Former US President Donald Trump faces a new legal challenge — this time from the government he used to lead — when he appears next week in federal court in Miami on charges of illegally retaining classified documents, obstruction and other crimes.
The indictment of a former US president on federal charges is unprecedented in American history and emerges at a time when Trump is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination next year.
Trump faces seven criminal counts related to his treatment of sensitive government materials he took with him when he left the White House in January 2021, according to a source. He is due to appear in court on Tuesday, a day before his 77th birthday.
Trump’s lawyer Jim Trusty told CNN the charges include conspiracy, false statements, obstruction of justice, and illegally retaining classified documents under the Espionage Act. He said he expects to see the charging document by Tuesday, when Trump is due in court.
Trump is the first president to face criminal charges. It is the second criminal case for Trump, who is due to go on trial in New York next March in a state case stemming from a hush-money payment to a porn star.
ABC News, citing sources, reported that US District Judge Aileen Cannon has been initially assigned to oversee the case.It is unclear whether she will preside over the trial. Cannon, appointed by Trump in 2019, made decisions that favoured him in legal skirmishes during the documents investigation last year. Her rulings were overturned on appeal.
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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 said he declassified those documents while president, but his attorneys have declined to make that argument in court filings.
“I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform after he announced that he had been indicted.
Within minutes of his announcement, Trump began fundraising off it for his presidential campaign. He repeated that the investigation is a “witch hunt”.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
Trump is scheduled to make his first appearance in Florida federal court on Tuesday
The indictment is under seal and it is unclear if it will be made public before then
Soon after Trump appears in court, prosecutors will begin handing over evidence to Trump’s lawyers. That could include years of correspondence between Trump’s lawyers, the US National Archives and Records Administration and federal prosecutors
Trump's lawyers are expected to file a motion to dismiss the case for a variety of reasons, including his claim that he declassified the documents before taking them
They are also likely to argue that the case should be tossed for what they allege was misconduct by prosecutors, including alleged violations of a legal doctrine that permits people to keep communications with their lawyers private
IMPACT ON TRUMP'S CAMPAIGN?
The charges wouldn’t automatically prevent Trump from campaigning or taking office if he is convicted
Trump’s numbers rose after he was indicted in a separate case in New York in April
WHEN WILL THE CASE GO TO TRIAL?
Any potential trial could be many months away
The parties will likely agree to extend deadlines as they pore over evidence and argue legal disputes before a judge