Amid heightened security and anticipated protests, former President Donald Trump will appear Tuesday in federal court in Miami to face charges that he misled investigators and mishandled the country’s secrets.
Trump, 76, will appear before a magistrate judge at 3 pm ET, where he will be arraigned along with his co-defendant and aide, Walt Nauta, 40.
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Trump was charged last week with 37 federal felony counts, including willful withholding of national defense information, making false statements and representations, and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
The former president, who has had trouble finding a local attorney after two members of his legal team resigned Friday, will be represented at his initial appearance by attorney Todd Blanche and Chris Kise, a former Florida attorney general and ally of Gov. Ron DeSantis. . Trump’s main Republican rival in 2024, according to a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
It was not immediately clear if Trump’s legal team on Tuesday will include other attorneys.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and maintains that he was entitled to the documents. He has said the prosecution was politically motivated and has vowed to retaliate against President Joe Biden if he is re-elected.
“Now that the ‘seal’ is broken,” Trump wrote in all caps in a post on Truth Social, his social media platform. “I will appoint a real special ‘prosecutor’ to go after the most corrupt president in American history, Joe Biden.”
Trump is not expected to make any public comments in court, and is scheduled to deliver remarks at his estate in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Tuesday night. The event was originally planned as a private fundraiser for his 77th birthday, which is on Wednesday.
There will not be a “mug photo” of Trump during the booking process, a law enforcement source told NBC News, with an existing photo uploaded to the government’s secure booking database, which is not publicly accessible. Your fingerprints will be taken electronically.
Trump will need to provide personal information such as his phone number, address and Social Security number, as part of the process. His hand will also be digitally scanned, without the use of ink.
Miami Police Chief Manny Morales said Monday that the city is preparing for the possibility of thousands of protesters showing up at the courthouse and has been coordinating with federal, state and local partners “to ensure that we keep just peace and order,” but also the ability for protesters “to express themselves and their First Amendment rights.”
Hundreds of spectators, journalists and activists gathered in front of the courthouse, but only 20 will be allowed into the courtroom for Trump’s appearance.
The indictment says Trump’s claim to the documents expired by the time he left office, but that he intentionally withheld top-secret and other classified documents, in some cases for more than a year and a half after leaving office. He alleges that he kept a trove of classified documents even after he received a subpoena for their return and that he misled his lawyers into believing they had all been returned.
The documents “included information about the defense and weapons capabilities of both the United States and foreign countries; United States nuclear programs; potential vulnerabilities of the United States and its allies to military attack; and plans for possible retaliation in response to a foreign attack,” the indictment reads.
He also treated that information nonchalantly, sometimes keeping it on stage in the ballroom of his Florida resort and in a bathroom next to a toilet, the filing alleges.
During the period that Trump kept the documents to his Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach, the club “hosted more than 150 social events, including weddings, movie premieres and fundraisers that, collectively, attracted tens of thousands of guests,” the indictment reads.
He also disputes Trump’s claim that the documents were seized by his secret service, claiming that the agents had no idea the documents were there. “Trump failed to inform the Secret Service that he was storing boxes containing classified documents at the Mar-a-Lago Club,” prosecutors said.
The court filing does not explain how prosecutors knew that was the case. Sources familiar with the matter said last week that investigators had questioned about two dozen Secret Service agents.
Regardless, according to the filing notes, the agency “is not responsible for protecting the Trump boxes or their contents.”
The indictment says that disclosure of some of the contents of the documents “could jeopardize the national security of the United States, foreign relations, the safety of United States military and human resources, and the continued viability of the sensitive intelligence-gathering methods”.
Nauta is accused of helping Trump hide documents and lying to investigators about his involvement and knowledge of the boxes and their contents.
Nauta’s attorney, Stan Woodward, has declined to comment on the charges against his client, who was a military valet in the Trump White House.
The jurist presiding over Tuesday’s proceedings, Magistrate Judge John Goodman, will not oversee the case at trial. Court officials said the case was assigned to US District Judge Aileen Cannon, who last year temporarily halted the FBI’s review of documents that had been recovered at Mar-a-Lago.
His decision was overturned by a panel of appeals court judges who suggested that Cannon had tried to “carve out an unprecedented exception in our law for former presidents.”