(WASHINGTON) — Donald Trump was hit with a sweeping 37-count indictment from the special counsel’s office Thursday, alleging that he willfully retained documents containing the nation’s most sensitive secrets, including nuclear programs, after he left office, showed some of them on at least two occasions and then tried to obstruct the investigation into their whereabouts.
Federal prosecutors unsealed the indictment Friday against the former president and his aide Walt Nauta in connection with his handling of government documents.
The court papers allege that the classified documents included “defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack.”
Boxes of those documents were allegedly stored in various locations around Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club, including a ballroom stage and a bathroom, according to federal prosecutors.
“From January through March 15, 2021, some of TRUMP’s boxes were stored in The Mar-a-Lago Club’s White and Gold Ballroom, in which events and gatherings took place. TRUMP’s boxes were for a time stacked on the ballroom’s stage,” the indictment, said.
The federal government also alleged that Trump directed an obstruction into the investigation, instructing attorneys and aides to move the boxes and block attempts from the federal government from retrieving them.
According to the indictment, Trump allegedly told his attorneys after he got a subpoena to return the documents, “I don’t want anybody looking through my boxes, I really don’t.”
He also asked, “What happens if we just don’t respond at all?”
“Wouldn’t it be better if we just told them we don’t have anything here,” the document says he asked.
Then, “Well look isn’t it better if there are no documents?”
Trump is slated to be arraigned on Tuesday in a Florida federal court.
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and criticized the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney general’s office of conducting a political “witch hunt.”
The 49-page indictment includes several transcripts, surveillance footage, notes from at least one of his lawyers, audio recordings and other evidence that federal prosecutors claim Trump knowingly kept top-secret documents and endangered national security.
Trump suggested the documents were declassified but later admitted that they were secret in a taped interview, according to the court documents.
Prosecutors described a text exchange between Nauta to a Trump employee wherein Nauta said that Trump was tracking several of the boxes of documents and planned to “go through” them – and asked for “new covers” on them.
The indictment included a meeting between Trump and two attorneys after he was subpoenaed by investigators where the former president described one of his lawyers deleting 30,000 emails belonging to an unidentified woman.
“He was great,” Trump said referring to the unidentified attorney, according to the indictment. “She didn’t get in any trouble because he said that he was the one who deleted them.”
Trump repeatedly hammered his 2016 election opponent Hilary Clinton over accusations that she used a private email server as secretary of state. Clinton was never prosecuted over the claims.
Prosecutors also described an allegedly incriminating exchange between Nauta and an unnamed member of the Trump family – whom ABC News believes to be from sources is Melania Trump – shortly after Nauta removed dozens of boxes from their storage location inside Mar-a-Lago.
The indictment reads, “On May 30, 2022, at 12:33 p.m., a Trump family member texted NAUTA: Good afternoon Walt, Happy Memorial Day! I saw you put boxes to Potus room. Just FYI and I will tell him as well: Not sure how many he wants to take on Friday on the plane. We will NOT have a room for them. Plane will be full with luggage. Thank you!”
“Our laws that protect National Defense Information are critical, the safety and security of the United States and they must be enforced,” Special Counsel Jack Smith told reporters after the indictment was unsealed.
“We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone applying those laws, collecting facts, that’s what determines the outcome of an investigation. Nothing more, nothing less,” he added.
ABC News’ Alexander Malin and Lucien Bruggeman contributed to this report.
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