Watch CBS News

Timeline: The Justice Department's prosecution of the Trump documents case

Next steps in classified documents case
What's next in the Trump classified documents case? 03:52

Washington — The unprecedented federal charges filed against former President Donald Trump in early June were just the first step in one of the cases that will unfold as Trump mounts his third bid for the White House.

Made public on June 9, the indictment marked the first time in history a former president has been charged by the Justice Department. Trump's prosecution is the culmination of a nearly two-year-long effort by the U.S. government to recover records from his South Florida property, Mar-a-Lago, after his presidency ended in January 2021.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all 37 felony counts related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents and a tentative trial date has been set. But there is still much that will take place before a jury renders its verdict in the case of United States of America vs. Trump.

Here is a timeline of the events that have occurred since Trump was indicted on charges stemming from his handling of sensitive government records: 


June 8: A federal grand jury votes to indict Trump on charges stemming from the investigation into his handling of sensitive government records recovered from Mar-a-Lago after he left the White House.

Trump himself announces that he was informed of the indictment in a trio of posts to his account on Truth Social and proclaims that he is an "innocent man."

The charges are the first to arise from special counsel Jack Smith's investigation into Trump's handling of government records recovered from Mar-a-Lago after his presidency concluded.

June 9: The indictment filed against Trump is made public, detailing the charges the former president is facing. The document lists 37 felony violations: 

  • 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information
  • 1 count of conspiracy to obstruct justice
  • 1 count of withholding a document or record
  • 1 count of corruptly concealing document or record
  • 1 count of concealing a document in a federal investigation
  • 1 count of scheme to conceal
  • 1 count of making false statements and representations

At least four of the charges carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

The indictment names Waltine "Walt" Nauta, an aide to Trump who served as a White House valet, as a co-conspirator in five of the counts, and charged him individually with making false statements.

The indictment alleges that Trump "endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal retention of classified documents," and says the classified documents Trump kept in boxes at Mar-a-Lago included information about defense and weapons capabilities of both the U.S. and foreign countries, as well as U.S. nuclear programs.

The filing includes colored photos showing stacks of boxes that were stored in different rooms around Mar-a-Lago at various times, including on stage in a ballroom, in a bathroom next to a shower and toilet, and in a storage room.

The indictment against former President Donald Trump is photographed on Friday, June 9, 2023.
The indictment against former President Donald Trump is photographed on Friday, June 9, 2023. Jon Elswick / AP

"The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collection methods," the indictment states.

The 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information stem from 31 records that were recovered by federal investigators on June 3, 2022, when Trump's representatives turned over records bearing classification markings in response to a subpoena, and on Aug. 8, 2022, when the FBI conducted a court-authorized search of Mar-a-Lago. Nearly all of these documents are marked top secret or secret, and some include information about U.S. military activities and nuclear capabilities.

Federal prosecutors say that Trump showed classified documents to others on two occasions: In July 2021 during a meeting with a writer and publisher at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey; and in August or September 2021 during a meeting with a representative from his political action committee at his Bedminster property.

After the indictment is revealed, Smith delivers brief remarks on the charges and encourages all Americans to read the document to "to understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged."

"We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone," the special counsel says. "Applying those laws, collecting facts — that's what determines the outcome of an investigation. Nothing more and nothing less."  

Trump, meanwhile, spends the day at his club in Bedminster, golfing with GOP Rep. Carlos Gimenez of Florida, who tweets a photo of himself alongside the former president on the course.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who was named to the bench by Trump, is assigned to preside over his case. Cannon, whose chambers are in Fort Pierce, Florida, oversaw legal wrangling in 2022 over the FBI's execution of the search warrant at Mar-a-Lago. In that dispute, she granted Trump's request for an independent third party, or special master, to review the records seized by federal agents. She also ordered the Justice Department to temporarily stop using the recovered materials for its investigation pending completion of the special master's review.

Cannon's ruling was widely criticized by legal experts and ultimately reversed by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in a unanimous ruling.

June 13: Trump appears in federal court in Miami for his arraignment before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman and pleads not guilty to all 37 counts. 

He is released on his own recognizance following the 45-minute proceeding. As a condition of his release, Trump is prohibited from speaking about the case with Nauta and other potential witnesses identified by the government. He is not required to relinquish his passport, and the judge does not impose limits on domestic or international travel.

A sketch showing former President Donald Trump in a federal courtroom in Florida on June 13, 2023.
A sketch showing former President Donald Trump in a federal courtroom in Florida on June 13, 2023. William J. Hennessy, Jr.

Hours later, Trump delivers a speech from his Bedminster club and again claims he had "every right" to keep the classified documents under the Presidential Records Act. In fact, the law requires all presidential records to be turned over to the National Records and Archives Administration at the end of their administrations.

Trump rebukes the indictment as "the most evil and heinous abuse of power in the history of our country" and claims his prosecution is politically motivated, given that he is the front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination.

June 19: Federal Magistrate Judge Bruce Reinhart issues a protective order that lays out a series of restrictions regarding the evidence the Justice Department collected during its investigation, which will be turned over to Trump's legal team as part of a process known as discovery. Smith requested the protective order on June 16, and it was unopposed by Trump's lawyers.

Reinhart's order states that discovery materials must be securely kept in the "custody and control" of Trump's lawyers. Trump and his attorneys are prohibited from disclosing the information or their contents "directly or indirectly" to anyone other than those working on his defense, people interviewed as potential witnesses, lawyers for potential witnesses or others the court may authorize.

Trump and Nauta, his co-defendant, can only access the discovery materials under the "direct supervision" of their lawyers or their staff, according to the filing. Any notes taken by Trump and Nauta regarding the records must be stored securely by their legal teams.

The protective order also states that "the Discovery Materials, along with any information derived therefrom, shall not be disclosed to the public or the news media, or disseminated on any news or social media platform, without prior notice to and consent of the United States or approval of the court."

If the terms of the order are violated by Trump, Nauta or their lawyers, they face being held in contempt of court or other "civil or criminal sanctions," Reinhart wrote in the filing.

June 20: Cannon issues an order setting a trial date in the case. The two-week proceeding is set to begin Aug. 14 and will take place at the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce. She also sets a July 24 deadline for all pre-trial motions from both sides — Trump and the Justice Department — to be filed. 

The trial date, however, is likely tentative, since Trump's lawyers are expected to file a number of motions that could delay its start. Cannon says in her order that any motions to move the trial date "must set forth in detail which factors" she should consider that constitute the grounds for a continuance, including the complexity of the case and the process for obtaining security clearances. 

June 21: Federal prosecutors working with Smith tell the court that the government has turned over to Trump a first batch of unclassified evidence, which was produced in three parts:

  • Documents obtained through subpoena; evidence obtained from search warrants; transcripts of grand jury testimony taken before a grand jury in the D.C. and transcripts of grand jury testimony taken before a grand jury in the Southern District of Florida, including from witnesses who will testify on behalf of the Justice Department; and memorialization of witness interviews conducted through May 12;
  • a reproduction of "key" documents and photographs included in Production 1 that are referenced in the indictment and others determined by the government to be relevant to the case;
  • copies of closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage obtained by federal investigators during the Justice Department's probe, as well as "key" excerpts from the footage, including clips referenced in the indictment or found to be pertinent to the case.

Prosecutors said that agents and officers involved in the case have been advised to preserve "all rough notes."

June 23: The Justice Department requests Trump's trial be moved from mid-August to Dec. 11 and notes that because the case involves classified information, the former president's lawyers will need security clearances. Smith and his team note in the filing that it could take up to 60 days for Trump's lawyers to obtain the clearances required to review certain classified documents in the case.

Smith and his team of prosecutors also file a separate motion asking that a list of 84 witnesses who Trump and Nauta are prohibited from communicating with about the case — a special condition of the former president's bond — be filed under seal with the court.

The Justice Department writes in the filing that during Trump's initial appearance, the federal magistrate judge presiding over the proceedings ordered the government to provide Trump's lawyers with the list of the witnesses who the former president cannot discuss the case with.

June 26: Cannon denies the special counsel's request for the list of 84 witnesses to be filed under seal. She notes in an order that the Justice Department's request "does not explain why filing the list with the court is necessary; it does not offer a particularized basis to justify sealing the list from public view; it does not explain why partial sealing, redaction, or means other than sealing are unavailable or unsatisfactory; and it does not specify the duration of any proposed seal."

Cannon's decision indicates that the list may not have to be filed on the public docket at all, leaving open the possibility that those names may not be made public. Federal prosecutors can resubmit their request to the court. 

The judge also sets a pretrial conference for July 14 at the courthouse in Fort Pierce.

July 6: Nauta appears for his arraignment in federal court in Miami, and his attorney enters a plea of not guilty on his behalf.

Nauta's arraignment was delayed twice so he could secure local representation. His legal team now includes Florida-based Sasha Dadan.

July 10: In a late-night filing, lawyers for Trump and Nauta ask Cannon to reject the Justice Department's proposed Dec. 11 trial date and postpone consideration of any trial date indefinitely, "until after substantive motions have been presented and adjudicated."

"This extraordinary case presents a serious challenge to both the fact and perception of our American democracy," they write. "The Court now presides over a prosecution advanced by the administration of a sitting President against his chief political rival, himself a leading candidate for the Presidency of the United States. Therefore, a measured consideration and timeline that allows for a careful and complete review of the procedures that led to this indictment and the unprecedented legal issues presented herein best serves the interests of the Defendants and the public."

Lawyers for the two co-defendants note there are "significant" legal questions outstanding, including the classification status of the documents at issue and their impact on national security, and the "potential inability" to select an impartial jury during the 2024 presidential election. Some of the issues, they claim, will negate the need for any trial.

Trump and Nauta's attorneys provide a window into the volume of evidence the Justice Department has collected: In the first batch of unclassified evidence turned over on June 21, prosecutors produced more than 428,300 records (more than 833,000 pages), consisting of roughly 122,650 emails and 305,670 documents.

That first tranche also included 57 terabytes of compressed raw closed-circuit television footage (roughly nine months of footage so far).

The lawyers write that they plan to raise questions for the court to evaluate, including the intersection between the Presidential Records Act and the criminal laws cited in the indictment, and say they may pursue challenges to the classification status of certain records at issue.

"The Government's request to begin a trial of this magnitude within six months of indictment is unreasonable, telling, and would result in a miscarriage of justice," they argue.

Trump's candidacy for president in 2024 plays a significant role in the request, as his lawyers say the campaign requires a "tremendous amount of time and energy" that will continue until after the Nov. 4, 2024, election. Nauta's job, meanwhile, requires him to travel with Trump to campaign stops, the lawyers say.

"Here, there is simply no question any trial of this action during the pendency of a Presidential election will impact both the outcome of that election and, importantly, the ability of the Defendants to obtain a fair trial," they claim.

The filing also notes Trump's other legal commitments: his scheduled March 2024 criminal trial in New York, where he pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records and October 2023 civil case brought by the New York attorney general against Trump, his children and the Trump Organization.

July 13: Smith and his team urge Cannon to reject Trump and Nauta's request to postpone the start of their criminal trial indefinitely, writing in a filing that "there is no basis in law or fact for proceeding in such an indeterminate and open-ended fashion."

Prosecutors push back on the alleged impact the Presidential Records Act could have on the case, saying that any argument that the law mandates dismissal of the charges or forms a defense to them "borders on frivolous."

The law, they say, is not a criminal statute, and it does not address the retention of national security information. 

"The Defendants are, of course, free to make whatever arguments they like for dismissal of the Indictment, and the Government will respond promptly," Smith and his team write. "But they should not be permitted to gesture at a baseless legal argument, call it 'novel,' and then claim that the Court will require an indefinite continuance in order to resolve it."

Prosecutors also provide more detail about how they have turned over evidence to Trump and Nauta's lawyers and argue they have made their review of the material collected "as efficient as possible." The government, for example, included a set of "key" documents referenced in the indictment or found to be pertinent to the case, and included a discovery log with its first batch of evidence.

In rejecting concerns about the ability to select an impartial jury if the trial takes place during the 2024 election cycle, the Justice Department acknowledges that jury selection may require additional protocols uch as a questionnaire, but say that does not justify a delay.

"Our jury system relies on the Court's authority to craft a thorough and effective jury selection process, and on prospective jurors' ability and willingness to decide cases based on the evidence presented to them, guided by legal instructions from the Court," the special counsel argues.

In a separate filing, two of Trump's lawyers, Chris Kise and Todd Blanche, tell the court that they have completed "all outstanding applicant tasks" to obtain security clearances, with one exception: Kise is set to have his fingerprint submitted on July 17.

Nauta's two attorneys, Stanley Woodward and Sasha Dadan, inform the court that they, too, have completed the outstanding tasks. 

July 21: Cannon says in an order Trump's trial will begin May 20, 2024, and is set to run two weeks. The proceedings will take place at the courthouse in Fort Pierce, Florida, where she sits.

Cannon's mid-May trial date lands midway between the proposed schedules from the special counsel's office and Trump's lawyers. 

It also means the trial will take place toward the end of the Republican presidential primaries and begin more than two months after Super Tuesday, when the largest number of delegates to the Republican National Convention are at stake. The convention, where the party will formally select its nominee, is scheduled to kick off July 15. 

In her seven-page order, Cannon writes "the interests of justice served by this continuance outweigh the best interest of the public and defendants in a speedy trial." She acknowledges that the amount of material collected by federal investigators, to be turned over to Trump's legal team, is "voluminous and likely to increase in the normal course as trial approaches."

Because the case involves documents bearing classification markings, Cannon also notes that it is subject to the procedures outlined in the Classified Information Procedures Act, which governs how classified material is used in the proceedings. 

"The fact remains that the Court will be faced with extensive pre-trial motion practice on a diverse number of legal and factual issues, all in connection with a 38-count indictment," she writes. 

July 27: Smith brings new charges against Trump and adds a third defendant to the case, Carlos De Oliveira, a worker at Mar-a-Lago.

The superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury in South Florida adds one more count of willful retention of national defense information against Trump, who now faces a total of 32 counts under the Espionage Act. It also charges Trump with two more obstruction-related counts: altering, destroying, mutilating or concealing an object; and corruptly altering, destroying, mutilating or concealing a document, record or other object.

Trump now faces eight counts related to alleged attempts to obstruct the Justice Department's investigation.

The indictment includes new information about what occurred at Mar-a-Lago after one of Trump's lawyers received a grand jury subpoena for surveillance records and footage from internal cameras at the resort, including the ground floor basement, on June 24, 2022.

Prosecutors allege that on June 27, 2022, De Oliveira and an unnamed Trump Organization employee met in a small room known as an "audio closet," and De Oliveira asked the worker to delete security camera footage.

"De Oliveira told Trump Employee 4 that 'the boss' wanted the server deleted. Trump Employee 4 responded that he would not know how to do that, and that he did not believe that he would have the rights to do that," according to the filing.

De Oliveira reiterated that "the boss" wanted the server deleted and asked, "what are we going to do?" the indictment alleges.

Shortly after the exchange, De Oliveira called Nauta, and the two met on the edge of the Mar-a-Lago property later that day, according to the filing. Trump called De Oliveira just before 4 p.m., and they spoke for more than three minutes, prosecutors say.

The superseding indictment also provides new details about how Trump allegedly handled a "plan of attack," which prosecutors claim he showed to a writer and publisher during a July 21, 2021, meeting at his Bedminster club. Two of his aides were also present, and none of the four had security clearances, according to the filing. An audio recording of the meeting was obtained by CBS News, and Trump can be heard in it discussing what he described as "highly confidential, secret" documents.

CBS News reported that the plan was a Defense Department memo on Iran and was not part of the original 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information charged in the initial indictment. But the new filing notes that "the document that Trump possessed and showed on July 21, 2021, is charged as Count 32."

The document was marked "TOP SECRET/NOFORN" and described as a "presentation concerning military activity in a foreign country," according to the indictment.

Separate from the superseding indictment, Smith's office also files with the court a renewed request for a protective order under Section 3 of the Classified Information Procedures Act. That provision of the law provides that the court will issue an order "to protect against the disclosure of any classified information disclosed by the United States to any defendant in any criminal case."

Prosecutors write in the filing that there are two points of disagreement between the Justice Department and the defendants about the terms of the proposed protective order, one of which is that Trump wants to discuss classified information with his lawyers outside of secure facilities, or SCIFs.

While the proposed protective order from the Justice Department requires Trump's lawyers to discuss classified information with him only within a SCIF, the former president's legal team "expressed concerns regarding the inconvenience posed by this limitation and requested that Defendant Trump be permitted to discuss classified information with his counsel in his office at Mar-a-Lago, and possibly Bedminster," according to the new filing.

Smith's team say they are "not aware" of any case where a defendant was permitted to discuss classified information in a private residence and said "such exceptional treatment would not be consistent with the law." Trump's residences and offices are not "lawful locations" where classified information can be discussed, and neither Mar-a-Lago nor Bedminster are authorized for the storage and possession of classified information, they write.

"There is no basis for the defendant's request that he be given the extraordinary authority to discuss classified information at his residence, and it is particularly striking that he seeks permission to do so in the very location at which he is charged with willfully retaining the documents charged in this case," Justice Department lawyers say.  

Aug. 10: The arraignment for De Oliveira is postponed because he has still not retained a lawyer in Florida. The new date for his arraignment is Aug. 15.

Nauta appears before a federal magistrate judge in Fort Pierce, Florida, for a second arraignment, this time on the new charges filed against him. He pleads not guilty to the additional counts.

Trump, who waived his right to appear at the proceeding, notified the court last week that he entered a not guilty plea to the three new charges brought against him by Smith.

Aug. 22: Prosecutors reveal in a filing that "Trump Employee 4," the Mar-a-Lago IT worker, retracted testimony given to a grand jury after he received a target letter from Smith in June and said in July that he no longer wanted to be represented by Woodward, his original attorney.

Prosecutors tell the court that when "Trump Employee 4," who CBS News has identified as Yuscil Taveras, testified before a Washington, D.C., grand jury in March, he "repeatedly denied or claimed not to recall any contacts or conversations about the security footage at Mar-a-Lago." Evidence collected by the government indicated the testimony was false, according to the filing.

Months later, in early July, Taveras "retracted his prior false testimony and provided information that implicated Nauta, De Oliveira, and Trump in efforts to delete security camera footage, as set forth in the superseding indictment."

Prosecutors note that Taveras' new testimony came after he changed lawyers. He had initially been represented by Woodward, who also represents Nauta and other potential witnesses in the special counsel's investigation, but switched to a federal public defender from Washington on July 5.

Lawyers on Smith's team write that an attorney for Trump connected Taveras with Woodward, and his legal fees were being paid by Trump's political action committee.

The filing from the Justice Department comes in response to a request from Cannon about the special counsel's use of an out-of-district grand jury. Smith's team tells Cannon in the filing that it was "appropriate" to use the grand jury in Washington to investigate allegedly false statements by Taveras, because that's where the statements were made. 

Prosecutors also reveal that the grand jury issued two subpoenas for footage from three cameras at Mar-a-Lago in June and July. They note that the government advised Taveras on June 20 that he was the target of the grand jury investigation into whether he committed perjury. The target letter, prosecutors write, "was entirely due to his false sworn denial before the grand jury in the District of Columbia that he had information about obstructive acts that would implicate Nauta (and others)."

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.