If one theme emerged from the prosecutors’ account of the indictment of former President Donald J. Trump unsealed Friday, it was that even after months of relentless coverage of the case, the handling of classified documents by the Mr Trump was more arrogant. — and his attempts to thwart the government’s efforts to get them back were more egregious than previously known.
On nearly every one of its 49 pages, the indictment revealed a shocking example of Mr. Trump’s indifferent attitude to some of the country’s most sensitive secrets — and of his persistent willfulness to have his aides and lawyers do his bidding to thwart government efforts. to get the files back.
Mr. Trump will have a chance in court to refute Special Counsel Jack Smith’s story. But in the evidence cited in the indictment, there were references to government records kept casually in a bathroom and on a ballroom stage at Mar-a-Lago, his private Florida club and residence. There was also a description of an overturned stack of boxes lying in a storage area in the basement of the compound, their contents – including a classified intelligence document – spilling onto the floor.
At one point, the indictment featured an almost cartoonish image. Quoting notes from one of Mr. Trump’s own lawyers, it tells how the former president made a “picking motion” as if suggesting that the lawyer go through a folder full of classified materials and “if there’s something bad in it, like, you know , pick it out.
A classic example of what’s known as a “talking indictment,” the indictment document, filed Thursday in Miami’s Federal District Court, did much more than lay out the seven crimes Mr Trump has been charged with — including them, obstruction of the course of justice and the deliberate retention of national defense data.
The indictment also showed the fundamental elements of the former president’s personality: his sense of bombast and vengeance, his belief that everything he touches belongs to him, and his admiration for people for their underhanded cunning and gamesmanship with the authorities.
For example, it recounts that Mr. Trump had nothing but praise for an unnamed aide to Hillary Clinton who — at least in his telling of the story — helped Ms. Clinton destroy tens of thousands of emails from a private server.
“He did a great job,” the indictment quotes Mr. Trump to one of his lawyers.
Why? Because, according to Mr. Trump’s story, the aide made sure Mrs. Clinton “didn’t get in trouble.”
As a starting point, the indictment provided the clearest picture yet of the highly sensitive documents Mr. an attack on the homeland and plans for retaliatory attacks on foreign opponents.
In the most blunt language possible, it was explained how dangerous this was.
“The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents may pose a risk to United States national security, foreign relations, the security of the United States military and human resources, and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence gathering methods,” the indictment said. .
The indictment not only accused Mr. Trump of keeping all these records. It also noted that on at least two occasions he showed – or nearly showed – secret materials to others who did not have the proper security clearances to view them.
One such episode took place in August or September 2021, when Mr. Trump showed a representative of his political action committee the map of a particular country and noted that a military operation there “wasn’t going well,” according to the indictment.
It then described how Mr. Trump quickly realized that he should not have shown the card and told the representative not to “get too close”.
The charges also related to a record of a meeting in July 2021 when Mr Trump — in a fit of anger at General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of his Joint Chiefs of Staff — waved visitors a “plan of attack” against Iran. at his golf club in Bedminster, NJ
To the horror of his aides – one of whom declared: “Now we have a problem” – Mr Trump admitted that he could have released the “highly confidential” document when he was president, but now it was too late because he was gone used to be. from office.
And yet, as the indictment describes in painful detail, he seemed almost out of control.
“This is classified information,” it quoted him. “Look, look at this.”