Former President Donald Trump announced on Thursday evening that his attorneys had been informed that he had been indicted by the federal government for alleged crimes stemming from his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House in early 2021.
“The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax,” Trump wrote on his social media website, Truth Social, adding, “I have been summoned to appear at the Federal Courthouse in Miami on Tuesday, at 3 PM. I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States.”
Reuters, ABC News and the Associated Press confirmed that Trump had been indicted on seven criminal counts in relation to his handling of the documents, his second indictment in as many months. The National Archives and the FBI sought to retrieve the classified documents before issuing a subpoena last spring for their return.
Possible Espionage Act charge
Among the charges that will be made public Tuesday, Trump will be accused of violating the Espionage Act, according to reporting from the New York Times. The act prohibits the unauthorized possession of national defense-related documents and makes special mention of those that are "willfully retained" despite government efforts to retain them. If convicted on that charge alone, Trump, 76, could face a sentence of 10 years behind bars.
Justice Department stays mum
The Justice Department did not issue a statement about the latest indictment or the specific charges it would contain, the AP reported. Two people familiar with the case but who are not authorized to speak publicly about it, confirmed to the outlet that prosecutors had contacted Trump's lawyers on Thursday to inform them of the indictment.
There were plenty of signs over the past few weeks that special counsel Jack Smith's investigation into Trump's handling of the documents was reaching its conclusion. In the last few days, Trump received a letter by Smith's office informing him that he was a target of a criminal investigation, a sign that an indictment was all but guaranteed. On Monday, Trump’s lawyers were spotted in Washington prior to a meeting at the Department of Justice, where they sought to persuade officials not to charge the former president with any crimes stemming from the investigation.
While Trump sought to frame the indictments as politically motivated, President Biden was asked Thursday why Americans should have faith that the Justice Department was acting in accordance with the law.
“Because you’ll notice I have never once, not one single time, suggested to the Justice Department what they should do or not do, relative to bringing a charge or not bringing a charge. I’m honest,” Biden responded.
What Trump’s GOP rivals have said about another possible indictment
Prior to the indictment, some of Trump's Republican rivals for the GOP presidential nomination weighed in on the possibility of a second round of criminal charges against the former president.
Trump's former vice president, Mike Pence, who announced his own presidential candidacy on Wednesday, said in an interview that he hoped that the DOJ would not indict Trump.
"I would hope the Department of Justice did not move forward. Not because I know the facts, but simply because I think after years where we’ve seen a politicization of the Justice Department is to undermine confidence in equal treatment of the law,” Pence said on the campaign trail in Iowa.
But Pence issued somewhat contradictory statements on a possible Trump indictment, stating that “no one’s above the law.”
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he would wait to see what the charges against Trump consisted of, but made clear that Trump had himself to blame if he was charged for his mishandling of the documents.
“The problem with all of this is that it’s self-inflicted. In the end, I don’t know that the government even knew that Joe Biden had those documents or not,” Christie, a former U.S. attorney, told Fox News, drawing a distinction between a Justice Department investigation into classified documents found at Biden’s home. “They did know Donald Trump did and in fact asked voluntarily for them for over a year and a quarter and got them back in dribs and drabs.”
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson was more succinct, saying Trump should “step aside” if indicted in the documents case.
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., said the DOJ was guilty of weaponizing its investigation and that the “the determining factor for the 2024 election should be the voters,” ABC News reported.
Will the indictment hurt Trump?
While an April Yahoo News/YouGov poll taken after Trump's first indictment in New York on charges stemming form his alleged hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels show that Trump had solidified his support among Republican voters, it remains to be seen how a second indictment will play out with his party.
Trump wasted little time in using the news of his latest indictment to try to boost his standing.
"This is indeed a DARK DAY for the United States of America. We are a Country in serious and rapid Decline, but together we will Make America Great Again!" he wrote on Truth Social.
His campaign also jumped into action, seeking to fundraise off the latest news.