Former U.S President, Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges of mishandling classified files at a federal court in Miami, Florida.
Trump has been charged with 37 felony counts; 31 of them under the Espionage Act, that accuse him of illegally storing classified documents in his bedroom, bathroom, shower and other locations at Mar-a-Lago and trying to hide them from the Justice Department as investigators demanded them back.
Trump is the first U.S President to be hit with a federal criminal indictment.
Though largely procedural in nature, the arraignment was the latest event in Trump’s legal woes. He faces charges in New York arising from hush money payments during his 2016 presidential campaign as well as ongoing investigations in Washington and Atlanta into efforts to undo the results of the 2020 race.
“We most certainly enter a plea of not guilty,” Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, told the judge.
Trump’s co-defendant, Walt Nauta; a close aide charged with six criminal counts in the case was sitting at the same table as the former President. On the opposite side of the room sat the entire prosecution team, including special counsel Jack Smith, who announced the indictment last week.
Trump was allowed to leave court without any restrictions to domestic or international travel.
While he was not required to surrender a passport because prosecutors said that he was not considered a flight risk, the magistrate judge presiding over the arraignment directed Trump not to discuss the case with certain witnesses.
That includes Walt Nauta, his valet who was indicted last week on charges that he moved boxes of documents at Trump’s direction and misled the FBI about it. Nauta did not enter a plea because he did not have a local lawyer with him.
Blanche objected to the idea of imposing restrictions on the former president’s contact with possible witnesses, noting they include many people close to Trump, including staff and members of his protection detail.
“Many of the people he interacts with on a daily basis — including the men and women who protect him — are potential witnesses in this case,” Blanche said.
Right after leaving the court, Trump travelled directly to Versailles, a popular Cuban restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana, where he was greeted by a throng of supporters who lined up for photos with him.
“They Should Never Have Done This”
Later, the former U.S President delivered a roughly half-hour speech at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club. In his speech, he attacked the Justice Department special counsel who filed the case as a “thug” and “deranged,”pledging to remain in the presidential race no matter what.
“The seal is broken by what they’ve done. They should never have done this,” Trump said of the indictment.
Much of Trump’s speech was dedicated to stating alleged misdeeds he attributed to the Democratic Party, mentioning a list of political opponents that ranged from his 2016 presidential rival, Hilary Clinton to former House Representative, Anthony Weiner.
“Hilary Clinton broke the law and she didn’t get indicted. Joe Biden broke the law – and in many other ways, as we’re finding out – and so far has not gotten indicted. I did everything right and they indicted me.”Donald Trump
If elected in 2024, Trump promised to appoint a special prosecutor to go after Biden, whose lawyers recovered a “small number” of classified documents at the Democrat’s Delaware home and Washington, DC, office.
Though Trump appeared before a federal magistrate, the case has been assigned to Aileen Cannon, a District Court judge he appointed.