By Brett Rowland (The Center Square)
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland defended Special Counsel Jack Smith on Wednesday after former President Donald Trump’s arraignment the previous day.
“As I said when I appointed Mr. Smith, I did so because it underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to both independence and accountability,” Garland said Wednesday. “Mr. Smith is a veteran career prosecutor. He has assembled a group of experienced and talented prosecutors and agents who share his commitment to integrity and the rule of law.”
Garland declined to comment further about the case.
As you know, I can’t talk about the particulars of this or any other ongoing criminal matter,” he said.
Garland said any questions about the case will have to be answered by filings in court.
Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday in a federal courthouse in Miami to 37 counts that allege he kept sensitive military documents, shared them with people who didn’t have security clearance, and tried to get around the government’s efforts to get them back.
The former president was released on his own recognizance without any travel restrictions. He was ordered to not talk with his valet and alleged co-conspirator Walt Nauta about the case except through his attorneys, according to court records. The magistrate judge who oversaw the arraignment also ordered discovery in the case to begin. That process will require federal prosecutors to share all evidence in the case with Trump’s defense attorneys.
No further court dates or hearings had been set in Trump’s criminal case as of Wednesday afternoon.
Trump said the indictment had helped his fundraising efforts. Trump is leading in early polls for the 2024 Republican nomination for president.
“REALLY BIG FUNDRAISING, EVEN GREATER POLLS, SINCE THE RADICAL LEFT INDICTMENT HOAX WAS INITIATED BY THE MISFITS, MUTANTS, MARXISTS, & COMMUNISTS! THANK YOU!!!” Trump posted on his social media platform Wednesday afternoon.
His campaign said Trump had raised $6.6 million since the indictment, including $2.1 million Tuesday night in New Jersey after he appeared in federal court in Miami earlier that day.
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The 49-page indictment laid out the charges against Trump and Nauta. Trump was charged with keeping classified documents after leaving office and later obstructing the government’s efforts to get them back. The indictment contains specific dates and times with to-the-minute details of where the documents were stored, where they were moved, and who was involved.
Among the records were 197 that contained classified markings, including 98 marked “secret” and 30 marked “top secret.” The “top secret” designation means that unauthorized disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage” to national security,” according to the indictment. Trump turned those records over to the National Archives and Records Administration on Jan. 17, 2022, in response to demands from that federal agency.
On June 3, 2022, an attorney for Trump provided the Federal Bureau of Investigation with 38 additional documents with classified markings. And during a raid of Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022, the FBI recovered 102 additional documents with classified markings.
While the U.S. Secret Service provided security to Trump while he was at his Palm Beach property, Trump never told the agency that classified documents were stored there, according to the indictment. Mar-a-Lago hosted 150 social events – such as weddings, fundraisers and movie premieres for tens of thousands of guests from January 2021, when Trump left office, through the FBI raid on Aug. 8, 2022. Mar-a-Lago had about 150 employees during that time, prosecutors said in the indictment.
Prosecutors allege the documents belong to some of the nation’s most secret agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Energy and the Department of State.
The documents contained information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of the United States and other allied nations, U.S. nuclear programs, plans for possible retaliation in case of an attack and potential U.S. vulnerabilities, according to the indictment.
Trump stored the boxes in several locations at Mar-a-Lago, his social club with 25 guest rooms in Palm Beach. The boxes that contained classified documents were stored in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom and a storage room, prosecutors alleged in the indictment.
The club was not authorized to store classified documents.
Prosecutors further alleged that Trump showed classified documents to people not authorized to see such records. In one case on July 21, 2021, at the Bedminster Club in New Jersey, Trump allegedly showed a writer, a publisher and two staff members classified documents. During the recorded interview, Trump said that the documents were “highly classified” and that could have declassified them while president, but could no longer do so after leaving office, according to the indictment. In August or September 2021, prosecutors allege Trump showed a representative of his political action committee a classified map of a country.
Trump is the first president to face felony federal criminal charges.
As a candidate for president in 2016, Trump repeatedly spoke about the handling of classified documents.
“In my administration I’m going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information,” he said on Aug. 18, 2016, according to the indictment. “No one will be above the law.”
In April, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts in New York related to charges he paid hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels through a lawyer before the 2016 presidential election and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.