Jun 9, 2023

My initial reaction to the Trump indictment

Image: Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America
Image: Gage Skidmore from Surprise, AZ, United States of America

We have just entered uncharted territory.

I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, nonpartisan, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum on the news of the day — then “my take.”

This morning, we were planning to publish a piece about the need for debates in the 2024 presidential race. But on Thursday night, the extraordinary news broke that former President Donald Trump was indicted for mishandling classified documents and then obstructing the government's efforts to reclaim them.

This is the first time a former U.S. president has faced federal charges, and puts the country in an even more tenuous position than that historical precedent suggests: Given Trump's position as the odds-on favorite to win the Republican primary, he is not being charged only as a former president, but as a leading candidate for president in a forthcoming election.

Given the unprecedented nature of this news, I decided it was best to push our planned Friday edition back to next week and give this story some immediate attention. On Monday, we'll give the Trump indictment the full Tangle treatment, with views from both sides and then my take. But today, before we get the torrent of opinions that are about to come out, I figured I’d share some of my initial thoughts with Tangle members for our subscribers-only Friday edition this week.

So first, the basics of the charges:

The indictment is still under seal, but several news outlets report Trump is facing seven charges, including willfully retaining national defense secrets in violation of the Espionage Act, making false statements, and conspiracy to obstruct justice. A grand jury in Miami handed up the indictment, a member of Trump’s legal team confirmed the charges, and Trump confirmed the news himself late Thursday night on Truth Social. The charges carry the potential for years in prison if Trump is found guilty, and he is expected to turn himself in to authorities on Tuesday.

“The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been indicted,” Trump said in a video he released at 4 a.m. EDT on Truth social. "I'm an innocent man. I'm an innocent person... we will prove that again.”

In a campaign email, Trump began fundraising on the news, asking supporters to “Please make a contribution to peacefully stand with me today and prove that YOU will NEVER surrender our country to the radical Left—for 1,500% impact.”

Special Counsel Jack Smith has been leading the investigation into Trump. Smith previously served as a U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Tennessee, and is a well known war crimes and public corruption prosecutor who has investigated members of Congress from both parties. He is also overseeing the Department of Justice's investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Smith ultimately decided to pursue charges in Miami because most of this case concerns Trump's actions while at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida residence.