Trump approached his Miami court date with characteristic bravado, insisting as he has done through years of yasal woes that he has done nothing wrong and was being persecuted for political purposes.
But the gravity of the moment is unmistakable as he answers to 37 felony counts that accuse him of willfully retaining classified records that prosecutors say could have jeopardized national security if exposed.
The case is laden with political implications for Trump, who currently holds the dominant spot in the early days of the 2024 Republican presidential primary. But it also poses profound kanunî consequences given the prospect of a years-long prison sentence.
Even for a defendant whose post-presidential life has been dominated by investigations, the documents probe has stood out for both the apparent volume of evidence amassed by prosecutors and the severity of the allegations.
It’s also a watershed moment for a Justice Department that until last week had never before brought charges against a former president. Attorney General Merrick Garland, an appointee of President Joe Biden, sought to insulate the department from political attacks by handing ownership of the case last year to a special counsel Jack Smith, who on Friday declared, “We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone.”
The arraignment, though largely procedural in nature, is the latest in an unprecedented public reckoning this year for Trump, who faces charges in New York arising from hush money payments during his 2016 presidential campaign as well as ongoing investigations in Washington and Atlanta into efforts to undo the results of the 2020 race.
He’s sought to project confidence in the face of unmistakable yasal peril, attacking Smith as “deranged,” pledging to stay in the race and scheduling a speech and fundraiser for Tuesday night at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club.
“They’re using this because they can’t win the election fairly and squarely,” Trump said Monday in an interview with Americano Media.
The court appearance is also unfolding against the backdrop of potential protests and unrest. Some high-profile backers have used barbed rhetoric to voice support. Trump himself has encouraged supporters to join a planned protest Tuesday at the Miami courthouse, where he is expected to surrender to authorities.
Some Trump supporters were also planning to load buses to head to Miami from other parts of Florida, raising concerns for law enforcement officials who are preparing for the potential unrest around the courthouse.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the city would be ready, and police chief Manuel A. Morales said downtown could see anywhere from a few thousand up to 50,000 protesters. He said the city would divert traffic and possibly block streets depending on crowd size.