Former US president reveals he has been ‘summoned’ to appear in court on Tuesday in latest criminal case
Donald Trump said he had been indicted in connection with classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida, a historic moment for the US that makes him the first former president to face federal criminal charges as he campaigns for another White House run.
Trump revealed on Thursday that the Department of Justice had taken steps to charge him, summoning him to appear in a federal court in Miami, Florida, on Tuesday. “This is indeed a DARK DAY for the United States of America,” he wrote on his Truth Social social media platform.
A lawyer for Trump said the summons against the former president implied there were about seven specific charges, including obstruction of justice, false statements and violations of the Espionage Act. Jim Trusty told CNN the accusations were “ludicrous”. The Department of Justice declined to comment.
A criminal conviction would not disqualify Trump from running for the White House but could dramatically reshape campaigning for the 2024 election, as the former president seeks a potential rematch against President Joe Biden.
The DoJ’s decision adds to Trump’s mounting legal woes. He has already become the first former president to be charged in a criminal case in state court, after the Manhattan district attorney hit him with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. He has pleaded not guilty.
The federal case appears to involve documents seized by agents from Mar-a-Lago in August. The raid came after the former president had already handed more than 15 boxes of classified documents, including some that were marked “top secret”, to the government following months of bargaining with DoJ officials. Trump had stored the material in a non-secure room at his Florida home for just over a year.
Trump in May told CNN he “took the documents” because he was “allowed to” under the Presidential Records Act, a law that sets out who controls documents and other records from the presidency. The act says official presidential records are owned by the US, not the president, and must be kept in a federal depository.
Trump is not the only politician facing investigation over presidential records. The DoJ has commissioned a second special counsel to investigate the potential mishandling of documents found in Biden’s residential garage in Delaware and his former private office in Washington. That probe is ongoing.
Classified documents were also found at the home of Mike Pence, Trump’s former vice-president who is challenging his former boss for the Republican nomination. The DoJ recently closed the investigation without bringing any charges, according to media reports.
Jack Smith, the US special counsel who has been leading the investigation into Trump, was appointed by attorney-general Merrick Garland in November to oversee inquiries involving the former president.
Trump could face more legal trouble from separate probes led by Smith at the DoJ and Fani Willis, the Fulton county district attorney in the state of Georgia, related to the 2020 presidential election. Legal experts said any charges that result from those probes could pose a more serious threat to him.
Earlier this year, Willis said her decision on whether to bring charges based on a special grand jury investigation was “imminent”. Upon his appointment, Smith said he would “move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly”. Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong.
New York attorney-general Letitia James has also filed a civil lawsuit against Trump and three of his adult children, alleging a sweeping fraud in connection with the Trump Organization. In yet another case, Trump was recently ordered to pay $5mn to journalist E Jean Carroll after being found liable in a civil lawsuit accusing him of sexual abuse and defamation.
The legal actions do not appear to have much effect on Trump’s popularity with Republican voters — most polls show him with a commanding lead over other presidential candidates from his party.
Trump has portrayed the actions as politically motivated. In a video posted on Truth Social, Trump repeatedly said he was an “innocent man” and claimed the case constituted “election interference”.
He accused the Biden administration of “trying to destroy a reputation so they can win an election”.
Biden, who has already announced he will run for re-election in 2024, said on Thursday he had “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”, in response to a question about whether Americans should trust the DoJ’s independence in the face of Trump’s continued attacks.
Additional reporting by James Politi