Thursday, 18 Apr 2024

Another Indictment

Donald Trump has been indicted again. He is now the first president, former or current, to be charged with a federal crime.

The charges stem from an investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents that he kept after he left the White House. Federal officials tried to get those documents back, and Trump is accused of resisting their efforts and trying to keep the files for himself.

Trump faces at least seven criminal counts, my Times colleagues reported. They include willfully retaining national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, making false statements and conspiracy to obstruct justice. The Justice Department has not confirmed or announced the charges.

It is not unusual for federal officials to misplace or accidentally hold on to classified documents. Such files were found in the homes of President Biden and former Vice President Mike Pence. What is unusual in Trump’s case are his apparent efforts to keep the documents as federal officials asked him to return them.

Trump described the charges and investigation as part of a political witch hunt. “I’m an innocent man,” he said in a video last night. “I’m an innocent person.”

Today’s newsletter will explain the case and whether the charges could affect Trump’s third run for president, and offer a selection of the best coverage of the indictment, from The Times and elsewhere.

The case

The charges go back to January 2021, when Trump left office and some documents were packed in boxes shipped from the White House to his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago. The National Archives, which keeps presidential records, tried for much of the following year to get back the documents, which were considered government property. In January 2022, Trump turned over 15 boxes of material after what his lawyers claimed was a “diligent search.”

But Trump did not turn over everything in his possession. In August, an F.B.I. search at Mar-a-Lago turned up more than 100 classified documents.

In a court filing, the Justice Department noted that in just hours of searching, the F.B.I. recovered “twice as many documents with classification markings” as Trump’s search did — casting doubt on how much he cooperated with the government’s pursuit of the records. Since then, the Justice Department has been investigating the extent to which Trump tried to hide the documents, even after the government served him with a subpoena to return them.

Trump has argued that he was allowed to keep the files because he declassified them before taking them home. But officials appear to have a recording of Trump discussing a sensitive military document and acknowledging that it was not declassified. Investigators have also interviewed Mar-a-Lago staff and reviewed security camera footage to build their case.

Beyond that, we know relatively little about what information the documents contain. Dozens taken from Mar-a-Lago had classified markings.

There is another important detail: Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the case, secured an indictment against Trump in Miami, not Washington. Florida, a state that Trump won twice, could provide a jury that is friendlier to him than a Democratic stronghold like Washington.

What’s next

Trump is expected to be arraigned in Miami on Tuesday, at which point prosecutors will probably release details of the charges.

In the meantime, Trump’s campaign is already fund-raising off the indictment. The charges do not prevent him from running for president. He might not be tried or convicted before the 2024 election. He could campaign, and even try to govern, from prison, according to legal experts.

“In a week in which three other Republicans — Mike Pence, Chris Christie and Doug Burgum — declared their 2024 candidacies, the indictment of Trump guarantees he will completely dominate the political conversation,” wrote my colleague Shane Goldmacher, a national political reporter.

Trump’s standing in the Republican primary actually improved after he was charged this year in New York for a scheme to cover up potential sex scandals in his 2016 run for president. The trial in that case is scheduled for 2024.

Republican lawmakers signaled their continued support for Trump. “Sad day for America,” Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican and longtime Trump ally, tweeted last night. “God Bless President Trump.”

Trump faces two more criminal investigations. Another federal inquiry led by Smith is examining Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election and his role in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. And a prosecutor in Georgia is investigating Trump’s election interference in that state. Charges could come from those investigations in the coming weeks or months.

For more

Trump assailed Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information. Now, the issue is sure to be central in his re-election campaign, Peter Baker writes.

Trump was sitting by the pool with advisers at his New Jersey golf club when the indictment call came.

Smith was selected as special counsel for his experience with high-stakes cases against politicians. He ran the Justice Department unit that investigates public corruption.

A Times investigation shows how Trump stored classified documents in high-traffic areas at Mar-a-Lago.

Moving a prosecution to Florida could avert a time-consuming legal battle over the trial venue, The Washington Post reported.

Voters are entitled to a determination of Trump’s guilt or innocence at a trial before the election, Norman Eisen, Andrew Weissmann and Joyce Vance write in Times Opinion.

Evidence suggests that the prosecution in the documents case is stronger than the Manhattan indictment, David A. Graham writes in The Atlantic.

THE LATEST NEWS

Wildfire Smoke

Smoky conditions from Canadian wildfires are easing in the Northeast.

See what the air quality is like where you live.

And here’s advice on how to clear your home of smoke, and on the best apps for monitoring air quality.

Supreme Court

The Supreme Court rejected Alabama’s redrawn congressional map, saying it diluted the power of Black voters.

The ruling was 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the three liberals.

The decision was a surprise for this court, which in recent years has rolled back parts of the Voting Rights Act.

In a separate case, the court ruled unanimously that a dog toy resembling a Jack Daniel’s bottle was not protected by the First Amendment from lawsuits.

This graphic shows how the major rulings this term compare with public opinion.

War in Ukraine

Ukraine’s counteroffensive appears to be underway. Ukrainian forces mounted an attack in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia, using advanced U.S. and German weapons.

Russia shelled the flood-stricken city of Kherson, obstructing evacuation efforts.

Other Big Stories

China is planning to build a facility in Cuba that American officials worry could spy on the U.S.

The American branch of the cryptocurrency exchange Binance halted trading in U.S. dollars.

Pat Robertson, who built an empire on his evangelism and turned Christian conservatives into a powerful constituency, died at 93.

An eating disorder support group replaced its help line with an A.I. tool. The bot was taken offline after it began offering weight-loss advice.

Energy drinks are surging, and so are their caffeine levels. Some servings have nearly as much as a six-pack of Coca-Cola.

Opinions

Leaving A.I. in the hands of tech giants will bring political and economic oppression, Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson argue.

Only you (and your friends) can prevent forest fires: New fire awareness campaigns should summon everyone to duty, Clare Frank writes.

And a column by Farhad Manjoo on public transit.

MORNING READS

Neighbors: New York City is trying to manage its 500,000 feral cats.

Beige flag: Your partner’s weird behaviors may not be bad, but they aren’t good either.

Modern Love: The heartache and joys of raising three small children, alone, at 62.

Sun and suds: Head to the backyard for a bath.

Road trips: What to bring and where to store it.

Advice from Wirecutter: Wash your swimsuit without stretching it.

Lives Lived: As President Reagan’s interior secretary, James Watt sparked a national debate over the use of public lands. Watt died at 85.

SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC

Impeccably timed: The Panthers were minutes from going down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Final when Matthew Tkachuk tied the game with 2:13 left, leading to a season-saving overtime win.

Softball dynasty: The Sooners won their third straight Women’s College World Series title, cementing the program as one of the best in the history of college sports.

ARTS AND IDEAS

A comedy ‘crown jewel’

Throughout decades in comedy, Joan Rivers kept a meticulous catalog of her jokes, with 65,000 typewritten cards organized by subjects such as “Parents hated me,” “Las Vegas” and “No sex appeal.” The largest category was “Tramp,” which included 1,756 jokes.

Now, years after Rivers’s death, her family is donating the archive to the National Comedy Center, a high-tech museum in Jamestown, N.Y. It will be the focus of an interactive exhibition that allows visitors to explore the files in depth.

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook

Make ritzy Cheddar chicken tonight.

Travel

Spend 36 hours in Split, Croatia.

News Quiz

How well did you follow the headlines this week?

Now Time to Play

Here are today’s Spelling Bee and the Bee Buddy, which helps you find remaining words.

And here are today’s Mini Crossword, Wordle and Sudoku.

Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.— German

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German Lopez is a writer for The Morning, The Times’s flagship daily newsletter, where he covers major world events and how they affect people. @germanrlopez

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