Former US president Donald Trump held on to secret documents dealing with the country’s nuclear programmes, its vulnerabilities to military attack and plans for possible retaliation, according to prosecutors.
A 49-page indictment released by the US department of justice on Friday also says Mr Trump suggested that his lawyer should mislead the FBI about the documents that were in his possession.
It says he also directed an aide to move boxes of records to conceal them from his lawyer and the FBI.
Prosecutors say in the indictment that after he left the White House in January 2021, Mr Trump had boxes of documents brought to his Mar-a-Lago home and club in Florida where initially they were stored on the stage of the ballroom. The indictment, or formal charge, says material was later held in a shower, a bathroom and a bedroom.
It also alleges that Mr Trump shared details of a highly confidential “plan of attack” – believed to be against Iran – to people who visited him at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
It maintains that on another occasion he showed a classified military map to another individual who did not have a security clearance.
The indictment includes several photographs of boxes containing sensitive material in various locations in Mar-a-Lago. It says on one occasion in December 2021 one box was found to have fallen over with documents left strewn on the floor of a storage room.
The files on the carpet included the designation “SECRET/REL TO USA, FVEY” – which meant that they were meant to be seen by officials from the US, Canada, UK, New Zealand and Australia – the so-called “five eyes” with high-level security clearances.
Mr Trump is due to appear in federal court in Miami in Florida on Tuesday where he will face 31 counts of violating the Espionage Act through “wilful retention” of classified records and six counts related to his alleged effort to obstruct the investigation.
If convicted, Mr Trump could face a lengthy jail sentence. Each count of wilful retention of records carries a maximum 10-year sentence.
An aide to Mr Trump, Walt Nauta, is also facing charges in relation to the classified material.
The former president has insisted that he is innocent and that the prosecution is politically motivated and aimed at damaging his campaign to become president again in the 2024 election.
On Friday he hit out at Jack Smith the special counsel who headed the investigation. Mr Trump described Mr Smith as a “deranged psycho”.
Mr Smith said in a brief statement on Friday “we have one set of laws and they apply to everyone”. He said he would seek “a speedy trial”.
The indictment says that, while in the White House, Mr Trump gathered a whole host of material including newspapers, letters and photographs as well as hundreds of classified documents. These were kept in cardboard boxes.
It says the classified documents included information regarding defence and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries as well as details of US nuclear programmes, potential vulnerabilities of the country and its allies and plans for possible retaliation to foreign attack.
“The unauthorised disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods.”
The indictment says that after he left office at midday on January 20th, 2021 Mr Trump “caused scores of boxes, many of which contained classified documents, to be transported to Mar-a-Lago”.
“Trump was not authorised to possess or retain those classified documents.”