Donald Trump is the first former president to be indicted on criminal charges.( SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images))
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"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," Trump posted. "I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!"
Trump added: "This is indeed a DARK DAY for the United States of America. We are a Country in serious and rapid Decline, but together we will Make America Great Again!"
Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November 2022 to investigate Trump’s alleged improper retention of classified records at his Mar-a-Lago home.
The Justice Department had been investigating the matter after the FBI conducted an unprecedented raid on his private residence in August 2022.
NARA told Congress in February 2022 that Trump took 15 boxes of presidential records to his personal residence in Florida. NARA recovered the 15 boxes from Mar-a-Lago and "identified items marked as classified national security information within the boxes." The matter was referred to the Justice Department by NARA.
Those boxes allegedly contained "classified national security information," and official correspondence between Trump and foreign heads of state.
Classified material that was reportedly confiscated by the FBI during the FBI's raid in August included a letter to Trump from former President Obama, a letter from Kim Jong Un, a birthday dinner menu and a cocktail napkin.
Trump last year said the National Archives did not "find" the documents, but that they were "given, upon request." Sources close to the former president said he had been cooperating and there was "no need" for the raid.
The affidavit said that the FBI's investigation had "established that documents bearing classification markings, which appear to contain National Defense Information (NDI), were among the materials contained" in the 15 boxes Trump initially turned over to the NARA.
"A preliminary triage of the documents with classification markings revealed the following approximate numbers: 184 unique documents bearing classification markings, including 67 documents marked as CONFIDENTIAL, 92 documents marked as SECRET, and 25 documents marked as TOP SECRET," the affidavit states.
The FBI said it had "probable cause to believe" that additional records containing classified information, including National Defense Information, would be found on the premises of Mar-a-Lago home, beyond what he had previously turned over to the NARA, according to the unsealed and heavily-redacted affidavit used to justify the raid.
A Secret Service agent and a security guard officer guard the Mar-a-Lago home of former U.S. President Donald Trump, in Palm Beach, Florida, U.S. March 31, 2023. (REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo)
According to the property receipt from the Aug. 8, 2022 FBI raid, FBI agents took approximately 20 boxes of items from the premises, including one set of documents marked as "Various classified/TS/SCI documents," which refers to top secret/sensitive compartmented information.
Records covered by that government classification level could potentially include human intelligence and information that, if disclosed, could jeopardize relations between the U.S. and other nations, as well as the lives of intelligence operatives abroad. However, the classification also encompasses national security information related to the daily operations of the president of the United States.
WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 18: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland delivers remarks at the U.S. Justice Department Building on November 18, 2022 in Washington, DC. Garland announced he will appoint a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department’s investigation into former President Donald Trump and his handling of classified documents and actions before the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol Building. Garlands pick to oversee the special counsel is Jack Smith, an international criminal court prosecutor. Garland spoke alongside Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco, Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite and U.S attorney for the District of Columbia Matthew Graves. ((Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images))
The government conducted the search in response to what it believed to be a violation of federal laws: 18 USC 793 — gathering, transmitting or losing defense information; 18 USC 2071 — concealment, removal or mutilation; and 18 USC 1519 — destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.
The allegation of "gathering, transmitting or losing defense information" falls under the Espionage Act.
The indictment comes after classified records were also discovered in President Biden’s office at the Penn Biden Center last year. Those records were from his time as vice president during the Obama administration and from his tenure in the U.S. Senate.
At the time, Garland initially chose U.S. Attorney John Lausch to conduct a review of classified records that were discovered at the Penn Biden Center. In December, more classified records were found at Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware home, but the discoveries were not made public until this year.
Garland later appointed U.S. Attorney Robert Hur as special counsel to investigate Biden’s improper retention of classified records. Hur took over the DOJ investigation from Lausch.
Meanwhile, classified records were also found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s home in Indiana.
Fox News reported last week that the Justice Department had completed its investigation in the matter and that Pence will not be charged.
The status of Biden’s special counsel investigation is unclear.
Smith also took over the Justice Department’s investigation into the Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021. In that role, he examined whether Trump or other officials interfered with the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election, including the certification of the Electoral College vote on that day.
The White House declined comment.