Trump has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of illegally possessing classified documents

MIAMI (AP) — Donald Trump In a Miami courtroom on Tuesday, he became the first former president to face a judge on federal charges as he pleaded not guilty to dozens of felony counts accused of hoarding classified documents and refusing government requests to return them.

A history-making court date centers around allegations Trump mishandled the government secrets he was responsible for protecting as commander-in-chief, kickstarting a legal process that could unfold at the height of the 2024 presidential campaign. and has profound consequences not only for his political future but also for his own freedom.

Trump has approached his case with particular bravado, posting social media rants against the prosecution from inside his motorcade en route to court and insisting for years that he has done nothing wrong and is being persecuted for political purposes. But inside the courtroomHe sat quietly, as a lawyer entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf, ending up without surrendering his passport or travel restrictions.

The hearing, though largely procedural, is the latest in an unprecedented public reckoning this year for Trump, who has faced allegations of payments in New York during the 2016 presidential campaign and ongoing investigations. Attempts to overturn results of 2020 races in Washington and Atlanta

He sought to express confidence in the legal risk, attacking the Justice Department’s special counsel who filed the suit as “a Trump hater,” vowing to stay in the race and planning a speech and fundraiser in his Bedminster home on Tuesday night. Jersey, Club. He stopped on his way out of Miami At Versailles, an iconic Cuban restaurant in the city’s Little Havana neighborhood, supporters wished Trump, who turned 77 on Wednesday, “Happy Birthday.”

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Even so, the gravity of the moment was palpable.

Until last week, no former president had been indicted by the Justice Department, let alone accused of mishandling highly classified information. The charge sheet was released last week A 37-count indictment accuses Trump — many under the Espionage Act — of illegally storing classified documents in his bedroom, bathroom, bathroom and elsewhere at Mar-a-Lago and trying to hide them from Justice Department investigators. demanded their return. If convicted, the charges carry a prison sentence of several years.

Trump is relying on a familiar playbook that portrays himself as a victim of political persecution. But Attorney General Merrick Garland, an appointee of President Joe Biden, sought to shield the department from political attacks by handing ownership of the case to a special counsel, Jack Smith, who declared Friday, “We have a set of laws in this country. , and they apply to everyone.”

Smith attended Tuesday’s hearing, sitting in the front row behind his team of lawyers.

The court appearance came amid potential protests, with some high-profile supporters using barbed wire rhetoric to voice support. Trump himself encouraged supporters to join Tuesday’s planned demonstration at the courthouse. Although city officials said they were prepared for unrest around the courthouse, there were little signs of significant disruption.

Although Trump was not required to surrender his passport — attorney David Harbaugh said he was not considered a flight risk, which would have recognized his status as a presidential candidate — he was instructed not to discuss the case with any witnesses. That includes Walt Nouda, his valet and close aide, was indicted last week on charges that he moved boxes of documents at Trump’s direction and misled the FBI. He did not enter a plea Tuesday because he did not have a local attorney with him.

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The magistrate judge presiding over the hearing ordered Trump not to discuss the case with any witnesses, including Nauta, but said they could discuss work.

Even for a man whose post-presidential career was defined by criminal investigations, the dossier investigation has long stood out because of the amount of evidence prosecutors appeared to have amassed and the seriousness of the allegations.

A federal grand jury in Washington heard evidence for months, but the Justice Department filed it in Florida, where Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is located and where many of the illegal activities took place. Although Trump appeared before a federal magistrate on Tuesday, the case has been assigned to his appointee, District Court Judge Eileen Cannon., ruled in his favor last year in a dispute over whether to appoint an outside special master to review seized classified documents. A federal appeals panel eventually overturned his conviction.

It’s unclear what protections Trump will receive as the case moves forward. The morning after his indictment, two of his lead lawyers announced their resignations, and another lawyer, M. Evan Corcoran’s notes and recollections are cited repeatedly throughout the 49-page indictment, with prosecutors considering him a key witness.

The Justice Department on Friday unsealed the indictment — 31 or 37 counts against Trump — related to the willful retention of national security information. Other charges include conspiracy to defraud and false statements.

The indictment alleges that Trump intentionally kept hundreds of classified documents that he took with him from the White House to Mar-a-Lago after he left office in January 2021. Items he stocked include bathrooms, ballrooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. Prosecutors say the nuclear programs, the defense and weapons capabilities of U.S. and foreign governments, and the Pentagon’s “attack plan.”

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Beyond that, prosecutors say, he tried to thwart government efforts to retrieve documents, directed Nauta to move boxes to hide them, and instructed his own attorney to hide or destroy documents requested by a Justice Department subpoena. ___ Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in New York and Terry Spencer, Kate Brumback, Kurt Anderson and Joshua Goodman in Miami contributed to this report. ___ Investigations on Donald Trump:

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