Live Updates: Donald Trump indicted by a grand jury in the classified documents case

Published June 8, 2023 at 9:14 PM EDT
Former President Donald Trump, speaking here at a campaign rally in April, is dealing with a number of growing legal cases against him.
Spencer Platt
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Getty Images
Former President Donald Trump, speaking here at a campaign rally in April, is dealing with a number of growing legal cases against him.

Donald Trump has become the first former president in U.S. history to be indicted by a federal grand jury, following an investigation by Special Counsel Jack Smith into his alleged mishandling of top-secret documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home.

Here's what we're following:

  • Charges: Trump is facing seven counts, including willful retention of information related to national defense, at least one charge of false statements and one charge related to obstruction of justice.
  • Reaction: Trump said he is "an innocent man" in a Truth Social post on Thursday.
  • Trump's legal peril: This is the second indictment for the former president, with additional investigations still underway.

A handy timeline to when (and how) the search for Trump's classified documents unfolded

Posted June 9, 2023 at 2:22 AM EDT
Secret Service personnel are seen in front of the home of former President Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago on August 8, 2022 in Palm Beach, Florida, as the FBI raided the home to retrieve classified White House documents.
Eva Marie Uzcategui
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Getty Images North America
Secret Service personnel are seen in front of the home of former President Donald Trump at Mar-A-Lago in August 2022 in Palm Beach, Fla., as the FBI raided the home to retrieve classified White House documents.

January 2021 — Trump and his team were required to turn all government documents back to the National Archives as part of the Presidential Records Act.

January 2022 — The National Archives and Records Administration arranged for the transfer of 15 boxes of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago following discussions with Trump's lawyers. Trump's advisers denied any nefarious intent behind keeping the 15 boxes past the legal deadline.

May 2022 — The FBI learned there were more documents at Mar-a-Lago and secured a subpoena to search. In response, Trump's attorneys said they did a thorough search of Mar-a-Lago, including a storage room where boxes were kept, and that they gathered together all of the remaining classified documents.

June 2022 — A senior Justice Department official visited Mar-a-Lago with FBI agents. Trump's lawyers handed over one red envelope, double-wrapped in tape. That envelope contained 38 classified documents, including some that were marked top secret. Trump's lawyers said that was everything.

August 2022 — The FBI obtained evidence that some of the government documents had been removed from the Mar-a-Lago storage room they mentioned in May (this movement is a key detail as the indictment includes an obstruction of justice charge, a source confirmed to NPR). When they conducted a search themselves,the FBI found dozens more documents — some classified so highly that not even the FBI agents could review them.

November 2022 — The DOJ names Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the investigations into Trump's handling of classified documents, as well as key aspects of the investigation into Trump's role in pushing to overturn the 2020 election results.

Here's a bit of what we still don't know

Posted June 9, 2023 at 1:47 AM EDT

It's still only been a few hours since Donald Trump first shared the news of his indictment on his social media platform, Truth Social, sending reporters scrambling to verify his claims.

In the rush to separate the facts from the rumors, there's still a few big questions we don't have the answers to, including:

  1. Whether, when and how special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the investigation into Trump's classified documents, will formally announce charges against the former president — and, importantly, whether he'll be joined by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
  2. What's happening with the second investigation under Jack Smith's purview: a probe into Trump's role in pushing to overturn the 2020 election results. In April, NPR reported that Smith and his team were investigating money the Trump campaign raised over false claims of election fraud.
  3. Anything about a trial, conviction or sentencing — it's still early days for this news cycle.

2024 GOP candidates weigh in

Posted June 9, 2023 at 1:12 AM EDT

Trump's 2024 primary opponents have starting weighing in on the indictment news.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis tweeted Thursday night, but didn't directly defend the former president.

"The weaponization of federal law enforcement represents a mortal threat to a free society. We have for years witnessed an uneven application of the law depending upon political affiliation. Why so zealous in pursuing Trump yet so passive about Hillary or Hunter? The DeSantis administration will bring accountability to the DOJ, excise political bias and end weaponization once and for all," he said.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also tweeted about it.

"We don’t get our news from Trump’s Truth Social account. Let’s see what the facts are when any possible indictment is released. As I have said before, no one is above the law, no matter how much they wish they were. We will have more to say when the facts are revealed," he said.

"Today what we've seen is a justice system where the scales are weighted," South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said on Fox News.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said in a statement, "With the news that Donald Trump has been indicted for the second time, our country finds itself in a position that weakens our democracy. Donald Trump's actions — from his willful disregard for the Constitution to his disrespect for the rule of law — should not define our nation or the Republican party."

Candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, however, attacked the White House over the indictment: "I never thought we’d see the day when the U.S. President deputizes the DOJ to arrest his lead rival in the middle of an election," candidate Ramaswamy said on Twitter. "This is an affront to every citizen: we cannot devolve into a banana republic where the party in power uses police force to arrest its political opponents."

Hours after the indictment news, candidates Nikki Haley and Mike Pence, who both worked closely with Trump in his presidency, had still not commented.

Why did prosecutors file the indictment in Florida?

Posted June 9, 2023 at 1:05 AM EDT

The Justice Department's first case against a former president will unfold in Miami, a place where legal experts believe the investigation has centered.

"They have to bring the case in the district where the alleged criminal conduct occurred," said Ryan Goodman, a law professor at New York University and former special counsel to the Department of Defense.

Prosecutors might have the option to be in both locations, Washington, D.C., and Florida. Former Trump aide Taylor Budowich testified before a grand jury in Miami on Wednesday. Goodman said getting the location or venue is actually a key legal strategy.

In March, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in case that could determine what happens when the government prosecutes criminal charges in the wrong venue.

"There is a significant legal risk if they got the choice wrong," said Goodman. "If prosecutors get the venue wrong, it could be thrown out, so South Florida is less risky." Goodman said he is watching to see if the Justice Department believes there are still outstanding documents that have not been returned and what hard evidence do prosecutors have.

What happens next for Trump?

Posted June 9, 2023 at 12:12 AM EDT
Former President Donald Trump is expected to appear at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Federal Courthouse for an arraignment.
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Former President Donald Trump is expected to appear at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Federal Courthouse for an arraignment.

We're going to learn a lot about this case in the coming days, but for now, the next step is Trump's arraignment.

Donald Trump said on Truth Social that he's due in a Miami Federal Courthouse on Tuesday at 3 p.m. ET, a claim that his lawyer repeated on CNN.

Once in court, he'll be processed and will make his first appearance probably before a magistrate judge. Security at that courthouse is going to be very tight.

The location is significant, too — there's been a lot of grand jury action in Washington, D.C., but the special counsel decided to bring this case in Florida instead. That jury pool could be a lot more favorable to former President Trump there.

Trump attorney Jim Trusty says they've received a summary of charges

Posted June 8, 2023 at 11:39 PM EDT
Trump attorney Jim Trusty in West Palm Beach, Fla., in September.
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AFP via Getty Images
Trump attorney Jim Trusty in West Palm Beach, Fla., in September.

"No, we haven't been provided with the indictment yet," Trump attorney Jim Trusty told CNN Thursday night. Trusty added that they've essentially been given a summary of the indictment, which includes a request for them to be at the courthouse in Florida at 3 p.m. on Tuesday.

"It doesn't perfectly mirror an indictment but it does have some language in it that would suggest what the seven charges would be," Trusty said,

He added that it's not "100% clear" if the charges are all separate charges, but he did say the charge of espionage was "ludicrous."

Trusty also said they weren't advised if others have also been indicted in the case.

What was in the classified documents retrieved from Mar-a-Lago?

Posted June 8, 2023 at 10:19 PM EDT

There are three different sets of classified documents to discuss here:

1. In January 2022, the National Archives and Records Administration arranged for the transfer of 15 boxes of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, a year after the initial deadline for turning over all classified documents as part of the Presidential Records Act.

As first reported by The Washington Post, the documents retrieved last month from the Florida property contained important records of communication along with Trump's self-described "love letters" with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, as well as a letter addressed to Trump from his predecessor, former President Barack Obama.

2. In June 2022, Trump's lawyers handed over 38 documents, which The Associated Press reports included five documents marked confidential, 16 marked secret and 17 marked top secret.

3. The third set, which the FBI seized in an August 2022 raid on Mar-a-Lago, included 33 boxes containing over 100 classified records, some of which were stored in office desks.

We still don't know too much about those documents, some of which were so highly classified that the FBI agents themselves couldn't review them. But court filings have clued us in to a taste of what was in the trove:

This is the second indictment for Trump

Posted June 8, 2023 at 9:59 PM EDT
Former US president Donald Trump arrives at the courtroom at the Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on April 4, 2023.
Ed Jones
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AFP
Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in April in Manhattan Criminal Court in a case involving hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.

The former president now faces legal peril in two separate jurisdictions and justice systems — following the indictment on 34 counts of falsifying business records in March by a grand jury in Manhattan working closely with District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in that felony bookkeeping case centered on hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in the waning weeks of the 2016 race for the White House.

Trump has denied having had an affair with Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, although he has admitted reimbursing Cohen for money paid to her.

A prosecutor in Fulton County, Ga., is leading a third investigation into Trump's alleged efforts to pressure state election officials there.

Lawmakers react to news of Trump's indictment

Posted June 8, 2023 at 9:50 PM EDT

As soon as the news of the indictment came out, lawmakers on Capitol Hill started sharing their reactions. Republican lawmakers supportive of Trump defended the former president.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy weighed in, saying it was a "dark day" for the country.

"It is unconscionable for a President to indict the leading candidate opposing him... I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable," McCarthy tweeted.

House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) reacted to the indictment by attacking President Joe Biden. "Let’s be clear about what’s happening: Joe Biden is weaponizing his Department of Justice against his own political rival," Scalise said on Twitter. "This sham indictment is the continuation of the endless political persecution of Donald Trump."

"It's a sad day for America. God bless President Trump,” House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said on Twitter.

“We ought to defund and dismantle the DOJ. I stand with President Trump," Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) said in a tweet.

“The phony Boxes Hoax indictment is an attempt to distract the American public from the millions of dollars in bribes that the Biden Crime Family received from foreign nationals. This scheme won't succeed. President Donald Trump will be back in the White House and Joe Biden will be Hunter’s cellmate," Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) said in a tweet.

Meanwhile, Democrats said the indictments showed a commitment to the rule of law.

“Trump’s apparent indictment on multiple charges arising from his retention of classified materials is another affirmation of the rule of law. For four years, he acted like he was above the law. But he should be treated like any other lawbreaker. And today, he has been,” Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) posted.

Schiff led the first impeachment trial against Trump.

What we know about who testified before the grand jury

Posted June 8, 2023 at 9:37 PM EDT
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, pictured here at a Washington, DC forum in Nov. 2022, testified before the grand jury investigation into Donald Trump.
Drew Angerer
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Getty Images North America
Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, pictured here at a Washington, D.C., forum in Nov. 2022, testified before the grand jury investigating Donald Trump.

The news of Trump's indictment comes after weeks of media reports detailing a parade of high-profile witnesses testifying before grand juries in Florida and in Washington, D.C.

Among the most high-ranking was Mark Meadows, Trump's former White House chief of staff. His presence was what signaled to many reporters that the probe was nearing a conclusion.

Meadows testified before a grand jury weighing the handling of classified documents after Trump left office, as well as alleged obstruction of justice as the government probed the matter, according to a source with direct knowledge.

"Mr. Meadows has maintained a commitment to tell the truth where he has a legal obligation to do so," George Terwilliger, Meadows' attorney, previously told NPR in a statement.

Taylor Budowich, a former aide to former President Trump who now leads the Super PAC, MAGA Inc., also testified before a grand jury in Miami on Wednesday.

"Today, in what can only be described as a bogus and deeply troubling effort to use the power of government to "get" Trump, I fulfilled a legal obligation to testify in front [of] a federal grand jury and I answered every question honestly," Budowich tweeted.

Trump broke the news of his own indictment with a post on Truth Social

Posted June 8, 2023 at 9:21 PM EDT

Donald Trump broke the news of the indictment himself on Thursday evening by posting on Truth Social, the social media site he owns.

"I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States, who received far more votes than any sitting President in the History of our Country, and is currently leading, by far, all Candidates, both Democrat and Republican, in Polls of the 2024 Presidential Election. I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!" Trump wrote.

He added that he'd been summoned to appear in a federal court in Miami on Tuesday.

In a video post, Trump maintained his innocence and claimed that the investigation was a hoax, comparing it to the Russia investigation and said he was "an innocent man, an innocent person."

"Our country is going to hell," Trump said, and added that he thinks President Biden is weaponizing the Justice Department.

Trump has been vocal about the case on Truth Social in recent days. When his lawyers received notice from the Justice Department that he is a target of the Mar-a-Lago documents inquiry, Trump posted online: "No one has told me I'm being indicted, and I shouldn't be because I've done NOTHING wrong."

Trump also claimed there was bribery and turmoil happening within the DOJ regarding the investigation but cited no evidence, and those claims have not been verified.

Just In

Donald Trump has been indicted on seven counts of federal charges

Posted June 8, 2023 at 9:13 PM EDT

Former President Donald Trump has been indicted on federal for storing dozens of classified documents at his Florida resort and refusing to return them to the FBI and the National Archives.

The indictment against former President Trump is seven counts and includes willful retention of info related to national defense, at least one false statements charge, and at least one charge related to obstruction, according to a source with knowledge of the charges.