Former President Donald Trump prays with supporters at the Cuban restaurant Versailles in Miami’s Little Havana on Tuesday, June 13, after he appeared in federal court and pleaded not guilty to felony charges of illegally withholding classiﬁed documents. PHOTO COURTESY OF WLRN
Former 45th president of the United States Donald J. Trump made history by being arraigned in the Wilkie D. Ferguson, Jr. Federal Courthouse on Tuesday, after being indicted last week by a Miami grand jury on 37 counts including espionage and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The indictment stems from a yearlong standoff between Trump and the National Archives regarding documents marked “secret” and “top secret” that were improperly stored at his Mar-a-Largo residence in the Town on Palm Beach, Fla., and Trump’s New Jersey residence in Bedminster.
According to the 49-page indictment, Trump schemed and plotted to retain sensitive military secrets in his Florida residence after numerous discussions with the National Archives attempting to retrieve them. Trump relinquished some of the materials while falsely attesting that he had surrendered them all. Eventually the FBI conducted a more detailed search at Mar-a-Largo from which more than 100 boxes of other classified documents were recovered. Trump valet and Navy veteran Waltine Nauto is noted as a co-conspirator and co-defendant in the indictment.
Inside the indictment, Special Counsel Jack Smith, appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, outlines in startling detail the methodology of Trump and Nauto as the classified documents were unlawfully removed from the White House on January 20, 2021, to Mar-a Largo, and then the conspiracy to induce Trump lawyers to lie to the FBI regarding the whereabouts of the materials.
According to the investigation helmed by Smith, among the top-secret documents found at Trump’s Palm Beach residence was information “concerning the nuclear weaponry of the United States,” “military capabilities of foreign countries,” “White House intelligence briefings,” and “communications with a leader of a foreign country.” The sensitivity of the information in the classified documents that were marked TOP SECRET, SECRET, and CONFIDENTIAL signifies that the materials belonged distinctively to the United States government and “only individuals with the appropriate security clearance and additional SAP – Special Access Programs – permissions were authorized to have access to such national security information.” Special Access Programs were created by the Department of Defense (DoD) during the second World War under the direction of President Roosevelt to contain and “protect classified information.”
Documents also found at Trump’s Florida residence were marked SCI – Sensitive Compartmented Information – which “is information about certain intelligence sources and methods and can include information pertaining to sensitive collection systems, analytical processing, and targeting, or which is derived from it.” Access to SCI materials “is only granted to individuals who have a need-to-know, have been granted a Top-Secret clearance by Personnel Security (PerSec), and are approved by the Department of Commerce’s Intelligence Community granting agency, and only upon completion of a separate Nondisclosure Agreement, the IC Form 4414.” SCI documents are required to be stored only at the Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or SCIF.
The indictment describes the locations of the various documents housed at Mar-a-Largo as a ballroom, a storage room, a desk in an office, a closet and a bathroom. Materials from the boxes were haphazardly placed in storage closets, and contents of classified information spilled onto the surface where Nauto and Mar-a-Largo employees ex- changed pictures via text messages to the former president requesting instructions of how to proceed. According to the indictment, Trump showed several individuals folders containing top secret documents, admitting their origins and status. On one such occasion, Trump waves classified documents to four undisclosed individuals saying “Secret. This is secret information. See as president I could have declassified it. Now I can’t. But this is still a secret.”
Smith anchored Trump’s own verbiage to incriminate him by advancing various occasions where the former president addressed the need for stricter legislation and prosecution for federal officials who abuse the protocol for the disposition of classified documents. At the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump curated the phrase against his opponent Hillary Clinton, “Lock her up,” regarding the disappearance of 33,000 emails that originated from a private server that the former secretary of state used that was in direct conflict with governmental protocol. In a campaign appearance at the time, Trump stated “one of the first things we must do is enforce all classification rules and to enforce all laws relating to the handling of classified
information.” On another campaign stump in September of 2016, Trump said about Clinton, “We can’t have someone in the Oval Office who doesn’t understand the meaning of the word confidential and classified.”
There were no cameras or audio equipment allowed inside the Miami federal courthouse Tuesday documenting Trump being officially charged, fingerprinted and booked. According to journalists inside the courtroom, he “sat stone-faced” with no expression as his lawyers entered the plea of “not guilty” in his behalf.
Meanwhile House Republicans continue their staunch support. Majority leader Kevin McCarthy told the press Monday evening that “this is going to disrupt this nation because it goes to the core of equal justice for all, which is not being seen today, and we are not going to stand for it.” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) remarked that the indictment is “the most severe election interference on the part of the federal government that we’ve ever seen.” Other House Republicans share the opinion of Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) that President Biden’s administration is “weaponizing” law enforcement against Trump because he is the presumed Republican frontrunner for the 2024 presidential campaign season. “This is the most political thing I have ever seen,” Jordan said in an interview Sunday. “They have been out to get the former president. They’re indicting President Trump … for having material that he declassified that was protected by the Secret Service.”
But it is apparent that the GOP is split in its loyalties. Senate Republicans are more restrained in their defense. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said in a statement, “The charges in this case are quite serious and cannot be casually dismissed. Mishandling classiﬁed documents is a federal crime because it can expose national secrets, as well as the sources and methods they were obtained through.” Mitt Romney (R-UT) told reporters Monday “the country is going to go through angst and turmoil and that could have been avoided if President Trump would have just turned the documents in when he was asked to do so. All he had to do when the subpoena came was give the documents back and he wouldn’t have been indicted and the country wouldn’t have gone through what it’s going through. This was entirely avoidable if he just turned in the documents. Why didn’t he?”