Former US President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal criminal charges that he unlawfully kept national-security documents when he left office and lied to officials who sought to recover them. He later dismissed his indictment for mishandling government secrets as a “heinous abuse of power” as he addressed supporters in New Jersey.
Trump faces 37 counts related to the mishandling of classified documents, including 31 counts under an Espionage Act statute pertaining to the willful retention of national defence information. The charges also include counts of obstructing justice and making false statements, among other crimes.
Trump is accused of keeping documents related to “nuclear weaponry in the United States” and the “nuclear capabilities of a foreign country”, along with documents from White House intelligence briefings, including some that detail the military capabilities of the US and other countries, according to the indictment.
The 49-page indictment alleges that Trump showed some of the documents to people who did not have security clearances to review them. He later tried to conceal documents from his own lawyers as they sought to comply with federal demands to find and return documents.
The top charges carry penalties of up to 20 years in prison
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03:30am: Trump will appoint a special prosecutor to go after Biden if elected
Trump said he would appoint a special prosecutor to target Democratic President Joe Biden.
Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is handling the case, accuses Trump of risking national secrets by taking thousands of sensitive papers with him when he left the White House in January 2021 and storing them in a haphazard manner at his Mar-a-Lago Florida estate and his New Jersey golf club.
FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Miami Kethevane Gorjestani provides more details below.
02:59am: Trump calls indictment ‘evil and heinous abuse of power’
Former US president Donald Trump dismissed his indictment for mishandling government secrets as a “heinous abuse of power” as he addressed supporters after pleading not guilty Tuesday to dozens of criminal felony counts.
“Today we witnessed the most evil and heinous abuse of power in the history of our country. Very sad thing to watch,” Trump said after returning from his arraignment hearing in Miami to his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.
11:26pm: Trump stops by Cuban eatery after court appearance
The former Republican president stopped at a famous Miami restaurant on his way out of court. Several supporters who were present wished him a “happy birthday”. He will celebrate his 77th birthday on Wednesday.
10:57pm: Trump’s defense team still taking shape
Donald Trump was accompanied by two of his attorneys on Tuesday when he appeared in a Miami courtroom and pleaded not guilty to federal criminal charges. But his defense team is still evolving after at least three key members left in recent weeks.
Attorneys Todd Blanche and Chris Kise appeared with the former president during his arraignment, days after two other lawyers who had been helping Trump’s defense – Jim Trusty and John Rowley – resigned in the wake of his indictment. Both Blanche and Kise indicated at the hearing that they would remain on the case permanently.
Trump has also sought to add a Florida-based criminal defense lawyer to his team in the days since his indictment, according to sources familiar with the conversations. No one has so far been publicly named.
10:02pm: E. Jean Carroll can pursue $10 million lawsuit against Donald Trump
A judge on Tuesday said the New York writer who won a $5 million jury verdict against Donald Trump can pursue a separate $10 million defamation lawsuit against the former U.S. president.
US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan ruled in favor of former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll, after Trump had argued that the defamation case must be dismissed because jurors had concluded he never raped her.
9:32pm: Trump aide Nauta did not enter plea in Trump documents case
Walt Nauta, an aide to former U.S. President Donald Trump, did not enter a plea on Tuesday in a case accusing Trump of mishandling classified documents after leaving office, the Associated Press reported, correcting an earlier report that he had pleaded not guilty.
The indictment alleges Trump conspired with Nauta to keep classified documents and hide them from a federal grand jury. Nauta had worked for Trump at the White House and continued to work for him at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort.
9:02pm: Trump pleads not guilty in federal documents case
Donald Trump denied dozens of criminal counts of willfully mishandling US government secrets and scheming to prevent their return, in a historic first appearance Tuesday in federal court.
It was the former president’s second arraignment as he battles a deluge of legal threats, coming just 10 weeks after he was charged with a string of felonies in Manhattan over hush money payments to a porn star.
Trump appeared before a judge in Miami to be formally presented with 37 charges brought by the government following a special counsel probe that opened after an FBI raid of his Florida mansion last August.
“We are certainly entering a plea of not guilty,” Todd Blanche, his attorney, told the hearing.
FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Miami Kethevane Gorjestani provides more details below.
8:52pm: Trump appears in Florida courtroom to face charges in documents case
8:42pm: Trump supporters cheer wildly as he arrives at Miami courthouse, while others protest
Supporters of former President Donald Trump honked their horns and screamed wildly as the former president arrived at the courthouse in downtown Miami to make his first appearance on criminal charges that he improperly held on to classified documents.
Those gathered outside did not interact with Trump, who rode in an SUV as part of a motorcade that entered the courthouse garage for his hearing on felony charges. Still, some sang “Happy Birthday” to Trump, who will turn 77 on Wednesday.
As people awaited Trump’s arrival, some waved Trump 2024 flags, supporting his bid for president. Another man, who opposes Trump, dressed in black-and-white prison stripes and held a sign reading “LOCK HIM UP.” At times, people shouted past each other, and small groups of pro-Trump supporters and anti-Trump protesters squabbled, occasionally yelling obscenities at each other.
8:34pm: Trump posts social media post in car
Donald Trump has approached his arraignment with characteristic bravado, posting social media broadsides against the prosecution from inside his motorcade heading to the court.
“One of the saddest days in the history of our country. We are a nation in decline,” Trump posted on his Truth Social platform as he was driven to court, repeating his regular accusation of a “witchhunt!”
8:22pm: Trump and aide Walt Nauta booked in documents case
Trump and an aide charged as a co-conspirator have been booked in Miami federal court.
Trump’s former aide Walt Nauta was booked, according to a court official, ahead of the arraignment scheduled for 3pm local time (9pm Paris time), when they are due to submit a plea.
Nauta, a Navy veteran, worked with Trump at the White House and at Mar-a-Lago. He is accused of moving boxes from the White House at Trump’s direction and then lying about it to investigators, according to the indictment.
7:54pm: Trump arrives at Miami court to face secret document charges
Former President Donald Trump has arrived at the federal courthouse in Miami to formally surrender to authorities ahead of his court appearance on charges accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Trump’s motorcade arrived Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse shortly before he’s scheduled to appear before a magistrate judge, a stunning moment in American history days after he became the first former president charged with federal crimes.
7:37pm: Trump heads to Miami court for historic appearance over charges he hoarded secret documents
Former President Donald Trump is on his way to the federal courthouse in Miami to face dozens of charges that he illegally hoarded classified documents.
Trump departed his Doral golf course Tuesday afternoon en route to the courthouse, where he is expected to surrender to federal authorities and face a judge.
The former president is not expected to have his mugshot taken but will have his digital fingerprints taken.
7:33pm: Why Trump’s Republican rivals are lining up behind him to attack the FBI
For decades US Republicans have proudly claimed to be the party of law and order.
But the indictment of former President Donald Trump by federal prosecutors over the alleged mishandling of classified documents has led to nearly all of his Republican rivals for the party’s White House nomination accusing the FBI of political bias, with some even calling for its dissolution.
The spectacle of so many Republican presidential candidates attacking America’s top law enforcement agency while siding with Trump – the front-runner for the nomination – has left many observers dumbfounded, given the party’s long tradition of being tough on crime and staunch defenders of federal and local cops.
This extraordinary reversal reveals a tension between Republicans’ traditional support of law enforcement and the political calculation Trump’s rivals are making as opinion polls show most Republicans think the former president is being unfairly targeted, analysts say.
6:33pm: Outside of Miami court where Trump will appear, media so far outnumber protesters
Hundreds of journalists from around the world were gathered Tuesday outside the courthouse in downtown Miami where former President Donald Trump is scheduled to make his first appearance on criminal charges that he improperly held on to classified documents.
Protests were scheduled for later in the day by Trump backers who have criticized the felony charges, though the number of Trump supporters and those opposing him were a fraction of the crowd compared with the media in attendance Tuesday morning. Journalists from China, the UK, Australia, France, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Germany and Switzerland were among the hundreds of journalists who have converged on the courthouse. Some of them have spent several days camped out in the muggy heat.
6:26pm: Biden is determined to say as little as possible about Trump’s indictment
Biden’s White House dodges questions about the matter. His campaign doesn’t respond to them. And Biden himself wants nothing to do with it. “I have no comment on what happened,” he told reporters Friday while in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.
The reticence reflects the precarious and unprecedented situation in which Biden finds himself: Just as Trump is the first former president to be charged by the federal government, Biden is the first incumbent to have his own administration indict his chief political rival.
5:30pm: The legal woes of Donald Trump
James Cohen, professor of American Studies at Sorbonne Nouvelle Universite, says the charges against Donard Trump are serious, because he defiantly broke the law in refusing to return all the documents to the federal authorities. “He’s in trouble,” said the professor. Click on the video below for more.
5:03pm: How did this case come about?
Officials with the National Archives and Records Administration reached out to representatives for Trump in spring 2021 when they realised that important material from his time in office was missing.
According to the Presidential Records Act, White House documents are considered property of the US government and must be preserved.
A Trump representative told the National Archives in December 2021 that presidential records had been found at Mar-a-Lago. In January 2022, the National Archives retrieved 15 boxes of documents from Trump’s Florida home, later telling Justice Department officials that they contained “a lot” of classified material.
That May, the FBI and Justice Department issued a subpoena for remaining classified documents in Trump’s possession. Investigators who went to visit the property weeks later to collect the records were given roughly three dozen documents and a sworn statement from Trump’s lawyers attesting that the requested information had been returned.
But that assertion turned out to be false, according to the indictment. With a search warrant, federal officials returned to Mar-a-Lago in August 2022 and seized more than 33 boxes and containers totaling 11,000 documents from a storage room and an office, including 100 classified documents.
4:00pm: What happens next?
Trump has to surrender to federal authorities ahead of a hearing scheduled for 3pm in federal court in Miami. He is set to appear alongside his valet Walt Nauta, who is also charged in the case.
Unlike his arraignment in New York, there won’t be photographs from the courtroom because cameras aren’t allowed in federal court. There may, however, be sketch artists, and theirs will be the only images from the actual courtroom appearance.
There’s also a prohibition on reporters bringing electronic devices into the courthouse, so there won’t be live updates by text or Tweets. This is usually up to to each federal judge to decide, but an order was issued in this case specifically imposing restrictions for Trump’s initial hearing.
Trump and Nauta are expected to enter not guilty pleas, and both sides will discuss any potential conditions of bail, which could include an order to surrender the former president’s passport.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)