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Strategy behind the photos in Trump indictment

In a federal case, it's unusual to see multiple photographs in the initial filing.
The bathroom of Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate with boxes.
Posted at 2:52 PM, Jun 12, 2023

Former president Donald Trump will be arraigned Tuesday morning, answering to 37 counts in the federal indictment filed against him. The Justice Department in its criminal indictment, which was unsealed on Friday, alleges that Trump stored classified documents at his Florida resort while flaunting documents to people without security clearance.  

The evidence unsealed in the indictment includes photos showing boxes allegedly containing classified documents stored in places such as next to a shower and a toilet at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida residence. The photographs are a key piece in the prosecution’s strategy, said Jon Getz, a New York and California attorney and former director of the Innocence and Justice Project at University of Buffalo Law School. 

“They’re letting the public know the evidence is overwhelming against Trump,” Getz said. “The pictures are the monster portion.” 

In a federal indictment, multiple photos are not usually included, Getz said, adding that the photos are a public relations strategy on the prosecutors’ part. 

“They’re saying, 'Look at the evidence,'” Getz said.

The boxes don’t show any of the documents themselves, but the presence of the boxes is the prosecution’s attempt to illustrate their case, he said. 

Police tape is wrapped around a palm tree outside the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Courthouse.

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The indictment comes after an investigation into whether Trump broke the law by holding on to hundreds of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago property and whether Trump attempted to obstruct the government’s efforts to recover the records. 

Prosecutors say Trump took about 300 classified documents to Mar-a-Lago after leaving the White House, and that tens of thousands of members and guests were invited to the social club between the end of Trump’s presidency in January 2022 and August 2022 when the property was searched.

Photos in the indictment include boxes stacked on a ballroom’s stage, in a storage room, in a bathroom and its shower space and in an office. 

The prosecution is setting the stage for their story with the pictures, Getz said.