Miami, Jun 13 (EFE).- Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday left the Miami federal courthouse after being arraigned on 37 charges in the case against him for retaining classified documents at his home in Florida, charges to which he pleaded “not guilty.”
The attorneys for Trump – who made no public statements and sat with his arms crossed, hunched over and scowling during the entire hearing – asked that he receive a trial by jury.
Trump, the first president or ex-president in US history to face federal charges, was arrested, fingerprinted and photographed by US Marshals upon arriving at the courthouse on Tuesday afternoon and then appeared before federal Judge Jonathan Goodman to be arraigned.
The entire 37-count indictment against Trump by a grand jury over his mishandling of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago – his Palm Beach, Florida, mansion, club and resort – after he left the White House in early 2021 was not read during the 40-minute court session because his attorneys said it was not necessary, given that they and their client already knew what was in the indictment filed against him by Special Counsel Jack Smith.
Waltine Nauta, a “body man” or aide to Trump and who was also charged with six counts in the same case, was not processed in court on Tuesday because he did not have an attorney that could represent him and a new arraignment hearing was scheduled for him on June 27 before Judge Edwin Torres.
“We most certainly enter a plea of not guilty,” Trump’s attorney, Todd Blanche, told the judge in the courtroom during the hearing.
Federal judicial authorities said that it was not necessary for Trump to hand over his passport because he is not considered a flight risk, meaning that he will be free to travel within the United States and abroad.
In addition, Goodman allowed Trump to remain free until the expected criminal trial, rather than be held in jail or have a cash bond imposed upon him.
The judge, however, did ask that measures be taken so that the ex-president cannot influence possible witnesses – many of whom work for him at Mar-a-Lago – in the case, which will be handled from now on by Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump-appointed federal judge. Goodman asked that the Department of Justice prepare a list so that she can make a decision on how to deal with that matter.
Goodman acted on Tuesday merely as the magistrate handling Trump’s arraignment and bond matters.
Last year, Cannon controversially issued extraordinary rulings that slowed down the Justice Department’s investigation of Trump in the classified documents case but an appeals court overturned her decisions.
However, as the presiding judge in this case, reportedly selected at random, Cannon now once again will have the authority to determine how – and how quickly – the case moves forward, including whether or not to schedule a trial in advance of the 2024 election.
Trump is presently the runaway frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination and may well face off in 2024 against Democratic President Joe Biden after having lost the 2016 election to him.
The ex-president entered the courthouse via an underground tunnel shortly before 2 pm after making the 25-minute drive in a security convoy from the hotel he owns in the Miami metro area municipality of Doral.
Upon his exit from the courthouse, supporters on hand were able to see him, although it was only through the closed window of the automobile transporting him to the airport for his flight to Bedminster, New Jersey.
The former president claims that his indictment by Smith is “a witch hunt” launched by Biden with the aim of “interfering” with his presidential campaign, as Trump wrote on Tuesday on his Truth Social social network.
Biden has not been involved at all in the case and has been very clear on the matter, said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Perre in response to a reporter’s question at a press conference on Tuesday, adding that the Department of Justice is “independent.”
Of the 37 charges filed against Trump in this case, 31 are for violating the Espionage Act, specifically for knowingly retaining classified national defense information, according to the indictment.
The other charges include conspiring to obstruct justice, “corruptly concealing” a document in a federal investigation, scheming to hide such a document and lying to law enforcement authorities.
Trump is also facing another pending criminal case after in April the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office filed 34 charges against him for allegedly illegally falsifying business records surrounding payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels just before the 2016 election to keep her silent before voters went to the polls regarding the affair she claims to have had with him.