Trump pleads not guilty to all 37 charges in classified documents case
Updated June 13, 2023 at 10:27 PM ET
Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in a federal courthouse in Miami on Tuesday. In an unprecedented indictment of a former president, Trump faces 37 federal charges, including unlawfully retaining government secrets and conspiring to obstruct justice.
The indictment alleges that Trump was personally involved in packing the documents as he left the White House in 2021, that he bragged about having secret materials and caused his own lawyer to mislead the FBI about what kind of papers he had stored at Mar-a-Lago.
His aide Walt Nauta has also been indicted for concealing documents and for making false statements. Nauta did not enter a plea Tuesday.
Trump says he is innocent and that he's being unfairly targeted by prosecutors because he's running for president again. His Republican allies in Congress are echoing these claims of bias in the Justice Department.
Special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by the Justice Department to oversee an independent investigation of Trump, defended the work of his team and the FBI in remarks last week.
"We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone," he said.
Trump was arrested, but wasn't deemed a flight risk
The former president appeared in court Tuesday for processing. Trump was booked, a procedure that included digital fingerprints. However, he was not in handcuffs, nor was his passport surrendered or travel limits placed on him.
During the hearing, attorneys for Trump and the government went back and forth over communication with potential witnesses in the case.
Ultimately, it was agreed that the government will provide a list of witnesses that Trump is not allowed to communicate with about the case — that's likely to include Nauta.
Outside the courtroom, law enforcement had prepared for crowds of up to 50,000 people, but in the end, only about a thousand Trump supporters gathered to show their support for the 2024 Republican presidential frontrunner. Crowds remained largely peaceful.
Trump spent the remainder of the afternoon making his case to supporters
Trump spent the remainder of his afternoon surrounding himself with supporters, a sign he's determined to win at least in the court of public opinion.
Shortly after departing the courthouse, his convoy made an unannounced stop at Versailles, a Cuban restaurant in Miami's Little Havana neighborhood.
Smiling, Trump shook hands with dozens of people inside the restaurant. At one point he shouted, "food for everyone" as the crowd cheered and chanted "USA!"
Trump then continued on to Bedminster, N.J., where he delivered remarks to a crowd gathered for a fundraiser at his golf club. Over the course of 30 minutes, Trump repeated his grievance that the the investigation was evidence of a corrupt administration weaponizing justice.
"Today we witnessed the most evil and heinous abuse of power in the history of this country," were Trump's first words on the stage. "A corrupt sitting president had his top political opponent arrested on fake and fabricated charges in which he and other presidents would've been guilty of — right in the middle of a presidential campaign in which he was losing badly."
He's said that if he wins in 2024, he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate President Biden and Biden's family.
A special counsel is currently looking into how Biden himself came to have classified documents from his time as vice president in his private office and residence. But in that case, there's no hint Biden is resisting turning over any of the papers, like Trump allegedly did for about a year.
What happens next?
Smith said Friday he is seeking a speedy trial. Under the law, that could mean within 70 days, which would be well ahead of the presidential primary season next year.
But there are a few factors that could push the date much further than that.
Given the case involves many classified documents, one question before the court may be whether Trump's lawyers are even authorized to see the material, and whether Trump would want to use the documents in the courtroom.
Trump could also make other pretrial motions contesting various aspects of the case that could add up to months of delays. The legal team could even try to postpone the trial until after the presidential election.
Trump's legal peril does not end with the classified documents case. Special counsel Smith is continuing to investigate Trump's actions around the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, and the Fulton County District Attorney's Office in Georgia is looking into attempts to pressure state officials in the weeks after the 2020 election. It remains to be seen whether Trump will also be charged in those investigations.
Parts of this story were taken from our live blog. Catch up on how the story unfolded here.
Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.