A source familiar with the matter says federal prosecutors have charged Trump with retaining his national security documents, a historical development that poses the most significant legal risk yet for the former US president who is running again for the White House.
The former president was indicted on charges of wilful retention of national security material, obstruction and conspiracy. On Thursday, Trump and his legal team were told of the charges.
For more than a year, prosecutors have looked at whether Trump knowingly retained classified documents in his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after he left office and took steps to conceal the materials after the Justice Department issued a subpoena for their return.
The former president is now in a second case after he was indicted on state charges in New York by the Manhattan district attorney for his role in hush-money payments to an adult film star in 2016.
The indictment by the US Attorney General, Merrick Garland, to lead the investigation of the documents, also means that the nation must grapple with the unprecedented situation of a twice-impeached, twice-charged former president running for re-election.
The news comes after activity in the investigation in Miami was moved to the Wilkie Ferguson US courthouse in Miami, where prosecutors subpoenaed multiple witnesses to appear before a previously unknown grand jury taking evidence in the case.
Most of the grand jury activity until May had focused on the grand jury hearing evidence in the case in Washington. At the beginning of the month that grand jury went quiet, around the same time that the Florida grand jury was impaneled, a person familiar with the situation said.
The investigation has broadened to three statutes under title 18 of the United States code, according to the FBI's search warrant affidavit for Mar-a-Lago.
The espionage investigation has been centered on whether Trump presented national security materials in his office at Mar-a-Lago, and has questioned multiple witnesses regarding whether he waved around classified documents that he had kept when no longer authorized to do so.
Prosecutors have also asked witnesses for documents regarding potential U.S. military action against Iran, after Donald Trump referenced such a document in a meeting in bedminster in July 2021 where he said he could not show a certain document because he did not declassify it when president.
To that end, prosecutors have showed an Iran document to some witness who appeared before the Washington grand jury and asked whether they had ever seen the material by Trump or anyone else. It was not clear whether any of the witnesses verified seeing the document, one of the people said.
The investigation into the obstruction, meanwhile, has focused on whether Trump's failure to fully compliance with the subpoena last year was a deliberate act of obstruction because he wanted to retain the classified documents even after leaving office.
Last June, Trump attorney Evan Corcoran found 38 classified documents in the Mar-a-Lago storage room, and told the Justice Department that no further materials remained there, which came into question when the FBI seized 101 more classified documents months later.
Corcoran later told colleagues he felt misled because he had asked whether he should search elsewhere at Mar-a-Lago, such as Trump's office, but was waved off by the Guardian. Corcoran's notes also showed that he told Trump that he had to return all classified documents that were in his possession.