Trump Arrested in Classified Documents Case

Former President Donald Trump was arrested on June 14th, 2023 after an indictment by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith over his handling and hiding of classified documents.

Former President Trump was formally arrested yesterday in Miami on Federal charges in his handling of classified documents after he left the White House. Trump faces 37 separate charges according to the indictment released last week. Those charges include willful retention of national defense information, withholding or concealing documents in a federal investigation, false statements, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. This arrest comes on the heels of the state charges in New York on campaign hush-money payments to an adult movie star he had an alleged affair with.

The indictment was extraordinary in its presentation of the evidence gathered and included not only quotes from text messages, but tape recordings made by Trump’s own lawyers and those around him of the former president’s conversations. The prosecutor, Jack Smith, won a court ruling in March to force Trump’s lawyers to present evidence that is normally protected under attorney client privilege in March under the “crime fraud exception” precedent.

According to the 49-page indictment the classified documents, which were stored in boxes out in the open in places like a bathroom, Trump’s bedroom, and a ballroom stage, “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 plans for possible retaliation in response to foreign attack.”

In public, Trump has stated he had declassified the documents which experts say a former president has no power to do. However, the indictment shows not only was he aware of the classified nature of many of the documents, but he knew he had no power to declassify them. During an interview with a writer in July of 2021, Trump said on tape when discussing a classified document on a military plan of attack, “See as president I could have declassified it… Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.” Not only does this episode show Trump knew the rules of the declassification process, it is also disturbing because the recording suggests Trump was showing the classified document to a writer who did not have proper security clearances.

Trump showed classified documents to individuals who did not have any clearances on at least one other occasion. In September of 2021, the indictment says Trump, “showed a representative of his political action committee who did not possess a security clearance a classified map related to a military operation and told the representative that he should not be showing it to the representative and that the representative should not get too close.”

Trump is also alleged to have hid some of the classified documents not only from investigators, but also his own lawyers. Trump is alleged to have suggested his attorneys hide the boxes. He is recorded by one of his attorneys as asking: “Well what if we, what happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play ball with them?” and “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?” When Trump’s attorneys made it clear they had to comply with a subpoena to return all requested documents, including the classified ones, Trump had his attorneys go through all the boxes to find the documents. However, Trump secretly had his personal aid, Walt Nauta, who is also indicted, move classified documents so that the lawyers would not find them.

Trump pleaded not guilty in court after going through the formality of booking upon turning himself in to authorities, but the indictment is a solid one according to legal experts, and it is hard to see how Trump escapes being found not guilty to all, if not most, of the charges. He faces many decades behind bars and, according to various legal experts, it is very likely he will be incarcerated in some form—either in prison or house arrest. Trump’s former Attorney General, Bill Barr, said during an interview on Fox News, “If even half of [the indictment] is true then he’s toast. It’s a very detailed indictment, and it’s very, very damning.”

To read the full indictment, click here.

There is one big unknown when it comes to reading the tea leaves on how the trial will shape up, and that is the judge appointed to oversee the case. By chance, Judge Aileen Cannon was appointed to preside over the trial in Miami. She is a Trump appointed federal judge who last year made a controversial decision by appointing a Special Master to handle the documents obtained by the FBI in their raid on Trump’s resort, Mar-a-Lago. The decision was widely condemned as being far out of the legal norm and without any solid legal grounds. The decision was appealed and a three-judge panel, two of whom were appointed by Trump, used harsh words to condemn Cannon’s ruling. It remains to be seen if the prosecution asks for a new judge to be assigned to the case.

Jack Smith said in his announcement of the indictment that he seeks a speedy trial, yet one that is fair to Trump’s right for due process. With the primary season for the 2024 Presidential Election beginning in February of next year, both sides are watching the clock. Undoubtedly Trump and his legal team will try to stall the process as much as possible, with Smith trying to keep the case moving forward at a respectable pace.

This indictment is just the latest of Trump’s legal problems. In April, Trump was arrested in New York in the case over the campaign hush-money mentioned above. In May, Trump was found liable for sexually abusing, and then defaming E. Jean Carroll in an incident that took place in the 1990’s. Carroll was awarded several million dollars and the case is currently being amended after Trump continued to defame her after the ruling in a CNN townhall debate. The New York State Attorney General is also seeking $250 million in a civil trial targeting Trump and his business over the alleged practice of inflating his real estate prices to con banks and insurers. The trial is scheduled to begin in October, however the New York Attorney General, Letitia James, acknowledged yesterday that Trump’s impending federal trial over his handling of classified documents would likely put her civil trial against Trump on temporary hold. “In all likelihood, I believe that my case… will unfortunately have to be adjourned pending the outcome of the federal case.”

Yet another investigation into Trump is ongoing in Georgia over his role in orchestrating election interference in the 2020 Presidential Election. District Attorney Fani Willis, who is handling that case has stated that any charges will be announced later this summer. However, her case too looks to take a backseat to Trump’s federal prosecution over classified documents. And lastly, of all the myriad of legal issues Trump is facing, he is still being investigated over his role in inciting the January 6th Insurrection at the U.S. Capitol Building to try and thwart the 2020 Presidential Election results. That case is also being handled by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith.

Trump publicly claims he is being unfairly targeted and is the focus of a witch hunt by Democrats. In regard to the classified documents case, he compares his case to Joe Biden and Mike Pence whom both were found to have classified documents at their homes. Though, the similarities in the cases end there. Both Biden and Pence immediately handed over all requested documents, nor is there any evidence to date they tried to hide their possession. Trump also compares himself to Hillary Clinton who escaped charges in her handling of classified information with her private email server. While many believe she should have been charged, Trump’s own administration declined to seek a further investigation after the previous administration declined to charge Clinton.

Currently, Donald Trump far and away leads the pack of opponents vying for the GOP Presidential Nomination. With his latest arrest, it appears America is on a collision course between voters and its judicial system, a system despite what Trump and his supporters may believe, is trying to do its job fairly. In the meantime, Trump has solidified his place in American history as a twice-impeached president, and now twice arrested. And it would be remiss not to mention he is the only President to be found guilty of sexual battery. Given the severity of his current charges, it would be a good time for the GOP to start considering a future that does not include Trump at the helm. It is up to his GOP primary opponents to make the case and give voice to why the future of their party is better outside the heavy shadow of Donald Trump.



About Brian F. Bridgeforth 114 Articles
Brian F. Bridgeforth is a social media political commentator with a background that includes advising and managing political campaigns at local, state, and federal levels. His social media activities have in the past caught the attention of CNN and the Wall Street Journal along with a number of politically oriented blogs.