Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the "stunning" detail of the Justice Department's indictment of former President Donald Trump shows Trump had "maligned intent" when he took classified documents to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House.
"The most difficult element to prove often is, what did the defendant intend?" Schiff told MSNBC host Nicole Wallace in an interview Friday. "But here Donald Trump has made so crystal clear in the conversations that are recorded, in the instructions he gives to his aides to move the boxes, in his deceitfulness with his own attorneys. It's just so graphic."
Schff, a former federal prosecutor and an impeachment manager during Trump's first impeachment trial, said it was not a difficult decision for special counsel Jack Smith to bring charges against Trump. "The evidence laid out in this indictment is so powerful that I don't think special counsel had any choice but to go forward," he said.
Trump was indicted on 37 federal counts related to the classified documents the FBI recovered from Mar-a-Lago last August, including willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice and false statements.
Special Counsel Jack Smith unsealed the indictment against the former president on Friday, emphasizing the "gravity" of the crimes Trump has been charged with as a result of his investigation.
"I invite everyone to read it in full to understand the scope and the gravity of the crimes charged," Smith said Friday as the indictment was unsealed.
"The men and woman of the United States intelligence community and armed forces dedicate their lives to protecting our nation, and its laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States, and they must be enforced," Smith said. "Violations of those laws put our country at risk."
Trump announced he had been indicted on Thursday night on Truth Social. The former president told Fox News Digital he will plead not guilty.
The indictment states that Trump kept classified documents from his time in the White House in cardboard boxes brought to Mar-a-Lago. These boxes "included information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack," according to the indictment.
The special counsel alleges that Trump showed classified documents to individuals without a security clearance on two separate occasions in 2021. The indictment cites an audio recording of Trump showing off classified documents to several people in July 2021 at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, with Trump acknowledging the materials were still "a secret."
The indictment states that on several occasions Trump "endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal his continued retention of classified documents" by suggesting that his attorney "falsely represent to the FBI and grand jury" that he "did not have documents called for by the grand jury subpoena." Trump is also accused of suggesting that his attorney "hide or destroy documents called for by the grand jury subpoena" and instructing his aide, Waltine Nauta, to move boxes of documents while claiming to be cooperating with investigators.
Nauta was indicted on six federal counts as a "co-conspirator."
Schiff said he was "stunned" that the documents included secret details of military plans and other information that would put U.S. national security at risk if leaked.
"But I think this is the way of special counsel and a speaking indictment, letting all the American people know that this isn’t a paperwork violation," he said. "These are national secrets that present real national security risks to the country."
Schiff said the indictment shows that Trump is not above the law.
"He should be treated like any other lawbreaker. And today, he has been," Schiff said.
Fox News' Brooke Singman contributed to this report.