MIAMI – Follow along for live updates on former President Donald Trump, who has been indicted on charges of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate. The indictment marks the first time in U.S. history that a former president faces criminal charges by the federal government he once oversaw. Trump faces the possibility of prison if convicted.
What to know:
— A timeline of events leading to Trump’s indictment in the classified documents case
— Indictment accuses Trump of scheming and lying to keep secret papers
— A look at the charges, the special counsel’s investigation and what’s next
— Trump faces a string of inquiries in various states and venues as he campaigns for a return to the White House
— Does the indictment stand to damage Trump’s standing with voters?
STANDING OVATION FOR TRUMP AT NORTH CAROLINA GOP DINNER
An indictment by the Department of Justice is an attempt to “thwart the will of the American people,” former President Donald Trump said at a state GOP convention dinner in North Carolina.
“I promise you this: If you put me back in the White House, their reign will be over and American will be a free nation once again," he said to a standing ovation.
The indictment is an attempt to damage his chances for a second term, he alleged.
Trump is accused of willfully defying Justice Department demands to return classified documents, enlisting aides in his efforts to hide the records and even telling his lawyers that he wanted to defy a subpoena for the materials stored at his residence.
In appearances at Republican state conventions in Georgia and North Carolina on Saturday, Trump sought to frame the 37 criminal charges he’s facing as an attack on not just him but also his supporters.
“In the end they’re not coming after me, they’re coming after you, and I’m just standing in the way,” he said in North Carolina.
TRUMP VOWS TO CONTINUE PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN EVEN IF CONVICTED
Former President Donald Trump vowed Saturday to continue his bid for a second term even if he is convicted in the Mar-a-Lago documents case.
“I’ll never leave,” he told Politico in an interview aboard his plane after speaking at a Republican state convention in Georgia. He further predicted that he will not be convicted and sidestepped questions about whether he would pardon himself if elected.
“I don’t think I’ll ever have to,” Trump said. “I didn’t do anything wrong.”
The indictment unsealed Friday accuses Trump of willfully defying Justice Department demands to return classified documents, enlisting aides in his efforts to hide the records and even telling his lawyers that he wanted to defy a subpoena for the materials stored at his residence.
MIKE PENCE DECLINES TO SHARE REACTION TO TRUMP INDICTMENT
Former Vice President Mike Pence said Saturday that he has read the indictment outlining federal charges against former President Donald Trump in the Mar-a-Lago documents case.
But he declined to share his personal reaction to the content of the indictment, which included photographs of boxes with classified information stacked in a bathroom and on a ballroom stage, or to criticize Trump, whom he is challenging for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024.
“I’ve read the indictment,” Pence said in an interview with The Associated Press in North Carolina, where he addressed state Republicans.
“I also know that every American’s entitled to the presumption of innocence. And as I said today, we now know the Department of Justice’s view of these matters. But the former president is entitled to present his defense. And we don’t know what the facts of that are.”
“That's why I said today I’m going to urge patience, encourage people to be prayerful for the former president, but also for all those in authority and for the country going forward,” said Pence, who formally launched his 2024 campaign this week.
TRUMP SIGNS AUTOGRAPHS AND POSES FOR PHOTOS AT LOCAL WAFFLE HOUSE
After speaking at the Georgia Republican Convention, Trump stopped by a local Waffle House, where he signed autographs, posed for photos and chatted with supporters.
“We did absolutely nothing wrong,” Trump said of federal authorities unsealing a lengthy indictment accusing him of mishandling national security secrets and then covering up his actions.
He is scheduled to speak to another Republican audience in North Carolina later Saturday.
TRUMP CALLS INDICTMENT AN ATTACK ON HIS CAMPAIGN
Speaking Saturday at the Georgia Republican Convention, Trump cast his federal indictment as an attempt to hurt his chances of returning to the White House as he campaigns for a second term in office.
In his first public appearance since the 37 felony counts against him were unsealed, Trump blasted the indictment as “ridiculous” and “baseless."
“They’ve launched one witch hunt after another to try and stop our movement, to thwart the will of the American people,” Trump said, later adding, “In the end, they’re not coming after me. They’re coming after you.”
The strategy is a well-worn one for Trump, who remains the front-runner for the 2024 GOP nomination despite his mounting legal woes. He is scheduled to speak to another Republican audience in North Carolina later Saturday.
TRUMP ARRIVES IN GEORGIA FOR STATE GOP CONVENTION APPEARANCE
Former President Donald Trump arrived Saturday in Georgia to chants of “Four more years! Four more years!” from supporters waving signs that read, “Witch Hunt.”
About 100 eager supporters turned out at Columbus airfield for Trump’s first public appearance since federal authorities unsealed a lengthy indictment accusing him of mishandling national security secrets and then covering up his actions.
He’s headed to Georgia Republicans' state convention, where he’s expected to blast the prosecution as a political exercise because he’s running for president again.
He doesn’t have to convince his audiences Saturday.
Michael Sellers, a 67-year-old Trump backer who came to the airfield, said he’d read the indictment and was aware of accusations that Trump sought to resist returning classified records, which previous presidents have routinely done when coming across such material in their possession.
“It’s criminal what they’re doing to him,” Sellers said. Asked whether he believes Trump will win another term in 2024, Sellers said, “He won the last time. He will win again.”
TRUMP SUPPORTERS CHEER FORMER PRESIDENT IN GEORGIA
Scores of Trump supporters braved the beating sun to cheer the former president’s arrival in Columbus, Georgia, as he prepared to deliver two state GOP convention speeches Saturday in the wake of his federal criminal indictment.
Backers waved “Witch Hunt” signs, unbowed a day after federal authorities unsealed a lengthy charging document that depicted Trump as willfully mishandling national security secrets after leaving office and then covering up his actions.
Jan Plemmons, a 66-year-old Trump supporter, called the charges “absolutely ridiculous” and said she’s ready to hit the campaign trail with Trump as he runs for another term in 2024.
“I was watching Fox News this morning, and it’s just crazy,” Plemmons said, as her oversized foam “Make America Great Again” hat bobbed with each emphasis. “It’s just to divert attention.”
Plemmons said she does not dislike Trump’s primary rivals but sees the former president as “the man to put back in the White House and fix this mess that we’re in now.”
— Bill Barrow
INDICTMENT EXPECTED TO ADD FUEL TO GOP CAMPAIGN AGAINST JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Congressional Republicans have prepared an aggressive campaign against the Justice Department for months, a key part of former Trump’s public defense against this week’s indictment on charges of mishandling classified documents.
The GOP counter-offensive against federal prosecutors and others who have investigated Trump avoids the substance of the charges facing the former president. Instead, they have tried to discredit law enforcement and President Joe Biden ahead of the 2024 presidential election.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan of Ohio, for instance, has issued a series of letters to the Justice Department demanding documents related to special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of Trump’s handling of classified records. Jordan has also aggressively sought to undercut Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who in April filed charges against Trump in a New York hush money investigation.
Democrats say Republicans are sowing conspiracy theories with potentially dangerous consequences.
NOT ALL PLAN WARM WELCOME FOR TRUMP IN GEORGIA
Although most of the GOP activists attending the Georgia Republican Party convention Saturday are voicing support for Trump, some are suggesting his indictment and record make him a bad choice for the party's presidential nominee in 2024.
Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has called for Trump to drop out of the race, got a polite but reserved reception Saturday morning at a party breakfast where Hutchinson touted his bid for the Republican presidential nomination as a “consistent conservative.”
Hutchinson didn’t mention Trump in his speech but told reporters that the Republican Party “should not lose its soul” in defending Trump, saying the evidence so far suggests he treated national secrets “like entertainment tools.”
— Jeff Amy
TRUMP HEADED TO GEORGIA, NORTH CAROLINA FOR CAMPAIGN APPEARANCES
Trump is set to campaign in Georgia and North Carolina on Saturday, making his first public appearances since his federal indictment on 37 counts of mishandling classified documents.
Friendly audiences are expected to welcome Trump at the two state party conventions.
“Trump is a fighter, and the kinds of people that attend these conventions love a fighter,” said Jack Kingston, a former Georgia congressman who supported Trump in 2016 and 2020.
A campaign official described Trump's mood as “defiant” Friday after the indictment was unsealed. Trump has insisted publicly that he committed no wrongdoing and is likely to repeat that theme during Saturday's appearances.
Trump remains the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. His rivals have handled news of his indictment cautiously, including former Vice President Mike Pence, who is also scheduled to address North Carolina Republicans on Saturday.
DEMOCRATS CALL FOR PEACEFUL PROCESS; GOP SPEAKER SAYS CASE MAY DISRUPT NATION
The Democratic leaders of both congressional chambers are urging supporters and detractors of Trump alike to let the case against him peacefully run its course in court.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a New York Democrat, and Democratic House leader Hakeem Jeffries, also from New York, released a statement saying Trump’s indictment must “play out through the legal process, without any outside political or ideological interference.”
“We encourage Mr. Trump’s supporters and critics alike to let this case proceed peacefully in court,” Schumer and Jeffries said.
That was a departure from House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, who suggested that the nation’s core legal values were being undermined.
“This is going to disrupt this nation because it goes to the core of equal justice for all, which is not being seen today,” McCarthy said in an interview with Fox News Digital. “And we’re not going to stand for it.”
SECRET SERVICE PREPARES FOR TRUMP COURT APPEARANCE
The U.S. Secret Service is preparing for Trump’s appearance at a federal court in Miami on Tuesday after a grand jury indicted him on 37 felony counts related to his handling of classified documents.
Spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said the agency “will not seek any special accommodations outside of what would be required to ensure the former Presidents continued safety” in connection with Trump’s appearance.
He added: “As with any site visited by a protectee, the Secret Service is in constant coordination with the necessary entities to ensure protective requirements are met. We have the utmost confidence in the professionalism and commitment to security shared by our law enforcement partners in Florida.”
Trump’s April 4 arraignment in his New York case, where he pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, attracted a crush of media and protesters, involved multiple street closures, extra security screenings and shut down non-Trump court business for an afternoon.
TRUMP KEPT CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS IN BATHROOM, SHOWER OF CLUB, INDICTMENT SAYS
The indictment alleges Trump kept classified documents in the bathroom and shower at his Florida estate, as well as various other locations that included a ballroom, storeroom, office and bedroom.
Prosecutors noted that “tens of thousands of members and guests” visited the “active social club” of Mar-a-Lago between the end of Trump’s presidency in January 2021 through the August 2022 search. They argued that “nonetheless” Trump stored documents “in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, and office space, his bedroom, and a storage room.”
The indictment claims that, for a two-month period, some of Trump’s boxes were stored in one of Mar-a-Lago’s gilded ballrooms. A picture included in the indictment shows boxes stacked in rows on the ballroom’s stage.
The indictment also shows photographs of boxes that spilled over in the storage room, including a document marked SECRET/REL TO USA, FVEY” which means information releasable only to members of the intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States. In the photo the classified document is redacted.
LAWYER SAID TRUMP SUGGESTED HE REMOVE DAMAGING DOCUMENTS
The indictment unsealed Friday also says that, unaware of any records being moved, Trump’s attorney on June 2, 2022, identified 38 documents with “classified” markings and placed them in a folder, which he sealed with clear duct tape handed to him by Trump valet Walt Nauta. The valet then took the attorney to see the former president.
“Did you find anything? Is it bad? ... Is it good?” the lawyer said Trump asked.
The attorney told federal authorities that he discussed the folder of classified material with Trump and how the material should be handled. The attorney told authorities that as they discussed the attorney taking the materials with him, Trump gestured in a way that suggested he wanted the attorney to identify “anything really bad” and “you know, pluck it out.” The lawyer clarified that Trump did not articulate such instructions beyond making that “plucking motion.”
The attorney told authorities that he did not take anything out of the folder and that he instead immediately contacted the FBI and another Trump attorney. On June 3, according to the indictment, the second Trump attorney acted as the official custodian of records on Trump’s behalf and turned the material to the FBI.
INDICTMENT ALLEGES VALET MOVED BOXES AT TRUMP’S DIRECTION
The indictment alleges that Nauta acted “at Trump’s direction” to move move “approximately 64 boxes” of documents from the Mar-a-Lago storage room to the former president’s residence. Nauta’s actions occurred between May 23, 2022, and June 2, 2022, according to the indictment.
That total includes “approximately 30 boxes” Nauta allegedly moved on June 2, the same day Trump’s legal team was expected to examine the cache. Nauta’s actions that day came hours after he talked briefly via phone with Trump, prosecutors allege. Neither Trump nor Nauta, according to the indictment, disclosed to the former president’s attorneys that Nauta had moved any of the storage room contents.
According to prosecutors’ timeline, Trump met later that day with one of his attorneys and Nauta escorted the attorney to the storage room for his review of the documents