(The Hill) — Former President Trump claimed the federal indictment the Justice Department (DOJ) filed against him is among the most “horrific abuses of power” in U.S. history.
Trump said Saturday during remarks at a Georgia GOP convention event in Columbus, Ga., that the investigation into him is a “witch hunt” and an example of “election interference” with the upcoming 2024 presidential election.
“The ridiculous and baseless indictment of me by the Biden administration’s weaponized ‘department of injustice’ will go down as among the most horrific abuses of power in the history of our country,” he said.
Trump added that the “vicious persecution” from the DOJ is a “travesty of justice,” claiming that Biden is only trying to jail his top political opponent. He compared the investigations into him to what happens in “Stalinist Russia” and China.
Trump has been indicted on 37 charges related to his handling of classified and sensitive documents that were taken from the White House to Mar-a-Lago at the end of his presidency. The charges include 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act, conspiracy to obstruct justice, corruptly concealing a document or record and making false statements and representations.
The unsealed indictment also includes wide-ranging details alleging that Trump held onto the documents despite efforts from government recordkeepers to obtain them and repeatedly took steps to try to prevent the investigators from finding them.
The documents included information about U.S. nuclear programs, defense capabilities, vulnerabilities and plans for a retaliatory strike in the event of an attack from another country, among other sensitive information.
Trump argued during his remarks that his retention of documents should fall under the Presidential Records Act, which declares that all records for presidents and vice presidents belong to the public and should be provided to the National Archives. He said violations of the law are “not a criminal act,” so he should not be facing any indictment for his actions.
He noted that the indictment does not mention the law, which governs presidents turning over documents at the end of their presidencies. The former president also repeated his past claims that he declassified the documents he took.
Violations of the Espionage Act — which make up most of the charges Trump is facing — do not require documents that are mishandled to be classified. The law only states that the documents need to be related to national defense and potentially harm the U.S. or help a foreign country with their unauthorized release.
Trump claimed other presidents have also violated the Presidential Records Act, but prosecutors are only pursuing him.
A special counsel is also investigating documents that were found at President Biden’s home and office. The DOJ announced last week that it would not bring any charges related to the sensitive documents found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s home.
Trump vowed to eliminate the politicization that he alleges is present at the DOJ if reelected president in 2024.
“This is a sick nest of people that needs to be cleaned out immediately,” he said.