Federal prosecutors charged former U.S. President Donald Trump for allegedly holding on to classified documents after he left office, the former president announced on Truth Social.
It’s the second time Trump — who is in the midst of a campaign to return to the White House — has been criminally charged, following an indictment in New York over his alleged role in giving “hush money” to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
The former president said that he has been ordered to appear at a Miami federal courthouse at 3 p.m. ET Friday.
“I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States,” Trump posted. “I am an innocent man. This is indeed a dark day for the United States of America.”
The exact charges have not yet been revealed, but multiple news outlets say there are 7 counts related to Trump’s alleged mishandling classified documents he kept after leaving the White House. The New York Times reports that two of the counts include conspiracy to obstruct and willful retention of documents.
Last August, agents searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and recovered thousands of government documents, some of which were marked as classified. In November, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed federal prosecutor Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee the federal investigation, and a grand jury in Washington began hearing testimony from witnesses.
Trump has denied wrongdoing, claiming that he had the power to declassify the documents that were at Mar-a-Lago. In early June, the former president’s attorneys met with the Justice Department and urged them not to file charges, The Washington Post reported. In an earlier letter, the lawyers asserted that Trump was being treated unfairly by Smith during the investigation.
Meanwhile, Trump has remained a leading contender for the 2024 GOP nomination for president.
Trump’s charges in New York marked the first time in U.S. history that a former president was criminally indicted. He could still face additional charges in other probes. Smith is also investigating his efforts to subvert the 2020 election, and prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia are looking into Trump’s attempts to overturn his loss to Joe Biden in the state.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy said the indictment marked a “dark day” for the country and that his party would be taking action in response to the escalation of events.
“I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice,” he tweeted. “House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable.
The View From The 2024 Field
At a campaign stop in Waukee, Iowa on Thursday, hours before the indictment, former Vice President Mike Pence said that any “unprecedented” DOJ action must meet the “high threshold that would justify what would likely result in a divisive action in the country.”
In some countries, he said, “one individual comes to power and they immediately turn the criminal justice system on their predecessor.” He was hopeful that wasn’t the case here.
“I believe in the rule of law, and I believe in equal treatment under the law,” Pence said.
Entrepreneur and GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy pledged to pardon Trump should he be elected to the White House, adding that it was “hypocritical” for the DOJ to prosecute Trump but not Biden, NBC news reported.
“This is an affront to every citizen: we cannot devolve into a banana republic where the party in power uses police force to arrest its political opponents,” he said.
Echoing a common Republican theme, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott said the country was witnessing the “weaponization of the Department of Justice” against Trump.
“Today what we see is a justice system where the scales are weighted,” he told Fox News, adding he would “purge” the judicial systems of any “impurities” should he be elected.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, largely considered Trump’s most challenging competitor for the nomination, likewise described the indictment as an example of judicial “weaponization.”
But not all candidates were as sympathetic with Trump. Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson slammed the former’s president alleged “willful disrespect for the Constitution and disrespect for the rule of law,” urging Trump to suspend his campaign.
“While Donald Trump is entitled to presumption of innocence, the ongoing criminal proceedings will be a distraction,” Hutchinson said.
Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie offered a more restrained response, saying he would wait for the arraignment before offering more thoughts.
“As I have said before, no one is above the law no matter how much they wish they were,” Christie said.