WASHINGTON: Federal prosecutors have unsealed a 38-count indictment against former President Donald Trump accusing him of mishandling classified documents.
The 49-page charge sheet includes 31 separate counts of wilful retention of national defence information under the Espionage Act.
The charges arise from hundreds of documents Mr Trump kept at his Florida home after leaving the White House.
The files include information on US and its allies’ weapons capabilities.
Prosecutors say Mr Trump took about 300 classified files to his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, after leaving the White House.
About 100 of those – some labelled top secret – were seized when the FBI searched the Palm Beach mansion last August.
The indictment notes that Mar-a-Lago, a golf club in Palm Beach, hosted events for tens of thousands of members and guests.
Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing the investigation, will make a statement on Friday about the case at his office in Washington DC.
The indictment reads: “The classified documents Trump stored in his boxes included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and to plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack.”
Mr Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club “was not an authorised location” for the “storage, possession, review, display or discussion” of classified documents, the indictment says.
Nevertheless, it continues, Mr Trump’s boxes of documents were stored in places at the club including “a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom, and a storage room”.
On two occasions in 2021, the former president showed classified documents to others who did not have security clearance, including a writer and two members of staff.
At his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, he showed and described a “plan of attack” that he said had been prepared for him by the Defence Department.
“As president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret,” Mr Trump allegedly said, according to an audio recording.
The second time the indictment states that Mr Trump showed classified documents to others was “in August or September 2021”, at the Bedminster club.
The former US president “showed a representative of his political action committee who did not possess a security clearance a classified map”.
This map “related to a military operation” and Trump told the representative that “he should not be showing it” to them and they “should not get too close”.
The indictment says Mr Trump tried to obstruct the FBI inquiry by suggesting that his lawyer “hide or destroy” the documents or falsely tell investigators that the former president did not have them.
Mr Trump’s personal aide at Mar-a-Lago, Waltine Nauta, is also charged. The indictment says the former White House military valet moved files to hide them from the FBI.