AI-generated image of Donald Trump
A suppositional image of Trump at trial created using artificial intelligence. This is not a real photograph. (Imagery created by Hillel Steinberg and reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

Don­ald Trump has been indicted!

It’s a relief to be able to type those words for a sec­ond time, because it sig­ni­fies that we are still — at least for now — a coun­try where the rule of law means some­thing. Where treach­ery and egre­gious crim­i­nal behav­ior have con­se­quences. And where the pow­er­ful and enti­tled can’t expect to evade accountability.

The indict­ment, charged by a grand jury in Flori­da, con­sists of thir­ty-eight counts brought against Trump and a min­ion, Wal­tine Nauta:

  • Counts 1–31 allege that the defen­dants engaged in the ille­gal, will­ful reten­tion of nation­al defense infor­ma­tion, a vio­la­tion of (18 U.S.C. 793(e).
  • Count 32 alleges a Con­spir­a­cy to Obstruct Jus­tice, (18 U.S.C. § 1512(k)
  • Count 33 alleges that a doc­u­ment or record was ille­gal­ly with­held, in vio­la­tion of (18 U.S.C. 1512(b)(2)(A), 2)
  • Count 34 alleges that the defen­dants cor­rupt­ly con­cealed a doc­u­ment or record, a vio­la­tion of (18 U.S.C. §§ 1512(c)(1),2)
  • Count 35 alleges that the defen­dants know­ing­ly con­cealed a doc­u­ment in a fed­er­al inves­ti­ga­tion (18 U.S.C. §§ 1519, 2)
  • Count 36 alleges a scheme to con­ceal in vio­la­tion of (18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(1),2)
  • Count 37 alleges false state­ments and rep­re­sen­ta­tions, in vio­la­tion of (18 U.S.C. §§ 1001(a)(2),2)
  • Count 38 alleges more false state­ments and rep­re­sen­ta­tions, in vio­la­tion of (18 U.S.C. § 1001(a) (2))

The indict­ment charges that Trump unlaw­ful­ly took and retained clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion that did not belong to him after exit­ing the White House.

“The clas­si­fied doc­u­ments Trump stored in his box­es includ­ed infor­ma­tion regard­ing defense and weapons capa­bil­i­ties of both the Unit­ed States and for­eign coun­tries; Unit­ed States nuclear pro­grams; poten­tial vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of the Unit­ed States and its allies to mil­i­tary attack; and plans for pos­si­ble retal­i­a­tion in response to for­eign attack. The unau­tho­rized dis­clo­sure of these clas­si­fied doc­u­ments could put at risk the nation­al secu­ri­ty of the Unit­ed States, for­eign rela­tions, the safe­ty of the Unit­ed States mil­i­tary, and human sources and the con­tin­ued via­bil­i­ty of sen­si­tive intel­li­gence col­lec­tion meth­ods,” it says.

After it was dis­cov­ered that Trump had stolen clas­si­fied mate­ri­als, he lied about his actions and obstruct­ed the fed­er­al gov­ern­men­t’s efforts to recov­er the doc­u­ments, because he did­n’t want to give them back.

Trump endeav­ored to obstruct the inves­ti­ga­tion, the indict­ment says, by:

  • sug­gest­ing that his attor­ney false­ly rep­re­sent to the FBI and grand jury that
    Trump did not have doc­u­ments called for by the grand jury subpoena;
  • direct­ing defen­dant Wal­tine Nau­ta to move box­es of doc­u­ments to
    con­ceal them from Trump’s attor­ney, the FBI, and the grand jury;
  • sug­gest­ing that his attor­ney hide or destroy doc­u­ments called for by the
    grand jury subpoena;
  • pro­vid­ing to the FBI and grand jury just some of the doc­u­ments called for by the grand jury sub­poe­na, while claim­ing that he was coop­er­at­ing fully;
  • and caus­ing a cer­ti­fi­ca­tion to be sub­mit­ted to the FBI and grand jury falsely
    rep­re­sent­ing that all doc­u­ments called for by the grand jury sub­poe­na had
    been pro­duced while know­ing that, in fact, not all such doc­u­ments had
    been produced.

Remem­ber how Repub­li­cans end­less­ly yelped about Hillary Clin­ton’s email serv­er and argued she should be in prison? Clin­ton’s con­duct was­n’t crim­i­nal, and this con­duct clear­ly is, yet we’re hear­ing very few Repub­li­cans con­demn it. That’s because of the IOKIYAR prin­ci­ple: It’s Okay If You’re A Repub­li­can.

It was okay for Trump to bla­tant­ly, fla­grant­ly vio­late our coun­ty’s laws and then lie about it, because he can do no wrong. Remem­ber when Nixon said, It’s okay if the Pres­i­dent does it? Stick the word Repub­li­can in there and you’ve basi­cal­ly got the Repub­li­can Par­ty’s view­point on this sit­u­a­tion. It would not be okay for a Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­dent to take clas­si­fied mate­r­i­al to his home, even inad­ver­tent­ly, as Pres­i­dent Joe Biden has dis­closed doing. But it was okay for Trump to. Trump gets a pass. In fact, Kevin McCarthy is even pledg­ing to run inter­fer­ence for him!

The evi­dence in this case is rock sol­id. Spe­cial Coun­sel Jack Smith has dot­ted all of his i’s and crossed all of his t’s. Trump is still enti­tled to the pre­sump­tion of inno­cence like any oth­er Amer­i­can — a right we all enjoy that Trump has failed to respect in the past — but we see no dif­fi­cul­ties for the gov­ern­ment in prov­ing its case. It seems very open and shut. And giv­en that Trump is a patho­log­i­cal liar, his protes­ta­tions about this being a witch hunt and per­se­cu­tion are not credible.

Impor­tant­ly, the indict­ment holds Trump account­able for his own bro­ken promis­es con­cern­ing the respect and rev­er­ence of clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion, by call­ing atten­tion to many of the occa­sions when Trump spoke about the topic:

As a can­di­date for Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, Trump made the fol­low­ing pub­lic state­ments, among oth­ers, about clas­si­fied information:

a. On August 18, 2016, Trump stat­ed, “In my admin­is­tra­tion I’m going to enforce all laws con­cern­ing the pro­tec­tion of clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion. No one will be above the law.”

b. On Sep­tem­ber 6, 2016, Trump stat­ed, “We also need to fight this bat­tle by col­lect­ing intel­li­gence and then pro­tect­ing, pro­tect­ing our clas­si­fied secrets. We can’t have some­one in the Oval Office who does­n’t under­stand the mean­ing of the word con­fi­den­tial or classified.”

c. On Sep­tem­ber 7, 2016 , Trump stat­ed, “[O]ne of the first things we must do is to enforce all clas­si­fi­ca­tion rules and to enforce all laws relat­ing to the han­dling of clas­si­fied information.”

d. On Sep­tem­ber 19, 2016, Trump stat­ed, “We also need the best pro­tec­tion of clas­si­fied information.”

e. On Novem­ber 3, 2016, Trump stat­ed, “Ser­vice mem­bers here in North Car­oli­na have risked their lives to acquire clas­si­fied intel­li­gence to pro­tect our country.”

You can read the full indict­ment here:


More indict­ments are like­ly com­ing. Trump may, by the end of this year, be defend­ing him­self against four sets of crim­i­nal charges in dif­fer­ent juris­dic­tions. All while he’s run­ning for the high­est office in the land. Again.

That’s some­thing he should have been barred from doing by Con­gress, but Mitch McConnell and his Repub­li­can cau­cus refused to have the decen­cy or the sense to put coun­try above par­ty and con­vict Trump of the charges the House impeached him on like they should have — even in the wake of the Jan­u­ary 6th insur­rec­tion. That mas­sive error in judg­ment will go down near the top of the list of the many bad deci­sions McConnell has made that have hurt this country.

Trump is expect­ed to be arraigned on Tues­day in Mia­mi. He seems to be pin­ing for a repeat of Jan­u­ary 6th, but the FBI, Secret Ser­vice, and local police will be work­ing togeth­er to min­i­mize the pos­si­bil­i­ty of vio­lent conduct.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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