Trump has pleaded not guilty to federal charges of illegally possessing classified documents at a Florida estate

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.

Made history Court dateTrump has launched a legal process he was tasked with protecting as commander-in-chief, centering on allegations that he mishandled government secrets. can Unfolding at the height of the 2024 presidential campaign, it has profound consequences not only for his political future but for his own independence.

Trump launched a social media rant against the prosecution from inside his motorcade. On the way to court He has also been in legal trouble for years claiming he has done nothing wrong and is being persecuted for political purposes. But he sat quietly inside the courtroom. Grieving and arms crossed when a lawyer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf in a brief trial without surrendering his passport or restricting his travel.

The investigation, while largely procedural in nature, is the latest in an unprecedented public reckoning for Trump this year. He faces charges in New York Arising from payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign Continued investigation in Washington And Atlanta Attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 race.

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. On his way out of Miami, he stopped at Versailles, an iconic Cuban restaurant in the city’s Little Havana neighborhood, where 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. An indictment unsealed last week charged Trump with 37 felony counts — many under the Espionage Act — of illegally storing and attempting to conceal classified documents in his bedroom, bathroom, bathroom and elsewhere at Mar-a-Lago. Justice Department investigators requested 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 still Attorney General Merrick GarlandPresident Joe Biden’s appointee sought to insulate the department from political attacks by handing over ownership of the case to a special prosecutor. Jack SmithHe announced Friday, “We have a set of laws in this country that 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.

While 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 have personal contact with any witnesses in the case. That includes Walt Nauta, his valet and a close aide, who were accused last week of moving boxes of documents at Trump’s direction and misleading the FBI about it. 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 A federal grand jury in Washington The testimony took months, but the Justice Department filed it in Florida, where Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort is located and where many of the embargoes took place. Although Trump appeared before a federal magistrate on Tuesday, the case has been assigned to a district court judge he appointed. 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 A federal appeals panel ultimately overturned her judgment.

It’s unclear what protections Trump will receive as the case moves forward. Two of his lead lawyers announced their resignations the morning after his indictment, and another lawyer’s notes and memoirs, M. Evan CorcoranQuoted repeatedly throughout the 49-page charging document, prosecutors consider him a key witness.

The Justice Department released a 37-count indictment against Trump on Friday. Other charges include conspiracy to defraud and false statements.

The indictment alleges that Trump was intentionally retained Hundreds of classified documents He took it with him from the White House to Mar-a-Lago after leaving office in January 2021. Among the things he stocked in bathrooms, ballrooms, bedrooms and bathrooms were nuclear programs, security and weapons capabilities. Prosecutors say the US and foreign governments and the Pentagon “planned the attack”.

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Beyond that, prosecutors say, he tried to thwart government efforts to recover the documents, suggesting to his own attorney that Walt Nauta, an indicted personal assistant with Trump — move boxes to hide them and hide or destroy the documents. Requested by judicial subpoena.

Tucker reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Jill Colvin in New York and Terry Spencer in Doral, Florida contributed to this report.

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