to store his boxes of classified materials, the indictment states.

The indictment also listed the various non-classified U.S. intelligence agencies and their respective roles in gathering information.

For example, while “The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was responsible for providing intelligence on foreign countries and global issues to the president and other policy makers to help them make national security decisions …. (NSA) The National Security Agency was a combats support agency within DoD and a member of the USIC responsible for foreign signals intelligence and cybersecurity. This included collecting processing, and disseminating to United States policymakers and military leaders foreign intelligence derived from communications and information systems; protecting national security systems; and enabling computer network operations.”

Ironically, Trump, publicly made statements about how he would protect classified information obtain from the above agencies.

Smith said he is committed to the rule of law.

“Adherence to the rule of law is a bedrock principle of the Department of Justice. And our nation’s commitment to the rule of law sets an example for the world. We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone. Applying those laws. Collecting facts. That’s what determines the outcome of an investigation. Nothing more. Nothing less,” Smith said.

Smith complimented his colleagues.

“The prosecutors in my office are among the most talented and experienced in the Department of Justice. They have investigated this case hewing to the highest ethical standards. And they will continue to do so as this case proceed,” Smith noted.

“It’s very important for me to note that the defendants in this case must be presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. To that end, my office will seek a speedy trial in this matter. Consistent with the public interest and the rights of the accused. We very much look forward to presenting our case to a jury of citizens in the Southern District of Florida,” Smith added.

As previously reported by The Wisconsin Law Journal, The Espionage Act has historically been employed most often by law-and-order conservatives. But the biggest uptick in its use occurred during the Obama administration, which used it as the hammer of choice for national security leakers and whistleblowers. Regardless of whom it is used to prosecute, it unfailingly prompts consternation and outrage. When you hear “espionage,” you may think spies and international intrigue. One portion of the act – 18 U.S.C. section 794 – does relate to spying for foreign governments, for which the maximum sentence is life imprisonment. That aspect of the law is best exemplified by the convictions of Jonathan Pollard in 1987, for spying for and providing top-secret classified information to Israel; former Central Intelligence Agency officer Aldrich Ames in 1994, for being a double agent for the Russian KGB; and, in 2002, former FBI agent Robert Hanssen, who was caught selling U.S. secrets to the Soviet Union and Russia over a span of more than 20 years. All three received life sentences.

However, spy cases are rare. More typically, as in the Trump investigation, the act applies to the unauthorized gathering, possessing or transmitting of certain sensitive government information, The Conversation reported.

The Wisconsin Law Journal attempted to contact Trump’s lawyers for comment, but they had immediately resigned in the wake of the new indictment.

Trump’s legal team consisting of Jim Trusty and John Rowley issued a statement shortly after the indictments were announced.

Both attorneys said, “we have tendered our resignations as counsel to President Trump, and we will no longer represent him on either the indicted case or the January 6 investigation.”

The Washington Post reported Trump has now tapped Todd Blanche as legal counsel.

The Conversation contributed to this report.

This story has been updated.


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