Donald Trump facing 37 felony charges according to unsealed indictment

ITV News' Dan Rivers reports on Donald Trump becoming the first US president in history to face federal criminal charges

Donald Trump is facing 37 felony charges related to the mishandling of classified documents, according to an indictment unsealed on Friday.

He has become the first former US president in history to face criminal charges on a federal level and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The unsealing of the indictment claims that in July 2021, during a meeting with a writer, publisher, and two members of staff - none of whom had security clearance - Trump showed and described a highly confidential military "plan of attack".

During the meeting at Trump National Golf Club in New Jersey - after Trump left office in January 2021 - he allegedly said: "As president I could have declassified it... Now I can't, but this is still a secret."

Former President Donald Trump. Credit: AP

Trump is also alleged to have showed a representative of his political action committee - who again didn't have security clearance - a classified map related to a military operation, in September 2021.

The document adds that Trump admitted he shouldn't be showing it and that the representative "should not get too close".

Charges against him, under the Espionage Act, include making false statements, conspiracy to obstruct justice and wilfully retaining national defence secrets.

The indictment alleges Trump kept classified documents in the bathroom and shower at his Florida estate, as well as in the ballroom, storeroom, office and bedroom. Prosecutors noted that “tens of thousands of members and guests” visited the Mar-a-Lago social club between the end of Trump’s presidency in January 2021 through the August 2022 search.

Boxed of records stored on the stage in the White and Gold Ballroom at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate. Credit: AP

A picture included in the indictment shows boxes stacked in rows on the ballroom’s stage, with another showing boxes spilled over in the storage room.

The spillage revealed a document marked "SECRET/REL TO USA, FVEY" - meaning information only sharable with the intelligence alliance of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and US. James Trusty, Trump's lawyer, told ABC that Trump was “upset by the notion of this indictment”, but ready to fight.

He added: “He’s a pretty resilient guy. He’s not crumbling in fear or anything remotely like that.”

The lawyer said on CNN that Trump will appear in court in Miami on Tuesday, as requested, adding: “He’s not shrinking from the fight."

"You’re not going to see him hide in Scotland. He’s going to be ready to handle this case and help his attorneys fight it.”

Trump, who served as the 45th president of the United States, spoke about the charges in a post on his social media platform Truth Social on Thursday night.

"I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former president of the United States," he said.

"This is indeed a dark day for the United States of America. We are a country in serious and rapid decline, but together we will Make America Great Again!"

The charges put the Department of Justice at the centre of a politically difficult situation.

Its first case against a former president comes as the process has got underway for the Republican party to choose a nominee to face Democrat Joe Biden in the 2024 presidential election.

Records piled up in the bathroom of Trump's Florida estate. Credit: AP

Trump is currently dominating that race for the Republicans, and charges against him could raise the prospect of a prison sentence.

Within 20 minutes of his announcement, Trump, who said he was due in court on Tuesday afternoon, had begun fundraising off it for his 2024 presidential campaign.

He declared in a video, “I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!” and repeated his familiar refrain that the investigation is a “witch hunt.”

The case adds to deepening legal jeopardy for Trump, who has already been indicted in New York and faces additional investigations in Washington and Atlanta that also could lead to criminal charges.

As the prosecution moves forward, it will pit Trump’s claims of sweeping executive power against Attorney General Merrick Garland’s insistence that no person, including a former commander in chief, should be regarded as above the law.

The indictment arises from a months-long investigation by special counsel Jack Smith into whether Trump broke the law by holding onto hundreds of documents marked classified at his Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago, and whether Trump took steps to obstruct the government’s efforts to recover the records.

Prosecutors have said that Trump took roughly 300 classified documents to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House, including some 100 that were seized by the FBI last August in a search of the home that underscored the gravity of the Justice Department’s investigation.

Trump and his team have long seen the special counsel investigation as far more perilous than the New York matter, both politically and legally.

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Amid the fallout, 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.

In an interview with Fox News Digital, he said: “This is going to disrupt this nation because it goes to the core of equal justice for all, which is not being seen today... And we’re not going to stand for it.”