In the case of the United States of America versus Donald Trump and Waltine Nauta (his valet), with the indictment now unsealed, it has come to light that the former president, who left the White House in January 2021, dumped cardboard boxes full of 300-odd classified documents in various parts of the residence — bathroom, bedroom, storage room etc — that he maintained at The Mar-a-Lago Club, Florida.
The unsealed indictment text said: “Over the course of his presidency, Trump gathered newspapers, press clippings, letters, notes, cards, photographs, official documents, and other materials in cardboard boxes that he kept in the White House. Among the materials Trump stored in his boxes were hundreds of classified documents.
“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 a foreign attack.”
The 37-count indictment by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) added: “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.”
Trump lost to Joe Biden in 2020 but spent a lot of time alleging that the elections were rigged and “stolen” from him, even after the numbers were beyond dispute. It is not clear why he took classified documents out of the White House and took them to Florida, even though he would have been completely aware of the illegality of such a move.
The indictment said: “At 12:00 p.m. on January 20, 2021, Trump ceased to be president. As he departed the White House, Trump caused scores of boxes, many of which contained classified documents, to be transported to The Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, where he maintained his residence. Trump was not authorized to possess or retain those classified documents.”
The Mar-a-Lago Club, “an active social club” that hosted countless events after Trump’s presidency was over, “was not an authorized location for the storage, possession, review, display, or discussion of classified documents”, said the indictment. “Nevertheless, Trump stored his boxes containing classified documents in various locations at The Mar-a-Lago Club, including in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom, and a storage room.”
Even worse, the former president completely defied the definition of “classified” by showing those national documents to others. The indictment listed those occasions as follows:
“a. In July 2021, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey (“The Bedminster Club”), during an audio-recorded meeting with a writer, a publisher, and two members of his staff, none of whom possessed a security clearance, Trump showed and described a ‘plan of attack’ that Trump said was prepared for him by the Department of Defense and a senior military official. Trump told the individuals that the plan was ‘highly confidential’ and ‘secret.’ Trump also said, ‘as president I could have declassified it,’ and, ‘Now I can’t, you know, but this is still a secret.’
“b. In August or September 2021, at The Bedminster Club, Trump showed a representative of his political action committee, who did not possess a security clearance, a classified map related to a military operation and told the representative that he should not be showing it to the representative and that the representative should not get too close.”
The indictment went on to say that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) opened an investigation “[on] March 30, 2022”, in order to look into “the unlawful retention of classified documents at The Mar-a-Lago Club”. A federal grand jury investigation began in April 2022.
When served a subpoena by the grand jury, requiring him “to turn over all documents with classification markings”, Trump “endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal his continued retention of classified documents…” The indictment listed five ways in which this obstruction was caused, including the claim made by Trump that he did not possess the documents called for by the subpoena.
Trump’s valet Waltine Nauta has been named as co-defendant in the indictment because the latter helped to “move boxes of documents to conceal them from Trump’s attorney, the FBI, and the grand jury”. Trump also returned “just some of the documents called for by the grand jury subpoena, while claiming that he was cooperating fully”.