Former President Donald Trump lied and schemed and misled federal investigators in order to hold on to sensitive materials that he knew were still classified, according to a bombshell 37-count federal indictment unsealed Friday.
The indictment, which also names Trump aide Walt Nauta, outlines criminal charges related to the over 100 classified documents federal agents recovered from Trump's Florida resort last August.
It accuses Trump of breaking seven different laws, including 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information and single counts of false statements and representations, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document, concealing a document in a federal investigation and a scheme to conceal.
Special counsel Jack Smith, who brought the charges against Trump and Nauta, said in brief remarks on the indictment, “We have one set of laws in this country and they apply to everyone.”
"I invite everyone to read it in full to understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged,” Smith said on Friday. "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."
Some of the charges, including the conspiracy and concealment counts, carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing in the case, a stance he maintained Friday, writing in a social media post that, "Under the Presidential Records Act, I'm allowed to do all this." He also criticized Smith, calling him "a Trump Hater — a deranged 'psycho' that shouldn't be involved in any case having to do with 'Justice.'"
The indictment alleges that when Trump left the White House he took documents that “included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the U.S. and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for a possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack.”
The documents originated with all of the top national security and law enforcement agencies of the U.S. government, including the CIA, the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Energy and the Department of State and Bureau of Intelligence Research, according to the indictment.
Disclosure of some of the documents’ contents “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,” the indictment said.
It added that, “On two occasions in 2021, Trump showed classified documents to others.”
In one instance, Trump showed a writer, a publisher and two members of his staff who lacked security clearance a copy of a “plan of attack” that, according to a recording of Trump, he described as “highly confidential,” the indictment states.
It quotes him saying "as president I could have declassified it," and "now I can't, you know, but this is still a secret."
"This is secret information. Look, look at this," he's quoted as saying at another point.
In the second instance, Trump allegedly showed a member of his political action committee a “classified map related to a military operation.” Trump told the person — who did not have a security clearance — he shouldn't be showing him the map, and told the person not get too close to it, the indictment said.
Both of those alleged incidents occurred at Trump’s New Jersey golf club, which means the documents would have been transported there from Florida.
The indictment further alleges that the documents were stored haphazardly — including for two months in the Mar-a-Lago ballroom, where they were photographed on a stage. They were also kept in a business center, a bathroom and a shower, the filing says.
A photo included in the court filing shows about 30 boxes in a bathroom crammed around a toilet and next to a shower with a chandelier hanging above.
On one occasion in December 2021, Nauta entered the storage room where boxes had been moved to and found that several of them had fallen, with their contents spilled on the floor, including one marked "secret," the indictment said.
The indictment also says that Trump was aware of the existence of the boxes and their contents, and would have Nauta bring him various boxes from time to time. It also lays out in plain detail a series of texts between two Trump employees and Nauta from November 2021 through January 2022 that make clear that the former president wanted to review boxes before some were returned to the National Archives.
After federal authorities subpoenaed Trump for their return, he allegedly told one of his attorneys, "I don't want anybody looking through my boxes."
"Wouldn't it be better if we just told them we didn't have anything here?" the lawyer quoted Trump as saying. “Isn’t it better if there are no documents?”
The filing says that in the days before the Justice Department came to recover documents pursuant to the subpoena, Nauta removed 64 boxes from the storage room and took them to Trump's residence in the club. He brought just 30 of the boxes back to the storage room before the feds arrived.
Nauta and others loaded some boxes onto Trump's plane in the hours before the feds arrived at Mar-a-Lago, the indictment said. Trump headed to his New Jersey estate later that day.
The filing also accuses Trump and Nauta of conspiring to mislead Trump's own attorneys into believing and certifying that all the documents had been returned.
Trump has maintained the documents were his to do with as he pleased.
Nauta, Trump’s former White House military valet and a Navy veteran, initially lied to federal investigators about his involvement with and knowledge of the boxes, the indictment said.
In an interview with federal investigators in May of 2022, Nauta denied knowing Trump had any boxes in his suite, and said he had no idea about how they'd been stored.
"I wish I could tell you. I don't know," he said.
It also alleges he plotted with Trump to "knowingly and willfully falsify, conceal and cover up by any trick, scheme and device a material fact" they were hiding documents with classification markings from the feds.
Nauta lawyer Stan Woodward declined comment on the charges.
Trump defended Nauta as "a wonderful man" on Truth Social.
"They are trying to destroy his life, like the lives of so many others, hoping that he will say bad things about 'Trump.' He is strong, brave, and a Great Patriot," Trump wrote on Friday.
The unsealing of the indictment came on the same day Trump announced that two of the lawyers representing him in the case, Jim Trusty and John Rowley, were leaving his legal team. “They were up against a very dishonest, corrupt, evil, and ‘sick’ group of people, the likes of which has not been seen before,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
He added that he's now being represented by attorney Todd Blanche, who's also defending Trump in New York criminal court, where the former president has been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records in a hush-money case. Trump has pleaded not guilty in the case, which is scheduled to go to trial in March.
Blanche declined to comment on the indictment.
Trump is scheduled to be arraigned before a magistrate judge in Miami federal court on Tuesday afternoon.
The indictment estimates a trial in the case would last 21 days.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Aileen Cannon, who last year temporarily halted the FBI's review of the documents that had been recovered at Mar-a-Lago while granting Trump's request for a special master to review the evidence.
That ruling was later overturned by a panel of appeals court judges who suggested Cannon had tried to "carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents."