Donald Trump ‘s indictment on felony charges of mishandling classified documents is set to unfold in Florida and will, at least initially, be overseen by a federal judge he appointed and who issued rulings favorable to him last year and expressed skepticism of Justice Department positions.
The assignment of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, confirmed to The Associated Press Friday day by a person familiar with the development, is a rare bit of positive news for Trump in the face of an indictment with several criminal charges that carries the prospect of a years-long prison sentence.
The New York Times and other media outlets, citing sources, also reported Cannon’s appointment.
Cannon drew fire last year for granting the Trump legal team’s request for a special master to conduct an independent review of the hundreds of classified documents seized from his Florida property last year. The move, which temporarily halted core aspects of the Justice Department’s investigative work, was overturned months later by a three-judge panel of a federal appeals court.
Meanwhile Friday, Trump announced a shakeup of his legal team, saying the case going forward would be handled by Todd Blanche, a lawyer representing him in a separate prosecution in New York, and not by James Trusty and John Rowley, two lawyers who had worked the classified documents case for months.
While Trump announced his indictment Thursday on his Truth Social platform, the Justice Department did not immediately confirm the indictment publicly.
But two people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to discuss it publicly said that the indictment included seven criminal charges.
Trump said he has been told to appear in court Tuesday in Miami, where a federal grand jury had been hearing testimony as recently as this week.
Trump’s indictment carries potentially grave legal consequences, including the possibility of prison if he’s convicted.
But it also has enormous political implications for a Republican presidential primary that Trump has been dominating.
Within minutes of his announcement, Trump began fundraising off it for his presidential campaign. He declared his innocence in a video and repeated his claims that the investigation is a “witch hunt.”
The indictment arises from a monthslong investigation into whether Trump broke the law by holding onto hundreds of documents marked classified at his Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago, and whether Trump took steps to obstruct the government’s efforts to recover the records.
Prosecutors have said that Trump took roughly 300 classified documents to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House, including some 100 that were seized by the FBI last August in a search of the home that underscored the gravity of the Justice Department’s investigation. Trump has repeatedly insisted that he was entitled to keep the classified documents when he left the White House, and has also claimed without evidence that he had declassified them.
Court records unsealed last year showed federal investigators believed they had probable cause that multiple crimes had been committed, including the retention of national defense information, destruction of government records and obstruction.
Since then, the Justice Department has collected additional evidence and secured grand jury testimony from people close to Trump, including his own lawyers.
Even so, it remains unclear how much it will damage Trump’s standing given that his first indictment generated millions of dollars in contributions from angry supporters and didn’t weaken him in the polls.
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