What are the charges against Donald Trump and what happens next?

Donald Trump indictment US former president White House classified documents - Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images
Donald Trump indictment US former president White House classified documents - Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

What are the charges?

Donald Trump faces 37 felony charges related to the mishandling of classified documents.

The 76-year-old is accused of breaking seven different laws. The charges relate to 31 counts of willful retention of national defence information as well as single charges for making false statements and representations, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document, concealing a document in a federal investigation and a scheme to conceal.

The indictment accused him of having improperly removed scores of boxes from the White House and storing them at his Florida estate in “a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom, and a storage room”.

Some contained information about “defence and weapons capabilities of both the US and foreign countries” along with nuclear programmes.

Mr Trump has maintained his innocence, claiming that the investigation is a “hoax” and a “witch hunt”, and has accused Joe Biden and the Democrats of election interference.

Walt Nauta, Mr Trump’s former aide, has also been charged.

What are the possible sentences?

Only two of the charges that Mr Trump faces carry a possible prison sentence of less than 10 years.

The 31 charges under the Espionage Act – the wilful retention of documents – carry a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.

To convict Mr Trump, prosecutors would have to prove that he or his team “knowingly” mishandled materials “to impede, obstruct or influence” the investigation.

Prosecutors would need to prove the documents related to national defence and their disclosure could harm the US or aid a foreign adversary.

Charges for obstruction of justice, witholding a document or record, corruptly concealing a document or record and concealing a document in a federal investigation all carry a possible prison sentence of up to 20 years.

The charges for scheming to conceal and making false statements and representations carry a maximum jail term of five years.

All charges are listed with a maximum fine of up to $250,000 (£198,000).

We are at the preliminary stage of the process and it is unlikely to be concluded before the 2024 election.

Can he run for president from prison?

Yes, Mr Trump can still run while indicted or convicted. The Constitution sets out only three requirements for candidates. They must be a natural-born citizen, aged 35 or above, and a resident of the US for at least 14 years.

At least two people have previously run for president with criminal convictions: socialist Eugene Debs in 1920 after he was convicted of the Espionage Act over a 1918 anti-war speech, and Lyndon LaRouche also ran for office several times after being convicted of fraud in 1988. His 1992 bid was conducted from a federal prison in Minnesota.

But if convicted, Mr Trump would be barred from voting in his adoptive home state of Florida until he had served his sentence.

Could he serve from prison?

If Mr Trump is elected president, he could technically pardon himself on federal charges. However, experts have said this would be unconstitutional because it violates the basic principle that nobody should be the judge in their own case.

He could also pre-emptively pardon himself from any pending federal charges.

Robert Ray, an attorney who defended Mr Trump in his impeachment, said if he is elected “he would control the Justice Department… if it’s still pending, he just dismisses the case”.

What other charges does he face?

Capitol attack 6 Jan

Jack Smith, the special counsel, is also investigating Mr Trump’s role in the attack on the US Capitol on Jan 6 2021. Mr Trump had sought to prevent top aides, including Mike Pence, from testifying.

Mr Pence appeared before the grand jury in April after Mr Trump lost his legal challenge.

Attempt to overturn the Georgia vote

Mr Trump is being investigated over whether he illegally tried to overturn his narrow defeat in the state during the 2020 presidential election. A charging decision is expected in September.

New York hush money case

In April, Mr Trump was indicted by a New York grand jury. He pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records relating to hush money paid to Stormy Daniels, the porn star, before the 2016 election.

Sexual abuse and defamation

Last month, a civil federal grand jury in Manhattan found Mr Trump liable for the sexual abuse and defamation of E Jean Carroll, a magazine columnist. He was ordered to pay $5 million (£3.9 million) in damages.