Donald Trump says he's been indicted over handling of classified documents

Donald Trump says he's been indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, igniting a federal prosecution that is arguably the most perilous of multiple legal threats against the former U.S. president as he seeks to reclaim the White House.

Trump facing 7 criminal counts in the federal case, media reports say

A man with yellow hair and thick face make up gestures as he speaks at a podium.
Former U.S. president Donald Trump says he has been indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Donald Trump said Thursday that he has been indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate, igniting a federal prosecution that is arguably the most perilous of multiple legal threats against the former president as he seeks to reclaim the White House.

Trump already faces a criminal case in New York that is due to go to trial in March.

"The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax," Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.

Several U.S. media outlets reported that Trump has been indicted on seven counts related to his handling of classified documents and obstruction of justice.

Trump attorney James Trusty told CNN the charges include at least one conspiracy charge and one related to the Espionage Act. 

Trump wrote 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.

Within 20 minutes of his announcement, Trump had begun using the news to raise funds for his 2024 presidential campaign.

Two men in dark suits and a woman in a red suit stand in a hallway.
Trump lawyers James Trusty, left, Lindsey Halligan and John Rowley, leave the U.S. Justice Department Monday after meeting with Justice Department officials over the Trump Mar-a-Lago classified documents case. (Sarah Lynch/Reuters)

13,000 documents seized last year

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

Reuters could not immediately confirm what charges Trump is facing.

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, Trusty said. 

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 defence records.

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Trump says he's been indicted in classified documents case

4 months ago
Duration 1:57
Former U.S. president Donald Trump says he's been indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate.

The U.S. 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, Fla., 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.

Documents, some conatining the word SECRET, are seen spread on a paisley patterned carpet.
An image contained in a court filing by the U.S. Department of Justice on Aug. 30, 2022, and partially obscured by the source, shows a photo of documents seized during the FBI's Aug. 8 search of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. (Department of Justice/The Associated Press)

2nd indictment for Trump

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 U.S. 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.

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Former U.S. president Donald Trump has been indicted on charges related to payments made to silence claims of an extramarital affair. The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake joins to explain how this could affect his chances in the 2024 presidential election.

Special Counsel Smith, appointed last year by U.S. 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 U.S. 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 travelled 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.

One of the Trump attorneys involved in searching Mar-a-Lago — Evan Corcoran — has since become a witness in the case.

Corcoran drafted a document signed by another Trump lawyer attesting that all records with classified markings had been returned to the government — a claim later proven false after the FBI searched Trump's home.

Trump's lawyers tried to block the Justice Department from accessing some of the records seized at Mar-a-Lago, claiming they were covered by the legal doctrine of executive privilege, which shields some White House communications from disclosure.

A federal appeals court rejected that argument in December.

Biden, Pence also had classified documents

Trump is not the only top government official to draw scrutiny for retaining classified documents.

Attorneys for Biden and for Trump's vice-president, Mike Pence, this year disclosed they were co-operating with the Justice Department after the discovery that both men had retained classified records after leaving office.

Biden's documents dated back to his tenure in the U.S. Senate and as vice-president. The Justice Department in June closed its investigation into Pence without filing any charges.

A white page with black text on it.
Pages from the affidavit by the FBI in support of obtaining a search warrant for Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. (Jon Elswick/The Associated Press)

Trump's legal woes are growing.

In May, a jury in federal court in Manhattan decided in a civil lawsuit that he must pay $5 million US in damages for sexually abusing former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll and then defaming her by branding her a liar.

Trump also faces a criminal investigation by a county prosecutor in Georgia relating to his efforts to undo his 2020 election loss in that state.

Trump is currently in Bedminster, N.J. A person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to discuss it publicly said Trump's lawyers were contacted by prosecutors shortly before he announced on his Truth Social platform that he had been indicted.

With files from The Associated Press and CBC News