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What we know about the indictment of Trump and his aide

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The Justice Department has unsealed an indictment against former President Trump. He's charged with unlawfully retaining some of the country's most closely held secrets and storing those papers in his Florida resort. Special counsel Jack Smith made brief remarks about the case in Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JACK SMITH: We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone.

CHANG: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been reading through the court papers and joins us now. Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, so what jumps out to you in this 49-page indictment?

JOHNSON: Really, how personally involved Donald Trump was in packing these boxes as he left the White House in January 2021, bragging about secret materials and two meetings in 2021 with people who did not have security clearances, changing his travel plans to be at Mar-a-Lago when the Justice Department came calling and then allegedly directing his own lawyer to mislead the FBI about what kinds of papers Trump had there.

CHANG: OK. So the bulk of this case - it's about retaining classified material. So what more do we know about those specific documents?

JOHNSON: That's right. Thirty-one of the 37 charges against Donald Trump relate to keeping those papers. The indictment says those secrets belong to the CIA, the Pentagon, the National Security Agency and the Energy Department. That last one is important because the Energy Department has a special responsibility around nuclear secrets.

CHANG: Right.

JOHNSON: And the indictment says Trump kept documents about U.S. capabilities but also the nuclear capacity of foreign governments. All of this was just sitting at Mar-a-Lago. At one point, some boxes fell down, and the papers were just lying on the floor. And a former FBI official told Congress this week some of these papers were so classified, he had to call in outside help. He did not have clearance to see the stuff himself.

CHANG: Interesting. Well, former President Trump has been saying that he is an innocent man. What do we know about his defense in this case?

JOHNSON: Trump has been fundraising off this grand jury activity in Florida all week. He said these charges amount to election interference because, of course, he's in the middle of a campaign for the White House in 2024. And he's also questioned the ethics of some of the investigators without providing much evidence about that. The scope of his defense is unclear right now, in part because two of his lawyers resigned earlier today.

CHANG: Right.

JOHNSON: They're Jim Trusty and John Rowley. They'd been defending Trump on TV, but they said now the case has moved to Florida. They're going to bow out. So that means some more chaos in the short term.

CHANG: Well, there has been a flurry of action already just over the last day. What are you personally looking for next, Carrie?

JOHNSON: I'm going to be looking for Trump and his aide, Walt Nauta, who's also part of the indictment, when they're scheduled to make an appearance at a federal court in Miami on Tuesday afternoon. They'll have the charges against them read. And for now, it seems the judge who will preside over that is Aileen Cannon. She was appointed by Donald Trump, and she made several rulings that were favorable to him before she was reversed by the federal appeals court last year. And the special counsel, Jack Smith, says he wants to have a speedy trial. It's not clear Trump will follow that program. It's possible he'll want to file a bunch of motions that could delay things. And a short time ago, his campaign put out a statement saying Trump violated no laws, that he's being held to a different standard and that they're confident the justice system will throw out this case in its entirety.

CHANG: Well, we should note, Carrie, that this is not the end of Trump's legal troubles with more investigations still underway, right?

JOHNSON: That's right. Special Counsel Jack Smith is still investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election. And in Georgia, the DA there has said she expects action to come by August.

CHANG: More to come. That is NPR national justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. Thank you so much, Carrie.

JOHNSON: Happy to be here. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.