Donald Trump Pleads Not Guilty to All 37 Federal Charges in Secret Documents Case

Former President Donald Trump arrives at his Trump National Doral resort Monday, June 12, 2023, in Doral, Fla., as a supporter looks on. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)Former President Donald Trump arrives at his Trump National Doral resort Monday, June 12, 2023, in Doral, Fla., as a supporter looks on. (AP Photo/Jim Rassol)

Former President Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to federal charges alleging he hoarded classified documents detailing sensitive military secrets and schemed to thwart government efforts to get them back.

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Trump appeared before a judge in Miami’s federal courthouse on Tuesday in a stunning moment in American history days after he became the first former president charged with federal crimes. Authorities say Trump schemed and lied to block the government from recovering the documents concerning nuclear programs and other sensitive military secrets stored at his Mar-a-Lago estate.

It’s the second criminal case Trump is facing as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024. He’s also accused in New York state court of falsifying business records related to hush-money payments made during the 2016 campaign.

Trump has denied wrongdoing in both cases and slammed the prosecutions as politically motivated. He’s expected to return later Tuesday to New Jersey, where he’s scheduled a press event to publicly respond to the charges.

Four black SUVs entered the garage beneath the Miami courthouse, followed by police officers, ahead of his scheduled 3 p.m. appearance. Security remained tight outside the building but there were no signs of significant disruptions. Once inside, he was formally booked, though he was not expected to have a mugshot taken.

Trump approached his arraignment with characteristic bravado, posting social media broadsides against the prosecution from inside his motorcade and insisting as he has through years of legal woes that he has done nothing wrong and was being persecuted for political purposes. But the gravity of the moment was unmistakable as he answers to 37 felony counts that accuse him of willfully retaining classified records that prosecutors say could have jeopardized national security if exposed, and trying to hide them from investigators who demanded them back.

The case is loaded with political implications for the 76-year-old Trump, who currently holds the dominant spot in the early days of the 2024 Republican presidential primary. Beyond that, it carries the prospect of a years-long prison sentence. Even for a defendant whose post-presidential life has been dominated by investigations, the documents probe has stood out for both the apparent volume of evidence amassed by prosecutors and the severity of the allegations.

It’s also a watershed moment for a Justice Department that until last week had never before brought charges against a former president. Attorney General Merrick Garland, an appointee of President Joe Biden, sought to insulate the department from political attacks by handing ownership of the case to a special counsel, Jack Smith, who on Friday declared, “We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone.”

The crowd also included far-right internet personality Anthime Gionet, who served a two-month prison sentence for streaming live video while he stormed the U.S. Capitol. Gionet, better known as “Baked Alaska,” was livestreaming video of his interactions with other people as they waited for Trump to arrive.

Unlike in the New York case, where photographers produced images of a somber-faced Trump at the defense table, the public’s view inside the room was limited. Cameras are generally not permitted in federal courts, and a judge Monday night barred reporters from having phones inside the building.

A federal grand jury in Washington had heard testimony for months in the documents case, but the Justice Department filed it in Florida, where Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is located and where many of the alleged acts of obstruction occurred. Though Trump is set to appear Tuesday before a federal magistrate, the case has been assigned to a District Court judge he appointed, Aileen Cannon, who ruled in his favor last year in a dispute over whether an outside special master could be appointed to review the seized classified documents. A federal appeals panel ultimately overturned her ruling.

It’s unclear what defenses Trump is likely to invoke as the case moves forward. Two of his lead lawyers announced their resignation the morning after his indictment, and the notes and recollections of another attorney, M. Evan Corcoran, are cited repeatedly throughout the 49-page charging document, suggesting prosecutors envision him as a potential key witness.

Trump has said he’s looking to add to his legal team though no announcements were made Monday. He was expected to be represented at his arraignment by Todd Blanche, an attorney also defending him in the New York case, and Florida lawyer Chris Kise, who joined Trump’s stable of attorneys last year. Under the rules of the district, defendants are required to have a local lawyer for an arraignment to proceed.

The Justice Department unsealed Friday an indictment charging Trump with 37 felony counts, 31 relating to the willful retention of national defense information. Other charges include conspiracy to commit obstruction and false statements.

The indictment alleges Trump intentionally retained hundreds of classified documents that he took with him from the White House to Mar-a-Lago after leaving office in January 2021. The material he stored, including in a bathroom, ballroom, bedroom and shower, included material on nuclear programs, defense and weapons capabilities of the U.S. and foreign governments and a Pentagon “attack plan,” prosecutors say

Beyond that, prosecutors say, he sought to obstruct government efforts to recover the documents, including by directing personal aide Walt Nauta — who was charged alongside Trump — to move boxes to conceal them and also suggesting to his own lawyer that he hide or destroy documents sought by a Justice Department subpoena.


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