Neither the indictment itself nor a conviction would prevent the ex-US president from running for 2024 election.
Donald Trump’s indictment on 37 counts of mishandling classified documents at his Florida estate represents the most serious legal jeopardy so far for the former United States president, coming less than three months after he was charged in New York with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
What are the charges?
Trump faces 37 counts related to the mishandling of classified documents, according to the indictment unsealed on Friday. The charges include counts of retaining classified information, obstructing justice and making false statements, among other crimes.
Trump is accused of keeping documents related to “nuclear weaponry in the United States” and the “nuclear capabilities of a foreign country,” along with documents from White House intelligence briefings, including some that detail the military capabilities of the US and other countries, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors alleged Trump showed off the documents to people who did not have security clearances to review them and later tried to conceal documents from his own lawyers as they sought to comply with federal demands to find and return them.
The top charges carry a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.
What happens next?
The Justice Department unsealed the indictment on Friday, the first time the department confirmed Trump was being charged with a crime.
Does a federal indictment prevent Trump from running for president?
Trump’s lawyer said he is charged with seven criminal counts including violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and conspiracy. None of those would bar Trump from office if he is convicted.
A trial would take place many months from now, and Trump can freely campaign during this time.
The US Constitution only requires that presidential candidates be natural-born US citizens who are at least 35 years old and have lived in the country for 14 years.
Trump said on Thursday on his Truth Social platform that he is innocent. He would be free to campaign even if he is convicted and sent to prison, and legal experts say there would be no basis to block his swearing-in as president even if he is jailed, though this would pose extraordinary logistical and security questions.
What effect will the case have on Trump’s campaign?
It is unclear what the effect will be on Trump’s standing with voters. Trump’s poll numbers rose after his indictment in March in a separate case in New York, and he is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.
And as the New York case showed, criminal charges have historically been a boon to his fundraising. The campaign announced that it had raised at least $4m in the 24 hours after that indictment became public, far smashing its previous record after the FBI search of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.
He has used the cases and investigations he faces as fundraising tools, telling supporters that he is under attack and needs their help. Trump’s campaign said in April that donations surged after he was indicted in New York.