Trump indictment details plot to hide sensitive documents

Federal prosecutors in the United States have unsealed a sweeping indictment against former President Donald Trump that alleges he hoarded and concealed classified documents containing sensitive national security information.

The 49-page document laid out 37 federal charges against Trump. Thirty-one of the charges relate to violations under the Espionage Act, which criminalises unauthorised possession of national defence information. Each charge under the act carries a ten-year maximum sentence.

Six other charges pertain to Trump’s alleged scheme to hide the documents as federal authorities launched an investigation. Two more accuse the ex-president of making false statements to investigators.

Trump’s aide, Waltine “Walt” Nauta, was also charged with six felonies related to hiding documents and making false statements.

“Our laws that protect National Defense Information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced,” said Special Counsel Jack Smith, whom the US justice department appointed to oversee the investigation in November.

“Violations of those laws put our country at risk,” he continued, issuing remarks at a brief, three-minute news conference on Friday. “We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone.”

For his part, Trump maintained that he had done nothing wrong. He also attacked prosecutor Smith as a “deranged lunatic”, saying he provided investigators with the materials they asked for.

“I supplied them openly, and without question, security tape from Mar-a-Lago. I had nothing to hide, nor do I now,” the former president wrote on his Truth Social site.

“Nobody said I wasn’t allowed to look at the personal records that I brought with me from the White House. There’s nothing wrong with that,” Trump added.

It alleged that Trump kept boxes that “included information regarding defence and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programmes; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to foreign attack”.

The indictment also indicated that the contents of those boxes, if released, could have had devastating consequences.

“The unauthorised disclosure of these classified documents 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,” it said.

The prosecutors explained that the documents were haphazardly stored across Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, including in unsecured locations like a bathroom, ballroom and a shower.

One photo released by prosecutors showed documents spilled onto the floor of a storage room that could be “reached from multiple outside entrances, including one accessible from The Mar-a-Lago Club pool patio through a doorway that was often kept open”.

The documents include some with classified markings signalling that they were only to be released to the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which consists of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the US.

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