10 key takeaways from the Trump indictment: What the federal charges allegedly reveal

Author: CBS News
Published: Updated:
The motorcade carrying former President Donald Trump arrives near the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Courthouse, Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in Miami. Trump is making a federal court appearance on dozens of felony charges accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents and thwarting the Justice Department’s efforts to get the records back. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The indictment of former President Donald Trump by a federal grand jury in Florida includes the most detailed look yet into special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into allegations that Trump mishandled classified documents and obstructed the probe itself.

The 44-page document, unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida last week, outlines the types of highly sensitive documents Trump allegedly had at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, and includes key pieces of evidence gleaned from aides’ communications and notes from Trump’s own lawyer.

The former president is charged with 37 felony counts, including 31 counts of willful retention of classified documents and one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice.

Trump has not been found guilty of any crime and has repeatedly asserted he has done nothing wrong. He is set to appear for an arraignment in federal court in Florida on Tuesday, where he is expected to plead not guilty.

Here are the top takeaways from the grand jury’s indictment:

Trump faces 37 federal felony counts

The charges Trump faces under the indictment include:

  • 31 counts of willful retention of classified documents
  • 1 count of conspiracy to obstruct justice
  • 1 count of withholding a document or record
  • 1 count of corruptly concealing a document or record
  • 1 count of concealing a document in a federal investigation
  • 1 count of scheme to conceal
  • and 1 count of making false statements and representations

Trump kept “hundreds” of classified documents after leaving office

While he was president, Trump collected hundreds of letters, notes, photos, memorabilia and documents in bankers’ boxes that he kept at the White House. The indictment alleges that “hundreds” of classified documents were mixed in with other material, and that Trump arranged for “scores” of the boxes to be moved to Mar-a-Lago as he was preparing to leave office.

According to the indictment, the documents included information about:

  • U.S. nuclear programs
  • Defense and weapons capabilities of the U.S. and other countries
  • Vulnerabilities of the U.S. and its allies to attack
  • How the U.S. would retaliate in response to an attack

The documents included material prepared by the CIA, NSA, the Pentagon, the Energy Department and other intelligence agencies.

Once he left office in January 2021, Trump was not authorized to have access to these documents and they were not kept in the type of secure facility meant to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, the indictment notes.

The documents at the center of the 31 charges of retaining classified information range from top secret to secret, the two highest classification levels for national security information.

Trump showed sensitive documents to others at least twice

The indictment alleges that Trump showed sensitive documents to others on at least two occasions at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The indictment says he had some of the boxes moved to the club where he spends his summers in May 2021.

That July, Trump was speaking to a writer, a publisher and two staffers in a conversation that was being recorded. The indictment says he showed them a “‘plan of attack’ that TRUMP said was prepared for him by the Department of Defense and a senior military official.”

The former president, according to the indictment, “told the individuals that the plan was ‘highly confidential’ and ‘secret.’ TRUMP also said, ‘as president I could have declassified it,’ and, ‘Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.'” CBS News has previously reported that Trump was referencing Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and included remarks related to Iran and how to confront it militarily.

Several weeks later, Trump showed a member of his political action committee “a classified map related to a military operation” and told the person “that he should not be showing it to the representative and that the representative should not get too close,” according to the indictment.

The boxes were stored in a ballroom, a bathroom, storage room and Trump’s residence

Waltine “Walt” Nauta, Trump’s former personal aide, is charged as a co-conspirator for allegedly helping Trump obstruct the probe and for lying to federal investigators. 

The indictment outlines Nauta’s alleged involvement in moving the boxes to different rooms throughout Mar-a-Lago, reconstructing their path using text messages from two Trump employees — referred to as “Trump Employee 1” and “Trump Employee 2” — and Nauta himself.

When Trump left the White House, some of the boxes were first stored in a ballroom before being moved to the “business center” and then a bathroom.

In May 2021, Trump allegedly ordered them moved into a cleared-out storage room that was “near the liquor supply closet, linen room, lock shop, and various other rooms” and could be “reached from multiple outside entrances.” The indictment includes a photo showing more than 80 boxes in the storage room once they were moved in June.

Nauta and another aide would later move some of the boxes to and from Trump’s residence at the club.

Nauta found several boxes spilled onto the floor

In December 2021, Nauta texted Trump Employee 2 with two photos showing several boxes that had seemingly been knocked over, their contents spilling out onto the floor of the storage room. At least one document on the floor was marked secret.

Trump Employee 2 replied, “Oh no oh no.” The indictment doesn’t indicate how or why the boxes had been spilled.

Under pressure from the National Archives, Trump allegedly personally reviewed some boxes

The National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA, is the federal agency responsible for collecting and preserving presidential records. By the end of 2021, NARA officials had been demanding for months that Trump hand over records he had kept after leaving the White House.

Between November 2021 and January 2022, text messages included in the indictment indicate Nauta and Trump Employee 2 brought several boxes to Trump’s residence on the Mar-a-Lago property for him to review. In one instance, Trump Employee 2 printed out a photo of dozens of boxes stacked in the storage room and taped it on one of the boxes delivered to Trump’s residence so he could see how they were being kept.

In December, a Trump representative who had been in contact with NARA pushed Trump Employee 2 to provide a tally of how many boxes Trump had so he could inform Archives officials. “12 [i]s his number,” the aide replied, according to the indictment.

On Jan. 13, Nauta texted that Trump was still “tracking” the boxes and said there would be “more to follow today on whether he wants  to go through more today or tomorrow.” Four days later, Nauta and Trump Employee 2 loaded 15 boxes into Nauta’s car and then a truck to deliver them to NARA.

A NARA review determined that 14 of the 15 boxes contained documents with classified markings. The FBI would later determine that the boxes included 197 documents with classified markings ranging from confidential to top secret. 

On Feb. 9, 2022, NARA referred the matter to the Justice Department. The FBI opened a criminal investigation in March, and a federal grand jury convened in April.

Trump and Nauta allegedly hid documents from a Trump attorney looking for them

The grand jury issued a subpoena on May 11, 2022, demanding all documents with classified markings in the possession of Trump or his office. On May 23, Trump met with two attorneys — known as Trump Attorney 1 and Trump Attorney 2 in the indictment — to discuss how he would respond.

Details in the indictment and a subsequent court battle make clear that Trump Attorney 1 is Evan Corcoran, an experienced criminal defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. The section of the indictment detailing Trump’s response to the subpoena relies heavily on Corcoran’s contemporaneous notes and subsequent testimony.

The notes provide some of the clearest indications of Trump’s state of mind as he apparently tried to avoid having to hand over the boxes. The indictment lays out how Trump responded, according to Corcoran, when the attorneys said they would need to look through the boxes to respond to the subpoena:

  • I don’t want anybody looking, I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don’t, I don’t want you looking through my boxes.  
  • Well what if we, what happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play ball with them? 
  • Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?  
  • Well look isn’t it better if there are no documents?

Eventually, Trump agreed that Corcoran would return to Mar-a-Lago on June 2 to search for the boxes, and he said he would delay his plans to travel to Bedminster in order to be there.

Between May 23 and June 2, the indictment says Nauta moved a total of 64 boxes from the storage room to Trump’s residence “at TRUMP’s direction.” Nauta brought 30 boxes back to the storage room on June 2 before Corcoran arrived to conduct his search.

Nauta escorted Corcoran to the storage room, where the attorney spent nearly three hours looking for documents with classified markings. The attorney found 38 such documents and placed them in a folder that he wrapped with clear duct tape. After his search, he met with Trump, who, according to Corcoran, asked, “Did you find anything? … Is it bad? Good?”

Corcoran arranged for an FBI agent to meet him at Mar-a-Lago the next day to take the folder. He also asked a third attorney not involved in the search to sign a certification stating that all documents responsive to the subpoena had been located and handed over after a “diligent search” of “the boxes that were moved from the White House to Florida.”

The indictment states: “These statements were false because, among other reasons, TRUMP had directed NAUTA to move boxes before Trump Attorney 1’s June 2 review, so that many boxes were not searched and many documents responsive to the May 11 Subpoena could not be found — and in fact were not found — by Trump Attorney 1.”

The FBI found 102 documents with classified markings in its August 2022 search

Federal agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022, to find any remaining documents with classified markings, a dramatic development that thrust the case into the public eye.

The FBI found a total of 102 documents with classified markings. Twenty-seven were found in Trump’s office and 75 were found in the storage room. Seventeen were top secret, a designation reserved for information that would cause “exceptionally grave damage to the national security” if exposed.

The 31 charges Trump faces for retaining documents all concern documents seized in the FBI’s search or those handed over by Corcoran in response to the May 23 subpoena. Trump is not charged with retaining any of the documents he voluntarily handed over to NARA earlier in 2022.

Nauta allegedly lied to investigators about what he knew

Nauta, the former Trump aide, is charged with five counts alongside Trump as a co-defendant. The 38th count in the indictment targets him specifically, accusing him of lying to federal agents who questioned him on May 26, 2022.

The indictment says he told investigators he was not aware of any boxes being moved to Trump’s residence, and said he first became aware of them when he was asked to help move them into a truck to hand over to NARA.

Asked if he “could help us understand, like, where they were kept, how they were kept, were they secured, were they locked,” Nauta allegedly replied, “I wish, I wish I could tell you. I don’t know. I don’t — I honestly just don’t know.”

Corcoran’s testimony is central to the case

Earlier this year, Corcoran refused to discuss his interactions with Trump before a grand jury in Washington, D.C., citing attorney-client privilege.

But that privilege comes with what’s known as the “crime-fraud exception,” which says it does not apply if a client uses a lawyer’s services to commit a crime. In sealed proceedings in March, a federal judge ruled in favor of the special counsel’s office and ordered Corcoran to testify before the grand jury and provide evidence to federal investigators.

Now Trump’s attorneys could seek to have his testimony excluded from the Florida case on the same attorney-client privilege grounds that a judge in Washington rejected.

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