Trump charged in document case
The US Justice Department took the mammoth step Thursday of handing down federal criminal charges against former President Donald Trump. The indictment relates to his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his Florida estate.
This is a huge deal, marking the first time in history that a former US president has been charged with a federal crime.
While the indictment itself has not yet been made public, it's been widely reported that Trump was charged with seven counts, including violating the Espionage Act, making false statements, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
This all relates to a 2022 probe from when the National Archives, the custodian of historical records, took back some 15 boxes of documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate that should have been handed in at the end of his term. They then found that the former president and his lawyers, who had been stonewalling efforts to retrieve the documents, had more files stashed in Florida, resulting in an FBI raid on his Florida property last August.
Trump, for his part, took to his social media platform last night and exclaimed in his vintage all caps “I’M INNOCENT!”
What happens now? The former president confirmed that he must appear in court in Miami on Tuesday, though it is very hard to know how long it will take for this case to go to trial. Trump is notorious for dragging out litigation, and the pretrial process in this case could take a very long time. Still, if convicted, he could face a prison term, though this would not preclude him from running for president. But running a campaign from prison would certainly be unchartered territory.
The politics of it all will be the thing to watch. When Trump was found liable for sexual assault early last month, it only further galvanized his base and reinforced his narrative of grievance. It seems likely that here too the former president may use this legal spectacle to fundraise for his 2024 presidential campaign, which worked a treat last time. It was dubbed the “indictment bump.”
The situation is particularly tricky, however, for his GOP rivals. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has so far had a tough time standing up to Trump in a way that doesn’t isolate his adoring base, took to Twitter to condemn the weaponization of the legal system. But as the 2024 race heats up, others seeking the GOP nomination will have to contend with Trump again sucking up all the media oxygen. They will also have to take a stance on Trump’s serious legal troubles in ways that don't isolate the GOP base or independent voters tired of Trump’s drama – a very tall order!