Trump is indicted by a grand jury in the classified documents case
ASMA KHALID, HOST:
Former President Donald Trump is now a defendant in a case filed by the government he once led.
A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:
Trump faces a federal criminal indictment related to sensitive documents found at his Florida resort with charges that include conspiracy and false statements. He's due in federal court in Miami on Tuesday.
KHALID: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been following this story, and she joins us now to help us understand the latest.
Carrie, it's great to have you with us.
CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Thank you. Happy to be here.
KHALID: Carrie, this investigation has been going on now for more than a year, and it's now resulted in the first federal criminal charges against a former president. What do we know about these specific charges?
JOHNSON: This indictment is still under seal, but lawyers for Donald Trump have been describing some of the charges. They say there are seven counts. They include willful retention of information related to national defense, part of the Espionage Act. There's at least one charge related to obstruction and at least one other related to false statements, but it's not clear whether anyone else is included in this indictment. We do know prosecutors have been investigating aides to Trump who may have moved boxes at that Mar-a-Lago resort.
KHALID: So how is Donald Trump himself reacting to this indictment?
JOHNSON: Trump told the world about the FBI search of his Florida home back in August 2022, and he told the world again last night that he had been notified about the indictment. Trump says he is a, quote, "innocent man." He says it's a "dark day" for the U.S., and he called these charges political interference because they're coming in the middle of his campaign for the White House in 2024.
KHALID: So what happens next? What's the sort of next step in this legal process?
JOHNSON: Donald Trump has been summoned to show up at the federal courthouse in Miami at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. His lawyer, Jim Trusty, told CNN last night that Trump will not be arrested, but he might go through processing at the courthouse and deal with other red tape behind the scenes. Over the next few days, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Secret Service are going to do a lot of planning to make sure that courthouse is secure.
KHALID: So, Carrie, this is the first federal indictment of a former president, but it is the second indictment for Donald Trump. Trump was previously indicted earlier this year, just a couple of months ago, by prosecutors in New York. So does that case offer a kind of blueprint for what might happen here?
JOHNSON: Yeah. In many ways, yes. Those charges in New York came from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. There was a lot of security worked out for Trump's appearance at the courthouse in lower Manhattan. And again, those are charges that relate to falsifying business records for alleged hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels shortly before the 2016 election. This new federal case from the Justice Department is more serious legally, and it would carry more significant penalties and punishments, too.
KHALID: So, Carrie, much of this news seems to be coming from the former president himself. I am curious what the Justice Department is saying about the charges.
JOHNSON: The special counsel, Jack Smith, has not said a word since he was appointed last winter. He had no immediate comment last night. Remember, Smith is a registered independent, former war crimes prosecutor who once led the unit at the Justice Department that prosecutes corrupt public officials. Of course, it's possible the Justice Department will move to unseal the indictment as a matter of public interest before Tuesday - not clear if they intend to do that at this point. And Attorney General Merrick Garland has said the special counsel acts outside of day-to-day supervision at Justice. He's the one to speak.
KHALID: Real quick, Carrie - this is all going on during the 2024 presidential campaign. So does that mean Trump will be on trial while the campaign is underway?
JOHNSON: It does certainly seem, given how the wheels of justice grind, that there will be legal proceedings. It's not clear a trial will be underway during the campaign at this point.
KHALID: All right. That's NPR's Carrie Johnson. Thank you so much.
JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.