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Donald Trump indicted by a Florida grand jury

The former president released a statement Thursday night proclaiming his innocence.

MIAMI (CN) — Donald Trump became the first ever former president to be federally charged with a crime after a long-awaited indictment of his alleged mishandling of classified documents at his residence Mar-a-Lago in Florida after he lost the presidency.

In a Truth Social post on Thursday night, Trump said that federal prosecutors have summoned him to appear in court in Miami on Tuesday.

“I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States,” Trump said in a statement to supporters Thursday night. “I AM AN INNOCENT MAN.”

Federal prosecutors led by Special Counsel Jack Smith have been investigating the former president for months, summoning witnesses from the Trump administration to testify before a grand jury in Washington D.C., and in recent weeks in federal court in Miami.

According to reporting from other outlets, Trump has been charged with seven criminal counts.

While the Washington grand jury was further along, federal prosecutors ultimately filed the indictment in the Federal District Court of Miami, following a legal principle to charge someone where the crime happened for better standing in the case and to make it harder for the defense to challenge.

Justice Department officials did not respond to requests for comment at time of publication.

At issue are more than 300 classified documents containing highly sensitive materials regarding an Iranian missile program, surveillance efforts in China and the nuclear capabilities of an unidentified foreign power.

While it is unknown what exactly the former president and 2024 candidate has been charged with, he will likely face an obstruction of justice charge for denying multiple subpoenas and requests for cooperation that led to the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago as well as mishandling national security secrets. The alleged crimes carry potential prison time.

Prosecutors will have a high bar to make the charges stick, however, as they will have to prove that Trump or his aides intentionally mishandled the material, or were grossly negligent in their handling of the documents.

In television interviews with Fox News and CNN, Trump has made claims that he did nothing wrong, saying that he "had the right" to take boxes back from the White House in an interview with Sean Hannity in March. He doubled down in a town hall with CNN last month, arguing that the documents were declassified by presidential authority.

Lawyers for the former president met with Justice Department officials on Monday to ask federal prosecutors not to bring criminal charges against their client. Just two days later, Smith sent Trump’s lawyers a letter informing them he is the target of a federal probe – a common prosecutorial step that allows the recipient a chance to testify before an indictment moves forward – a clear sign that Smith was ready to charge the former president.

Trump's legal team could not be reached for comment.

Trump faces three other criminal investigations around the country, one in Manhattan for his hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign, a Justice Department criminal probe into his role in planning the January 6 Capitol riot and another in Georgia for interfering in the election in an attempt to find more voters to hand him the presidency.

The investigations have already been used for Trump’s campaign fundraising machine, reporting a total of $18.8 million in the first quarter of 2023, with $15.4 million of that figure donated in the two weeks after his initial indictment in sexual assault and defamation case brought by writer E. Jean Carroll in April.

The indictment comes as Trump faces more challenges for the Republican nomination each week, with his former vice president Mike Pence announcing his candidacy on Wednesday. The charges are sure to become fodder for Trump's seemingly biggest opponent Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who has consistently polled second behind Trump.

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Categories / Criminal, National

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