Florida man insists he didn't violate the law by keeping Top Secret docs
Populist politician pleads not guilty at Miami arraignment
A Florida man and his valet appeared in a Miami federal courtroom on Tuesday to respond to criminal charges of document hoarding and related claims.
The celebrated entertainer, who had a walk-on part in Home Alone 2 and spent four years in the role of US president, pleaded not guilty, and offered no justification for storing so many boxes of classified paperwork at his Mar-a-Lago manse. His aide Walt Nauta did not enter a plea for lack of a local attorney. He's scheduled to be arraigned June 27.
The documents at issue are particularly sensitive. Some are marked "Top Secret" and so should not have been stored in a bathroom, where many were found.
Thus the US Justice Department is challenging the former game show host's allegedly wilful retention of government secrets.
Federal investigators have recovered more than 300 classified documents from the former steak salesman's property since the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) began trying to obtain the files in May 2021. Under the Presidential Records Act, former presidents are obligated to turn over official documents to NARA.
The indictment [PDF], brought by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, includes 37 charges: 31 counts of Wilful Retention of National Defense Information, 18 USC § 793(e); Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice, 18 USC § 1512(k); Withholding a Document or Record, 18 USC § 1512 (b)(2)(A); Corrupting concealing a Document or Record, 18 USC § 1512[c](1); Concealing a Document in a Federal Investigation, 18 USC § 1519; Scheme to Conceal, 18 USC § 1001(a)(1); and False Statements and Representations,18 USC § 1001(a)(2).
Nauta faces six criminal counts in the case.
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"This indictment was voted by a grand jury of citizens in the Southern District of Florida, and I invite everyone to read it in full to understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged," declared Smith in a statement issued on Friday.
"The men and women of the United States intelligence community and our armed forces dedicate their lives to protecting our nation and its people. Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced. Violations of those laws put our country at risk."
The famous Floridian, an enthusiastic amateur golfer, was placed under arrest by US marshals upon his arrival at the courthouse and fingerprinted. His co-defendant was also taken into custody, fingerprinted, and processed prior to the actual arraignment.
The arraignment was overseen by US Magistrate Judge John Goodman, but the case will be handled by US District Judge Aileen Cannon – who happens to have been appointed by the former Twitter celebrity during his brief stint as president. Judge Goodman has decided neither of the men represented a flight risk, so no travel restrictions were imposed.
In a civil case earlier this year, the one-time owner of several beauty pageants was found liable for battery and defamation of writer E. Jean Carrol earlier this year when a jury concluded he sexually abused Carrol. He also faces 34 felony counts in New York for alleged falsification of business records related to hush-money payments intended to conceal an alleged affair that everyone knows about with adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Wait. There's more: A grand jury in Georgia has been investigating whether the failed casino owner may have tried to interfere with the state’s 2020 presidential election. That inquiry is ongoing.
The six-time bankrupt executive, who several years ago spent $25 million to settle claims against a university that bore his name, is seeking another term as president in 2024. ®