Former President Donald Trump pled not guilty to 37 criminal charges while under arraignment June 13 for alleged mishandling of classified documents after his presidential term ended in 2021. These charges include one count of making false statements, five counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice and withholding documents and 31 separate counts of the Espionage Act.
According to the indictment from special counsel Jack Smith, the mishandled documents included top-secret information about the U.S. military, American security vulnerabilities, domestic and foreign nuclear capabilities and general U.S. intelligence collections. The indictment says boxes of documents were stacked in a bathroom, a ballroom, a bedroom, an office and a storage room at Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.
[Related: Six major cases heard by SCOTUS in 2023]
Additionally, the indictment includes audio recording transcripts of Trump allegedly showing classified military attack plans and a military map to individuals, including a writer, publisher and members of his Political Action Committee without security clearances. This would violate the Espionage Act of 1917, a law passed in World War I to crack down on sharing defense-related information with America’s enemies.
The Presidential Records Act of 1978 states that former presidents and vice presidents must deliver all records created by their administrations to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) by the end of their terms. In May 2021, NARA began attempts to retrieve classified documents from Trump’s properties at Mar-a-Lago and the Trump National Golf Club.
After becoming aware that Trump was personally involved in withholding the document from NARA, the FBI launched an investigation on March 30, 2022. On Aug. 8, 2022, the FBI led a search of Mar-a-Lago, recovering over 13,000 government documents, including 325 classified documents. The indictment says Trump directed aides to move boxes away from his storage room so they would not be found by investigators.
While arraigned, the former president was booked, fingerprinted and held in court while his charges were read. Former Trump aide Walter Nauta was charged also with one count of making false statements and five counts of conspiracy to obstruct justice and withholding documents.
Though Smith said he is seeking a speedy trial that could conclude within 70 days of the arraignment, procedural delays by Trump’s legal team may set back the trial by months. This could include arguments about whether the classified documents will be allowed to be shown in court or various pretrial motions Trump’s defense team may use.