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Trump indicted: Stunning details show importance of case involving mishandling of secret docs

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Critical times of reckoning define nations’ identities far into the future.

The United States is at such a crossroads, brought to this point by the egregious actions of former President Donald Trump. It has become impossible to ignore Trump’s many transgressions over the years but still assure America is seen, by both its residents and other nations, as a place where rule of law prevails — where no one, not even presidents or former presidents, is granted the royal privilege to do as they like, without regard to laws others must obey.

“We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone,” as Special Counsel Jack Smith, who led the investigation into Trump’s mishandling of secret documents, said in a brief statement Friday.

Hours earlier, a detailed 49-page indictment was unsealed by the Justice Department accusing Trump of 37 felony counts of withholding top secret and other documents, refusing to return them, hiding the documents and lying about it. The indictment says Trump and aide Walt Nauta moved boxes with documents before one of his attorneys could review them and then concealed that fact. Nauta is charged with six counts.

Among the devastating accusations: Upon leaving office, Trump allegedly took documents related to the military capabilities of the United States and other nations, information about America’s nuclear program and other important documents, then stored them at low-security, porous Mar-a-Lago, where all sorts of people wandered around, including possibly foreign intelligence individuals.

Shockingly, some boxes of documents sat at one point unsecured on a ballroom stage at Mar-a-Lago and in other unsecured locations, including a shower and Trump’s bedroom. According to the indictment, Trump, while at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, showed a military map of a country with an ongoing military operation to a political action committee member who didn’t have security clearance.

Trump took documents from seven different departments and intelligence agencies, among them the CIA, the NSA and the Department of Defense. The sensitivity of the documents Trump took is stunning.

Could foreign agents have accessed those documents? No one knows. If that did happen, no one knows how much damage has been done or how much the nation has been put at risk.

The laws governing the handling of secret documents are there for a reason. As Smith said, “Violations of those laws put our country at risk.”

The indictment also contains evidence that Trump knew he was violating the law. At one point, he said, “This is secret information. Look. Look at this.” He knew it was secret and yet invited a writer without security clearance to look at it anyway.

And tellingly, the indictment also points out six instances in which Trump noted the importance of protecting classified information — five times speaking publicly and once in a written statement.

Multiple investigations, lawsuit settlements

Trump has a long history of acting at though the law does not apply to him. In March, he was indicted on 34 counts in New York for allegedly falsifying business records, a felony, in connection with hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.

He was impeached, but not convicted, for trying to get Ukraine to announce an investigation of Joe Biden.

He is under investigation in Georgia for allegedly trying to overturn that state’s results in the 2020 presidential election. He is under investigation by Smith for allegedly inciting an attempted coup on Jan. 6., 2021, at the U.S. Capitol. He was impeached a second time for his conduct on Jan. 6.

Last year, two Trump Organization companies were found guilty on multiple counts of criminal tax fraud. In May, a New York jury found against Trump in a sexual abuse and defamation case filed by author, journalist and advice columnist E. Jean Carroll. In 2018, his Trump University settled for $25 million claims by students who said they were defrauded.

The list goes on and on. Trump’s disregard for the law also can be seen in the number of his political allies and members of his administration who have been indicted. His was a reign of the swamp.

Even now, many Republicans and Trump supporters are trying to explain everything away, absurdly claiming the damning evidence is just a conspiracy to pursue Trump, despite his clearly reckless behavior. There’s also the scary prospect that some of his supporters might threaten those connected to the investigation, an ugly scenario that has happened before. Trump set the pattern on Friday by calling Smith a “deranged lunatic.”

But waving away the abuses alleged in the indictment sets an unacceptable precedent — in effect, green-lighting more legal abuses by future presidents. And imagine, in such scenarios, abuses that are perhaps even more flagrant, scandalous and dangerous than those in this indictment.

The United States is at a pivotal moment in its history. The world is watching. A just resolution of this case, based on the evidence and the law, is imperative.

The Sun-Times welcomes letters to the editor and op-eds. Here are our guidelines.



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