WASHINGTON, UNITED STATES — US prosecutors who indicted Donald Trump used his own words — and notes jotted down by his lawyers — to build the historic case against the former president.
The 49-page indictment unsealed last week accuses Trump of endangering US national security by hoarding top secret nuclear and defense documents after leaving the White House.
The indictment from special counsel Jack Smith relies heavily on statements made by Trump himself to make the legal case against the 45th US president.
It recounts one instance in which Trump described a Pentagon “plan of attack” on a US rival nation to a writer, publisher and two staff members, none of whom held security clearances.
Trump allegedly told them during the audio-recorded meeting at his golf club in New Jersey that the plan was ‘highly confidential’ and ‘secret,'” the indictment says.
Trump is quoted as telling them “As president I could have declassified it” and “Now I can’t, you know, but this is still secret.”
The target of the attack is identified in the indictment only as “Country A.” According to US media, the nation involved was Iran.
The indictment also uses Trump’s own words to establish that he was aware — even before winning the 2016 presidential election — of the importance of safeguarding classified information.
“In my administration, I’m going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information,” the then-Republican presidential candidate said in August 2016. “No one will be above the law.”
And as president, the indictment notes, Trump issued a statement in July 2018 stressing his “unique, Constitutional responsibility to protect the Nation’s classified information.”
‘Don’t play ball’
The indictment also recounts meetings between Trump and two of his lawyers — identified as Attorney 1 and Attorney 2 — to implicate him in an effort to mislead investigators seeking the return of documents taken from the White House to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.
According to notes kept by Attorney 1 during a meeting held to discuss how to respond to a May 2022 grand jury subpoena, Trump said: “What happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play ball with them?
“I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don’t,” Trump reportedly said. “Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here?”
The dozens of boxes containing documents with Top Secret, Secret and Confidential markings were stashed at Mar-a-Lago in locations including a ballroom, a bathroom, a storage room and Trump’s bedroom.
According to the indictment, they were moved around at Trump’s direction by the former president’s personal assistant, Walt Nauta, a US Navy veteran who also faces charges as a co-conspirator.
Trump, the first former US president to face federal charges, is accused of “willful retention of national defense information,” punishable by up to 10 years in prison, conspiracy to obstruct justice, making false statements and other offenses.
The 76-year-old Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is to make a first appearance in a federal court in Miami on Tuesday.