The Department of Justice on Friday afternoon unsealed the indictment against Donald Trump and his “body man” Walt Nauta. The contents of those documents include 38 counts, including 31 charges of willful retention of national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act. Many of the documents involved appear to be presidential daily briefs that included classified information concerning multiple nations. Many of the documents are so classified that the names are redacted, but one of those not redacted shows that it included classified details about the nuclear arsenal of the United States. It’s an amazing list.
The indictment then details a conspiracy between Trump and Nauta to obstruct justice. That conspiracy includes agreeing to provide false information to the FBI, moving boxes to hide them from both the FBI and Trump’s own attorneys, creating a “false certificate” informing the FBI that all classified documents had been produced, and making generally “false and misleading claims.”
The next charge involves Trump and Nauta “knowingly corruptly” persuading an unnamed attorney to withhold documents by lying to them about the content of the boxes, expressly so that the FBI would not find the classified documents. That’s followed by two charges of concealing and a charge of conspiracy to conceal involving Trump and Nauta.
Trump then collects a charge of false statements to federal investigators concerning statements that a “diligent search” had been conducted and all documents returned, when he was knowingly concealing classified documents. Nauta gets a matching charge to finish off the indictment.
But that’s just the charges.
The details inside are … something else.
The indictment documents at least two occasions when Trump showed classified documents to others, both times talking about how he knew he was doing something he shouldn’t.
The indictment details how Trump allowed classified documents to be stored in open containers, how boxes of classified document tipped over and spilled out onto the floor at Mar-a-Lago, and how workers moved the material from place to place with absolutely no concern for security. That includes having boxes of classified information sitting in a ballroom where hundreds, if not thousands, of people were free to view them during events.
Once the FBI opened an investigation, the concern about finding a place to stash the boxes increased, but it’s hard to say they got more “serious” when an effort to keep material hidden from both the DOJ and Trump’s attorneys included the possibility of hiding classified documents in a shower.
It could not be more ridiculous if the whole affair were titled “Laurel and Hardy meet the FBI.”
Once they got the boxes into the storage room, things were not much improved. For one thing, that room “could be reached from multiple outside entrances, including one accessible from the Mar-a-Lago Club pool patio through a doorway that was often kept open.”
On one occasion, Nauta went into the room and found boxes of “five eyes” intelligence documenting security information from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States spilled across the floor from overturned boxes. And because this was classified information, Nauta did what anyone would do: He took photos and sent them to a Mar-a-Lago employee while complaining about the spill.
The central portion of the indictment shows that Trump was “tracking” documents that Nauta and others produced in response to requests from the National Archives and FBI. It also shows that other employees reminded both Trump and Nauta that “there are more” boxes than had been examined at the point Trump insisted all documents had been handed over.
As the NARA and FBI continued to ask for documents, Trump met with his attorneys and offered the simplest solution: Let’s just lie to them.
To push this on his attorneys, Trump told a story about Hillary Clinton, claiming her attorneys had taken the fall for her and accepted the blame for deleting 30,000 classified emails. Trump either didn’t remember that he made this whole story up, or was just trying to scam his own attorneys. Later, he would just set his attorneys up to take the blame without their knowledge by telling them, as well as the FBI, that everything had been handed over.
In May, with the DOJ and FBI already scheduled to come on June 3 to take possession of any remaining classified documents, Nauta pulled out an astounding 64 boxes of material from the storage room and took it to Trump’s private apartment at Mar-a-Lago for possible transport to another location. It was enough that a “female family member” (likely either Melania or Lara Trump) was clearly worried about fitting it all on the plane.
Trump’s picking through the 64 boxes turned out to be pretty massive. The next morning, Trump remembered that his attorney was coming that day to review the contents of the boxes in advance of the DOJ visit.
That was when Trump and a Mar-a-Lago employee took just 30 boxes of material from Trump’s residence back to the storage room. That incident was caught on security video: 64 boxes went out, 30 boxes came back. What happened to 34 boxes worth of material is not clear, but considering that there was a plane involved, it’s once again puzzling why the FBI hasn’t searched Bedminster.
Following all these antics, Trump’s attorney arrived and looked through the boxes. Trump then appeared and pretended to know nothing of their contents. “What did you find?” he asked. “Is it bad? Good?”
Trump may have been trying to dupe this attorney, but it’s hard to feel bad for them, because they clearly knew Trump was lying.
You can tell they knew, because that attorney immediately roped in another attorney (who hadn’t been part of the document search and who didn’t know any better) and convinced this attorney to sign the document telling the FBI that they had turned over all classified documents on June 3. There are no innocents in this story.
The indictment then moves on to the charges, with plenty of detail about the evidence behind each charge. That includes that spectacular list of 31 national defense documents.
The charges also detail some of the conversations with Trump and Nauta in which they clearly misled, misdirected, and outright lied to investigators, perhaps none of them so bluntly as when Nauta, mover of boxes, was asked about moving boxes.
To call this indictment “damning” is underselling it. It’s easy to see why Trump’s attorneys chose today to take a hike, especially if they were previously unaware of some of the efforts Trump had put into betraying his own legal team and trying to leave them on the hook for his crimes.
Also, this isn’t just 100 years of potential penalties: It’s more like 380 years. It’s hard to see anyone, no matter their previous address, walking away from this without spending some time with some pretty strict limits on their range of travel.
Evidence-wise, Trump and Nauta are one the well-done side of cooked gooses. Whether any attorney—or any judge—can get them out of this seems doubtful. Some of those who have rushed to endorse Trump following his indictment need to whip out their reading glasses and take a close look, because this stuff is very hard to dismiss.
We talk about the field of Republicans willing to go up against the MAGA monster that is Trump. It’s a veritable who cares of the Republican Party, but it is also indicative of the rot inside of the conservative world.