Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges
For the second time in two months, former US president Donald Trump has appeared before a judge on criminal charges. Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges. Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges.
Trump pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he broke the law by hiding top secret documents in his Florida home, Mar-a-Lago.
Wearing a dark suit and red tie, Trump made a brief appearance at the Miami court with his lawyers before he was allowed to leave without being required to post bail.
The ex-president, who is running to be the Republican nominee again in 2024, is facing several criminal investigations that could complicate his attempt to return to the White House.
In April, he stood in a Manhattan courtroom and pleaded not guilty to charges related to an alleged hush money scheme.
But the federal charges in Florida, including alleged violations of the Espionage Act are considered more serious because they carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Here is how Trump’s latest brush with the law unfolded.
No mugshot and no travel restrictions
Trump did not have to pose for a mugshot as part of the arraignment.
Defendants are usually fingerprinted, photographed and read their Miranda rights during the booking process.
However, one of his lawyers, Alina Habba, told the court her client was in a “very unique position” and did not need to submit to a photo.
“Obviously, he’s not a flight risk. He is the leading candidate of the GOP [Republican Party] at the moment,” she told reporters outside the courtroom.
“He is going through a process that has been coordinated with the Secret Service, and it will all be handled seamlessly.”
Trump’s lawyers, the valet and the prosecutor
The former president made the journey to court in a motorcade from his resort, Trump National Doral Miami, where he’d spent the night after flying down from his New Jersey Bedminster resort.
In court, the former president was flanked by two of his attorneys, Chris Kise and Todd Blanche.
Blanche is also leading Trump’s defence in a separate case in New York, where he is accused of falsifying business records to cover up alleged hush money payments.
Alongside his legal representation, Trump’s personal aide and former valet Walt Nauta – who has been named as a co-conspirator in the indictment – accompanied him to the court.
Nauta is accused of conspiring with the former president to conceal classified documents and hide them from a federal grand jury.
However, he was not able to enter a plea today because he did not have local counsel. His lawyer has asked the judge for an extension.
Seated in the front row behind the prosecution bench was special counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the investigation. Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges
Trump’s crowd of supporters was smaller than expected
A crowd of Trump supporters gathered outside the federal court complex in Miami ahead of the arraignment, but it was nowhere near the tens of thousands that some had speculated.
Miami police said they had enough resources to “handle a crowd anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000”, but in the end the pro-Trump crowd numbered a few hundred at best.
“Well, it’s 200 Trumpees and 2,000 press,” local resident Kevin O’Bryant observed of those gathered outside.
It was rowdy but there appeared not to have been any major violence.
There was some drama earlier in the day as authorities investigated a security threat.
Members of the media looked on nervously as the police combed the area, less worried about the threat than about missing their deadlines.
“We got lives at the top of the hour,” one cameraman said.
But the chaos had settled down by the time Trump’s motorcade arrived.
Trump walked out without conditions or travel restrictions
Today was a largely typical arraignment. In most cases, the judge uses the court hearing to outline the charges and the defendant enters a plea. Sometimes they discuss scheduling.
As expected, the former president has pleaded not guilty to all 37 charges.
He’s been accused of violating seven federal laws, all relating to the handling of classified documents that were allegedly taken when he left the White House.
Thirty-one of the counts relate to the specific documents that were taken, but he has also been charged with making false statements and conspiring to obstruct justice.
The maximum sentences for all the charges would mean decades in jail.
The former president walked out of the courtroom without conditions or travel restrictions. No cash bond was required.
After court, he went out for lunch
After his court appearance, Trump drove with his motorcade to Versailles, a Cuban restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana neighbourhood.
“I think it is a rigged deal here, we have a rigged country, we have a country that is corrupt,” he told reporters who followed him to Versailles.
“We have a country that is in decline like never before.”
Religious leaders, including a rabbi and a non-denominational ministers offered Trump their prayers.
Witnesses say Trump left the restaurant without ordering any food.
The judge presiding over the case will likely be someone nominated by Trump
Overseeing today’s session was federal magistrate Jonathan Goodman, but he is likely to be just a footnote when this story is told.
The judge currently assigned to oversee the trial is shaping up to be a major and controversial character in this legal saga.
Judge Aileen Cannon was nominated to the federal district court in southern Florida by then-president Trump in 2020.
But she came to national prominence when she heard the case of Trump v United States.
After the government sent the FBI to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence to search for classified documents last year, he requested a special master be appointed to first go through the documents and determine what they were.
Most legal experts believed there was no legal basis for such a request, but Cannon ruled in Trump’s favour.
The decision was roundly dismissed by a superior court, but Cannon has now been randomly selected to hear the criminal case investigating Trump’s handling of those same documents.
Though she’s probably not the judge the prosecution would have wanted, there is no sign yet that Cannon will be recusing herself from it.
Trump claims he legally kept his own documents
In a speech to supporters from his golf club in New Jersey, Trump claimed he had every right to keep the documents. source
He spent much of his speech claiming other people — such as Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden — had taken confidential documents in the past and they had not been prosecuted.
An investigation into Clinton found she had not broken federal law, while the investigation is ongoing into Biden’s handling of confidential documents.