Washington “I’m innocent”: With these words Donald Trump addressed his supporters in a video message, recorded in one of his golf clubs in the state of New Jersey. The former president and favorite for the Republican presidential nomination has to appear before a federal court in Miami next week – that became known on Friday night.
The indictment concerns secret government documents that Trump is said to have illegally kept after he was voted out in 2020. Trump unveiled his subpoena via his own social media site, Truth Social. US media confirmed details of the indictment.
It is the second time in a few months that Trump has been prosecuted. Trump was accused of hush money payments in March, and further investigations are ongoing against him. What the new indictment is about and what it means for the presidential election campaign – all the facts at a glance:
What do we know about the charge?
The US Department of Justice, led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, is investigating possible violations of the Espionage Act by Trump. In a raid on Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence last summer, the FBI seized dozens of boxes of classified government documents dating back to Trump’s presidency. After months of investigation, charges have now been officially filed. According to the New York Times, the seven charges include obstruction of justice and willful withholding of documents.
The charges were not brought in Washington, but in the federal district court in Miami, Florida. It wasn’t until early June that it became known that a Florida grand jury had begun hearing testimonies in the document case. It is not yet clear why there. The fact that the process is legally easier to carry out if it takes place in Florida, where Trump resides, could play a role. The ex-president is due to appear in Miami by 3 p.m. local time on Tuesday afternoon.
What does the indictment mean for the presidential campaign?
The situation is politically extremely unusual: Trump is the first former president in the history of the United States to face criminal charges. He also wants to be the Republican lead candidate in the 2024 presidential election. Then he would be a challenger to US President Joe Biden – whose government is now trying to use the indictment to condemn the potential rival.
At a press conference on Thursday, Biden was asked whether Americans could be confident in the Justice Department’s independence. “Not once, not once, have I suggested to the Justice Department what it should or should not do, whether or not it should press charges. I’ll be honest,” Biden said.
Trump’s advisors condemned the charges as politically motivated, his lawyers spoke on Fox News of “Russian conditions”. However, the Federal Department of Justice has also opened an investigation against Biden and is investigating whether he illegally kept government documents from his time as Vice President of Barack Obama.
The Trump campaign used the new indictment to raise funds for the presidential campaign. “We are watching our republic die before our eyes,” it said in an email. A criminal case against him in Manhattan a few months ago had briefly boosted donations to Trump.
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Trump is also attracting a lot of attention with the new indictment. This week, three other Republicans — Mike Pence, Chris Christie and Doug Burgum — entered the race for the Republican nomination. But most of the US media on Thursday was all about one person: Donald Trump.
Who is Chief Prosecutor Jack Smith?
Jack Smith, 54, was appointed by US Attorney General Merrick Garland in November to investigate Trump. He is a former prosecutor selected for his experience prosecuting politicians in the United States and abroad. Smith has been assigned to lead two investigations into Trump: one in the documents affair and the other in connection with the January 6, 2021 storming of the Capitol by fanatical Trump supporters Kosovo at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
What happened to the Manhattan criminal case?
Trump was indicted in the Manhattan borough of New York a few weeks ago and appeared in court amid much media hype. The case concerns hush money payments from 2016 to two former lovers, including ex-porn star Stormy Daniels. The start of the process is planned for the end of March next year, in the middle of the US presidential election campaign. Under certain circumstances, there is a risk of years in prison – but it is also possible that the charges will be dropped for lack of evidence.
What other legal problems does Trump have?
A second Justice Department investigation into Trump’s responsibility for the storming of the Capitol. January 6, 2021 is also the focus of a possible criminal case in the state of Georgia. A grand jury is investigating whether Trump illegally interfered in the 2020 election process. At that time, he called on the phone to destroy thousands of ballots for Biden.
In addition, Trump was recently ordered to pay millions in a civil lawsuit. Writer E. Jean Carroll has accused Trump of raping her in a department store in the mid-1990s.
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Trial in another civil lawsuit is scheduled to begin in October. Here, New York Attorney General Letitia James accuses the ex-president of lying to lenders and insurers by overstating his wealth. Trump’s children Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka are also potentially affected, with possible consequences including fines and restrictions on Trump’s business activities in New York. Earlier this year, Allen Weisselberg, former CFO of Trump Corporation, was convicted of tax fraud.
Can Trump still be president again?
Should Trump be re-elected president in 2024, the document process would have to be put on hold. Because the Department of Justice has determined that incumbent US Presidents are protected from criminal prosecution at the federal level.
If found guilty, Trump is likely to continue running for the presidency — and take office if he wins, although it’s unclear how a possible prison sentence would square with that. According to experts, this also applies to the numerous other proceedings against Trump. In any case, the US Constitution does not provide for any obstacles for the accused and convicts.
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