Prosecutors detail schemes and lies to keep secret papers
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MIAMI – The federal indictment against Donald Trump accuses the former president of illegally hoarding classified documents at his Florida estate after leaving the White House in 2021, and then scheming and lying to thwart government efforts to recover them.

Justice Department prosecutors brought 37 felony counts against Trump in the indictment, relying upon photographs from Mar-a-Lago, surveillance video, text messages between staffers, Trump’s own words, those of his lawyers, and other evidence.

An aide and close adviser to Trump, Walt Nauta, was charged as a co-conspirator with six felony counts.

Trump says he is innocent and has decried the criminal case — the second indictment against him in a matter of months — as an attempt by his political opponents to hinder his 2024 campaign. He is expected to make his first court appearance on Tuesday in Miami.

Here are key takeaways from the indictment unsealed Friday:


Trump faces 37 felony counts, including 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information under the Espionage Act. Each of those 31 counts pertains to a specific classified document found at Mar-A-Lago marked “SECRET” or “TOP SECRET.” Topics covered in the documents included U.S. nuclear weapons, the nuclear capabilities of a foreign country and the military activities or capabilities of other countries.

Other charges include: conspiracy to obstruct justice; corruptly concealing a document or record; concealing a document in a federal investigation; and making false statements.

The conspiracy charges relate to Trump’s alleged attempts to hide documents from his own attorney or federal investigators. The false statement charges stem from Trump causing his attorney to tell the FBI that no more classified documents were at Mar-a-Lago — but then the FBI later found more than 100 documents during an August 2022 search.

The most serious charges against him carry potential prison sentences of up to 20 years each, but first-time offenders rarely get anywhere near the maximum sentence and the decision would ultimately be up to the judge. Trump’s role as a former president is also likely to play a major factor in at sentencing.


Prosecutors allege that Trump conspired with Nauta to hide the secret documents he kept at Mar-a-Lago from the grand jury, which issued a subpoena in May 2022 for him to turn over everything left in his possession.

The conspiracy included suggesting that Trump’s attorney falsely tell investigators that the former president didn’t have any more classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. It also involved moving boxes to hide the secret documents from Trump’s lawyer, and suggesting that Trump’s lawyer hide or destroy documents that investigators were seeking, the indictment alleges.

The indictment says that, at Trump’s direction, Nauta moved in late May of last year about 64 boxes of documents from a Mar-a-Lago storage room to the former president’s residence. He later returned ‘’approximately 30 boxes” to the storage room on June 2 — the same day Trump’s legal team came to examine the boxes and search for classified documents to return to the government, the indictment says.

Prosecutors allege that Nauta had a brief phone call with Trump before returning those boxes. Neither Trump nor Nauta disclosed to the former president’s attorneys that Nauta had moved any of the storage room contents, according to the indictment.


The indictment alleges that Trump showed classified documents to people who didn’t have security clearnaces on two occasions.

The court papers detail a meeting Trump had in July 2021 with a writer and publisher about an upcoming book. Trump told the pair “look what I found” and showed them what he described as a senior military official’s “plan of attack,” according to an audio recording of that conversation obtained by investigators.

Trump acknowledged during that meeting that the document was “highly confidential” and “secret information,” the indictment says. He also says that he could have declassified the document if he was still president.

“Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret,” he said, according to the indictment.

A few months later, Trump showed a representative of his political action committee a classified map of an foreign country while discussing a military operation in the country that was not going well, the indictment says. Trump acknowledged that he shouldn’t be showing the map to the person and told him not to get too close, prosecutors allege.


In addition to the audio recording, prosecutors also have text messages between Trump employees, photos of boxes of documents stored in various rooms throughout Mar-a-Lago and details about conversations between Trump and his attorneys that were memorialized by one of his lawyers, according to the indictment.

In one conversation with his lawyers, Trump said: “I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes,” according to one of the attorneys. Trump also asked if it would be better “if we just told them we don’t have anything here,” the indictment says.

Photographs included in the indictment show boxes stacked on a stage in a ballroom as well as in a bathroom. Another photograph shows boxes that spilled over in the storage room, including a document marked “SECRET/REL TO USA, FVEY” which means information releasable only to members of the intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.


While Trump’s first court appearance on Tuesday is expected to be in front of a magistrate judge in Miami, the case was filed in West Palm Beach — about 70 miles to the north. The case was assigned to Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, who issued rulings favorable to him last year and expressed repeated skepticism of Justice Department positions.

Cannon was broadly criticized last year for granting the Trump legal team’s request for a special master to conduct an independent review of the hundreds of classified documents seized from his Florida property last year. The move, which temporarily halted core aspects of the Justice Department’s investigative work, was overturned months later by a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court.


Associated Press reporters Mike Sisak in New York, Bill Barrow in Atlanta, Gary Fields in Washington contributed.

Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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