Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday pleaded not guilty in a Miami courtroom to federal charges he mishandled state secrets and immediately resumed rallying supporters behind his 2024 presidential bid.
Trump, who is making a comeback bid for the White House, is the first former president who has faced federal criminal charges. He appeared in court wearing a navy blue suit, white shirt and red tie, and pleaded not guilty to all 37 counts against him. Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, entered the plea on his client’s behalf before a federal magistrate judge.
“We most certainly enter a plea of not guilty,” Blanche said during the hearing.
The arraignment followed an historic indictment brought by the Justice Department alleging he willfully refused to return top-secret government documents and conspired to stymie US officials’ efforts to recover them after he left office in 2021.
Trump is trying to turn his second indictment in 10 weeks into a fresh opportunity to garner support for his 2024 White House comeback effort and bolster his polling lead in a crowded field of Republican 2024 presidential candidates. His campaign said it raised more than $15 million in the weeks after his April 4 indictment by a Manhattan grand jury.
Immediately following his arraignment on Tuesday, Trump stopped at a Cuban restaurant in Miami, greeting a crowd of well-wishers. He was set to fly to his New Jersey golf club to deliver a televised speech later in the evening.
Trump appeared before US Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman, who said that the former president could remain free pending trial. He won’t face any travel restrictions.
Walt Nauta, Trump’s former White House valet and post-presidency personal aide, appeared alongside his boss at Tuesday’s hearing. Nauta did not enter a plea, and was asked to come back to court on June 27 for his arraignment. He was also released pending his next court appearance.
Goodman directed Trump to not discuss the case with any witnesses. The move caused tension in the courtroom between the judge and Trump’s lawyer Blanche, who complained the restrictions were overly broad. The government agreed to alert the defense to a list of people, including Trump employees and Secret Service agents that the former President should not discuss the case with.
Special Counsel Jack Smith was present for Trump’s arraignment, sitting in the first row behind the prosecution team. He did not speak during the hearing. David Harbach, a veteran federal prosecutor who Smith had tapped to join his team from private practice, addressed the court on behalf of the government.
Following the initial hearing in Miami, the case will move to the West Palm Beach division of the south Florida federal district court; US District Judge Aileen Cannon has been assigned to preside going forward, barring a recusal fight. Goodman did not set a date for Trump’s first appearance before Cannon.
Highly Sensitive Documents
Prosecutors claim Trump kept highly sensitive papers at his Mar-a-Lago resort, some of which they say address nuclear programs and military attack plans. The indictment accuses Trump of 31 counts of violating the Espionage Act, which carry prison sentences as long as 10 years. Other charges carry up to 20-year maximum terms.
|Charges against Trump
|Maximum Prison Sentence
|Willful retention of national defense information
|Conspiracy to obstruct justice
|Withholding a document or record
|Corruptly concealing a document or record
|Concealing a document in a federal investigation
|Scheme to conceal
|False statements and representations
Trump is being represented by attorneys Blanche and Chris Kise, at least for now. A person familiar with the situation told Bloomberg News that the former president is exploring other options to bring on Florida counsel.
Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican nomination for next year’s presidential race, has denied wrongdoing and assailed the case as politically motivated. He made a series of posts on his social-media site in the hours leading up to his arraignment attacking the special prosecutor.
Ahead of the arraignment, Trump was taken into custody and had his fingerprints taken; he wasn’t required to have his mug shot taken, according to court officials. He plans to return to his Bedminster golf club in New Jersey to deliver remarks tonight.
Trump has solicited campaign donations based on the indictments, including an email that was sent as he was traveling to the courthouse saying he could get 400 years in prison “despite being a totally and completely innocent man.” He also has a fundraiser at Bedminster Tuesday night where advisers hope to raise $2 million.
Trump faces mounting legal threats as he pursues a second term. The federal case against him, brought by Special Counsel Smith, follows a New York state criminal case set for trial in Manhattan in March. That prosecution is over hush money payments made to a porn star just ahead of the 2016 election Trump won. He has pleaded not guilty and said it’s part of a larger political effort to take him down.
Trump also faces potential state charges in Georgia for allegations he interfered in the 2020 election result and federal charges related to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Trump leads all other rivals for the 2024 GOP nomination by double-digit margins and has railed against the indictments as politically motivated “election interference” by Democrats bent on preventing him from returning to power.
The case is US v. Trump, 23-cr-80101, US District Court, Southern District of Florida (Miami). –BLOOMBERG