The Justice Department filed three new federal charges Thursday against former President Donald Trump in its investigation into him retaining White House documents—on top of 37 felony charges prosecutors already brought—including charges for allegedly willfully retaining national defense information, conspiring to obstruct justice and destroying evidence, which could all carry prison sentences if he’s convicted.
Prosecutors added three new federal charges against Trump in a superseding indictment filed Thursday: one additional violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 793 for the willful retention of national defense information, along with two alleged violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1512, one count for “altering, destroying, mutilating or concealing an object,” and one count for corruptly doing so.
The charges come on top of those filed in the initial indictment, which charged Trump with 31 alleged violations of 18 U.S.C. 793, along with one count each of conspiracy to obstruct justice (18 U.S.C. § 1512), withholding a document or record (18 U.S.C. 1512), corruptly concealing a document or record (18 U.S.C. §§ 1512), concealing a document in a federal investigation (18U.S.C. §§ 1519), scheme to conceal (18 U.S.C. §§ 1001) and making false statements and representations (18 U.S.C. §§ 1001).
Part of the Espionage Act, section “e” of 18 U.S.C. §§ 793 carries a fine and/or up to 10 years in prison, and prohibits “willfully retain[ing]” national defense information and “fail[ing] to deliver it to the officer or employee of the United States entitled to receive it,” with the new count added Thursday reflecting an additional national security document that prosecutors allege Trump illegally retained.
The sections of 18 U.S.C. §§ 1512 Trump was initially charged under concern anyone who “uses intimidation, threatens, or corruptly persuades another person” or “engages in misleading conduct toward another person” with the intent to have them withhold a document “from an official proceeding,” and anyone who “corruptly” conceals records “with the intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding” or “otherwise obstructs, influences, or impedes any official proceeding, or attempts to do so.”
The new charges against Trump under §§ 1512 that were added on Thursday similarly concern anyone who “cause[s] or induce[s]” anyone to “alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal an object with intent to impair the object’s integrity or availability for use in an official proceeding,” and anyone who “corruptly” does so or otherwise “obstructs” an official proceeding.
Trump was initially charged with unlawfully concealing records based on allegedly trying to conceal White House documents from federal investigators, while the charges regarding destroying evidence relate to him allegedly directing aides to delete security footage showing boxes being moved out of a storage area in order to allegedly hide them from prosecutors.
Trump was also charged with conspiracy to commit obstruction under §§ 1512, based on his broader scheme to conceal documents from prosecutors, and all his alleged violations under that law carry a punishment of a fine or up to 20 years in prison if convicted.
18 U.S.C. §§ 1519 concerns obstruction, threatening up to 20 years in prison or fines for anyone who “knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsifies, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object” with the intent to “impede, obstruct, or influence” a federal investigation.
18 U.S.C. §§ 1001 criminalizes making false statements or “falsif[ying], conceal[ing], or cover[ing] up by any trick, scheme, or device a material fact” as part of a federal government matter, which is punishable by a fine or up to five years in prison.
What To Watch For
Trump’s trial in the documents case is scheduled to begin May 20, 2024 in Florida. The DOJ argued in a court filing Thursday that the new charges against Trump “should not disturb” that date, though Trump’s lawyers could use it as an excuse to try and push the trial back, as Trump has pushed to delay the trial until after the 2024 election. Legal experts have generally suggested the DOJ has a strong case against Trump and said Thursday the new charges could further bolster the case, as Trump allegedly directing security footage to be deleted helps prove that he knew what he was doing was wrong. “I think this original indictment was engineered to last a thousand years and now this superseding indictment will last an antiquity,” attorney Ty Cobb, who previously represented Trump in the FBI’s investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia, told CNN.
More than 11,000. That’s the number of White House documents federal investigators have seized from Mar-A-Lago—between the materials that Trump turned over himself and those that were found there during a search—including 325 classified records. Trump has defended himself by claiming he declassified materials—which experts have largely denounced as false, and the ex-president’s attorneys have not claimed in court—but most of the statutes he could be charged apply to both non-classified and classified materials, so Trump could still be charged even if that were the case.
Trump has broadly denied any wrongdoing in the classified documents case and called himself an “INNOCENT MAN,” maintaining he was allowed to bring the documents back to Mar-A-Lago with him under the Presidential Records Act and declassified many of the materials. Experts have said Trump’s interpretation of that law is inaccurate and White House materials are legally the property of the National Archives. The ex-president has continued to deny the most recent charges against him, telling Fox News the charges are “ridiculous” and suggesting to conservative radio host John Fredericks that he turned over security tapes despite being under the impression he didn’t have to do so. “We handed [the tapes] over to them. … I’m not even sure what [prosecutors are] saying,” Trump said.
Trump became the first former U.S. president to face federal criminal charges in June, when the DOJ initially charged him in the documents case. Trump was initially charged with aide Walter Nauta as his co-defendant, and the superseding indictment added Mar-A-Lago property manager Carlos de Oliveira as an additional defendant in the case. The DOJ has been investigating Trump’s retention of White House documents since February 2022, after Trump delivered 15 boxes of records to the National Archives in January 2022 and the agency discovered he had held on to classified materials. Federal investigators subpoenaed Trump for all remaining classified documents in June 2022, but then searched Mar-A-Lago in August after having reason to believe Trump did not turn all the documents over. Investigators found an additional 103 classified documents during the search, raising suspicions that Trump had obstructed the investigation by not fully complying with the subpoena, and the indictment alleges Trump undertook a string of efforts—with Nauta and de Oliveira’s help—aimed at purposefully hiding documents from prosecutors. Before the first charges were reported, a string of recent news reports suggested Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith had obtained damaging information, including an audio recording from 2021 in which Trump acknowledged he kept a classified document, but did not have the power to declassify it now that he had left office. The new charge added Thursday regarding the willful retention of documents reflected the document Trump referred to in that audio recording.
Trump Charged With More Crimes In Documents Case—Here’s What That Means (Forbes)
Trump Charged With 3 New Felonies In Mar-A-Lago Classified Documents Case (Forbes)
Model Prosecution Memo for Trump Classified Documents (Just Security)