Former president Donald Trump said on June 8 that he had been indicted by special counsel Jack Smith as part of the investigation into his handling of classified documents.
The indictment is the conclusion of a yearslong saga that started when the president moved out of the White House following the 2020 election.
The federal inquiry has led to the raid on Trump’s personal residence at Mar-a-Lago. The following is the timeline of the events leading up to the indictment.
CBS Miami reports that at least two moving company trucks are spotted at President Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida.
Trump signs a letter designating Mark Meadows and others to be in charge of his presidential records. In a separate document, Trump also declassifies “certain materials related to the FBI’s Crossfire Hurricane investigation.” That probe was launched in 2016 to examine possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives. Special Counsel Robert Mueller, former FBI director, took over the investigation in 2017. In 2019, he concluded that there was no evidence that Trump or his campaign “colluded” with Russians to sway the 2016 election.
Hours before Trump’s tenure ends, Meadows, Trump’s chief of staff, writes his own memo about the Crossfire Hurricane records. “The Office of Legal Counsel has advised that the Privacy Act does not apply to the White House,” he writes. Still, Meadows says, to avoid “unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,” he is returning “the bulk of the binder of declassified documents” to the Department of Justice (DOJ) and requesting a Privacy Act review. The Washington Examiner later reports that Meadows’ memo resulted in the DOJ blocking the records from release.
As the Republican president’s administration concludes, the Presidential Records Act requires Trump to provide all records from his presidency to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). However, a Trump attorney, Timothy Parlatore, would later publicly state that NARA, in its dealings with Trump, deviated from procedures used with several previous administrations.
Democrat President Joe Biden is inaugurated as the 46th president, although Trump disputes the election results. He has not conceded.
Believing that records were missing, NARA requests records from Trump. It’s unclear why NARA suspected that records were missing; many events from January-May 2021 are redacted, or blacked out, in an FBI agent’s affidavit that was released in August 2022.
A Trump representative informs NARA that about a dozen boxes of presidential records had been located at Mar-A-Lago and that staffers were continuing to search for more.
NARA receives 15 boxes of records from Trump’s attorneys, following months of negotiations.
NARA releases a statement, saying that some of Trump’s presidential records “included paper records that had been torn up by former President Trump,” and taped back together by White House staff.
The same day that House Democrats write a letter expressing concern about Trump’s records, NARA sends a referral email to the DOJ, stating the boxes contained “highly classified records” that were “intermixed with other records” and improperly identified.
NARA sends House Democrats a letter stating that NARA found “items marked as classified national security information.” NARA also sends other letters, expressing concerns over the Trump administration’s apparent failure to properly archive presidential social media posts.
Breitbart news quotes Kash Patel, a former Trump administration official, as saying that other media reports about “classified” materials were “misleading” because Trump had already declassified the records.
The White House Counsel’s Office asks that NARA provide the FBI access to the 15 Mar-A-Lago boxes.
In a letter responding to a Trump lawyer, NARA says that access to presidential records is generally restricted “for several years after the conclusion of a President’s tenure in office.” But federal law says that an incumbent president is entitled to past presidential records that are needed “for the conduct of current business.” NARA asserts that condition applies to the Biden administration’s request for the Trump records. The FBI cites “important national security interests” in viewing the documents. NARA also says an assistant attorney general advised that “there is no precedent for assertion of executive privilege by a former president” to deny an incumbent president’s access to records.
In all but one of the 15 boxes, FBI agents find documents with classification markings. Among the records, 67 documents were marked “confidential;” 92 records “secret;” and 25 records, “top secret,” the FBI affidavit said.
In response to a May 11 subpoena, a Trump attorney hands over an envelope to NARA, containing 38 documents with classification markings, including five documents marked “confidential,” 16 marked “secret,” and 17 marked “top secret,” according to The Associated Press. Trump’s representatives attest that, following a diligent search, they believe no other classified materials remained at Mar-A-Lago.
Former Trump lawyer Timothy Parlatore appears on NBC’s “Meet The Press” and described the process that ordinarily happens with presidential records. Usually, the Government Services Administration transfers the records to a facility near the former president’s residence, then allows the president two years to sort out anything that is personal; the remaining presidential records are returned to NARA. Instead, GSA moved the records to Trump’s home–and then demanded that the records be returned immediately to NARA, Parlatore said.
The DOJ sends a letter to Trump’s attorneys, stating that “Mar-A-Lago does not include a secure location authorized for the storage of classified information.” The letter also requested that the room that housed the documents should be “secured” and that all items in that room should “be preserved in their current condition until further notice.”
Trump sends a letter to NARA, granting access to his presidential records to two people: former administration member Kash Patel, who is also a lawyer, and news reporter John Solomon.
An FBI special agent signs an affidavit, under seal, and a Florida federal judge agrees to issue a warrant allowing the search of Mar-A-Lago. (That record was released 21 days later.)
In an unprecedented move, FBI agents raid Mar-A-Lago. The agents are divided into two teams: investigators and a team tasked with reviewing materials that might contain privileged attorney-client information. Agents seize 36 items containing about 100 classified records. DOJ says the discovery of that many records “casts doubt on the extent of cooperation” from Trump and his allies.
Republicans react with shock and concern over the raid; Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) sends a letter to NARA, seeking information on the “escalation” of this investigation leading to “unprecedented” action against a former president.
A federal judge unseals the warrant that allowed the FBI to search Mar-a-Lago; the document shows agents are investigating possible violations of federal laws, including the Espionage Act. Also, NARA disputes news reports claiming that records were missing from the administration of former President Barack Obama, Trump’s predecessor. The agency also later stated that The Obama Foundation “has never had control” over Obama’s presidential records.
NARA responds to Turner, stating that the agency was not involved in searches for Trump documents and that the DOJ “has been exclusively responsible for all aspects of this investigation” after its referral to the DOJ.
NARA releases a letter revealing that the Biden administration asked NARA to allow the FBI to review the Mar-A-Lago records months prior to the raid. The letter, dated May 10, was sent from NARA to a Trump attorney.
The DOJ reveals new details about the investigation, asserting that classified materials were “likely concealed and removed” from a Mar-a-Lago storage room to obstruct the investigation.
Trump responds by stating: “Terrible the way the FBI, during the Raid of Mar-a-Lago, threw documents haphazardly all over the floor (perhaps pretending it was me that did it!), and then started taking pictures of them for the public to see. Thought they wanted them kept Secret?”
Trump’s lawyers state that there’s no evidence that Trump had disclosed the Mar-A-Lago records to anyone.
At the request of Trump’s lawyers, a federal judge appoints U.S. District Judge Raymond Dearie as special master to review the Mar-A-Lago documents. Dearie was tasked with weeding out records covered by executive privilege, attorney-client privilege or otherwise exempt from DOJ’s probe of classified documents.
Conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt posts on Twitter that Trump told him everything he took to Mar-A-Lago was declassified, and that he had done nothing wrong in connection with alternative slates of electors. Trump predicts “big problems” if he’s indicted, touching off criticism from people who interpret that remark as inciting violence.
NARA releases 11 pages of communication with Trump representatives and 54 pages documenting its contact with other agencies about the Trump records; about 1,500 pages are withheld, citing privileged communications with federal agencies, privacy concerns, and law enforcement investigatory information. The agency also would release additional records later in the year.
NARA denounces “false and misleading” reports implying that records of several former presidents took records with them or that the records were housed in “substandard conditions.”
Biden’s lawyers find about 10 classified documents at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy & Global Engagement, located at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. Biden’s attorneys report the discovery to NARA. But no information is revealed publicly until two months later, well after the general election on Nov. 8, the first significant election in the midst of Biden’s presidency. The Biden administration’s acknowledgments of the documents would come after media outlets break the news.
NARA contacts Biden’s lawyers to arrange to pick up boxes of Biden records from the Penn Biden Center, they learned that other records had been moved to the Boston law office of Pat Moore, another Biden lawyer, according to a letter NARA later sent in a response to Republican senators’ inquiries. NARA would later retrieve nine boxes of materials from Moore’s office, and additional materials from a garage where Biden stored his Corvette. NARA would also refer the Biden document matter to other government agencies.
Trump announces his candidacy for president in the 2024 election.
The DOJ appoints Jack Smith as special counsel to oversee two probes of Trump: the documents case and “whether any person or entity unlawfully interfered with the transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election or the certification of the Electoral College vote” on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump punches back on Truth Social, calling Smith “totally compromised” and a “political hit man.”
An appeals court rules that the special master’s review of documents must stop. The appellate judges say they cannot “write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant.”
The White House publicly discloses the Biden document concerns for the first time. In response, Trump points out the disparate treatment between him and Biden on his Truth Social platform. “When is the FBI going to raid the many homes of Joe Biden, perhaps even the White House?” Trump writes. Biden’s records “were definitely not declassified.” The records date to Biden’s terms in the U.S. Senate and during his vice presidency in the Obama administration.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chair of the House Oversight Committee, writes to NARA, raising concerns about “political bias” at the agency over “inconsistent treatment of recovering classified records” kept by Biden and Trump.
The DOJ appoints a special prosecutor, Robert Hur, look into Biden’s classified documents. Biden’s lawyers acknowledge that more classified documents were found at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, than had been previously reported. House Republicans raise concerns that other classified documents were found in a garage where Biden stores his Corvette.
NARA releases records related to the transfer of documents from Biden’s time as vice president under Obama.
Republican Sens. Charles Grassley and Ron Johnson, leaders of congressional oversight committees, seek answers from NARA about the Biden records.
In a letter to Grassley and Johnson, NARA says it has not delved into the Biden records, and that they were transported to NARA’s John F. Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. NARA also reveals that Biden’s lawyers had begun reviewing the Penn Biden Center records on unknown dates in October 2022; the record does not state what prompted that review.
Grassley and Johnson write another letter, revealing that they had learned the FBI reviewed the Biden files.
After a series of shorter statements and records releases, NARA issues a lengthy statement disputing reports that NARA has been “untruthful” about its activities. NARA’s primary mission is to make records available for access, the agency says, adding, “NARA does not consider itself to be involved in the work of, or investigations by the requestors.”
In a response to Grassley and Johnson, NARA says its ability to discuss the matter is limited because of Hur’s investigation.
NARA denies that it “declined to provide archival assistance to President Trump’s transition team.” The agency says it provided similar help to “the three previous Presidential transitions,” adding: “The packing of boxes and transfer of records from the White House to NARA at the end of each Administration is always managed and controlled by White House and [National Security Council] officials,” with NARA’s help.
Trump’s attorneys ask for a meeting with top DOJ officials to discuss “the ongoing injustice” that Trump is facing under Smith’s investigations of the documents matter and Trump’s alleged interference with transferring power to the Biden administration.
Citing “multiple sources,” CNN releases an exclusive report alleging that federal prosecutors had obtained an audio recording of a 2021 meeting in which Trump reportedly acknowledged that he “held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran.” Prosecutors have asked grand jury witnesses about the recording, according to the report. A series of other media reports, apparently based on leaks about Smith’s investigation, begin circulating.
The House Judiciary Committee begins investigating whether bias in the FBI, revealed in Special Counsel John Durham’s May 15 report, has tainted Smith’s investigations of Trump. Garland was given until June 15 to respond to inquiries from the committee chair, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio).
The DOJ announces that its investigation into possible mishandling of documents found at the home of Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, without filing charges against Pence.
Countering other reports predicting Trump’s imminent indictment in the documents probe, a former Trump lawyer, Timothy Parlatore, tells NBC News’ “Meet The Press” questions whether such a prosecution would make sense.
Speculation about the documents investigation nearing a conclusion goes into overdrive after two events.
Three Trump attorneys–Lindsey Halligan, John Rowley, and James Trusty—are seen leaving DOJ headquarters in Washington. They had been inside for about two hours.
Also, sources told NBC News that a Smith-convened Washington grand jury, which had been taking a break, reportedly was back in session.
U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) demands that the DOJ produce “unredacted” records about Smith’s probe into the Trump documents case.
In a series of Truth Social posts, couched as “tirades” by some media, Trump accuses the FBI and DOJ of being “Marxists and fascists” for going after him in the documents case. He also compares how differently the federal government has responded to document concerns surrounding Pence and Biden.
Taylor Budowich, a former Trump aide who continues supporting the former president via a political action committee, confirms via Twitter that he testified to a grand jury to meet his legal obligation. Budowich said he remains determined to help propel Trump back into the White House. “America has become a sick and broken nation—a decline led by Joe Biden and power hungry Democrats,” Budowich writes. “I will not be intimidated by this weaponization of government. For me, the need to unite our nation and make America great again has never been more clear than it is today. That starts with re-electing President Donald J. Trump, a purpose I will not be deterred from pursuing.”
News reports indicate that two grand juries, one in Washington, D.C., and the other in Miami, have been meeting in connection with Smith’s probes of Trump. It was unclear why dual grand juries are apparently involved.
Trump posts on Truth Social: “Wow, this is turning out to be the greatest & most vicious instance of election interference in the history of our country.” He points out that he is leading both Biden and his nearest Republican rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in opinion polls. “Perhaps most importantly, they are launching all of the many ￼fake investigations against me right smack in the middle of my campaign, something which is unheard of [and is] not supposed to happen.” He ends by labeling the DOJ, FBI and other persecutors “fascists.”
Shortly thereafter, as reports circulate that the DOJ has told him or his lawyers that he would be indicted, Trump posts: “No one has told me I’m being indicted, and I shouldn’t be because I’ve done nothing wrong.” But he has been “a target of the weaponized DOJ & FBI.” He says the agencies are committing “a travesty of justice and election interference at a level never seen before.” Trump then urges Republicans in Congress to make this their top concern.
Trump calls for the DOJ to shut down the case against him and for the Inspector General to investigate the DOJ for prosecutorial misconduct. He alleges that top prosecutors tried to bribe and intimidate an attorney into getting a witness to fabricate stories against Trump. Trump also said a federal prosecutor promised another lawyer a judgeship in the Biden administration if his client would “flip” on Trump.
Trump later says his lawyers have informed him of the indictment. The president wrote on Truth Social that he has been summoned to appear in court in Miami on June 13.
Compiled by Janice Hisle.
From The Epoch Times