Trump traveled Monday from New Jersey to Florida, saying at Trump National Doral to attend the hearing at the Miami federal courthouse.Security experts don’t expect violent protests outside the courthouse.Trump has continued to campaign for president and fundraise despite the looming charges.
Donald Trump prepared for his initial court appearance Tuesday as the first former president to be criminally indicted by flying from New Jersey to Florida, continuing to fundraise off the accusations and blasting the rival Biden administration for what he calls a political prosecution.
Trump’s hearing is set for 3 p.m. at the federal courthouse in Miami. Trump has promoted the event like a grand opening, telling supporters he would see them in Miami. But security experts don’t expect violence because of the more than 1,000 arrests after the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump is expected to plead not guilty at a routine court proceeding, similar to his New York arraignment in April. For that trip, news cameras aboard helicopters tracked his motorcade across town and monitored his flights from tarmac to takeoff.
The hearing itself could offer revelations. Trump’s lawyers will be new because he swapped lawyers after the indictment was unsealed Friday.
Here is what we know about the court appearance:
Politics:Here’s what to expect at Trump’s Miami court hearing in classified records case
Trump heads from New Jersey to Florida for court date
Trump flew from one of his resorts to another Monday to prepare for the hearing. He left Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New Jersey, to fly from Newark to Miami before staying at Trump National Doral.
Doral is about a half-hour drive away from the federal courthouse in Miami, considerably shorter than the drive from Mar-a-Lago resort.
Trump is charged with allegedly stashing more than 300 classified documents after leaving the White House in January 2021. He is accused of not just storing and hiding the documents, but showing them to guests at Bedminster, according to the 44-page indictment unsealed Friday.
Trump said one document described a “plan of attack” and another had a map of a military installation, according to the indictment. He allegedly acknowledged knowing the documents were classified, saying, “This is still a secret,” according to the indictment.
Trump converts criminal charges into fundraising cash
Trump wielded the charges in his fundraising for his 2024 presidential campaign almost immediately after announcing the indictment.
In social media posts, he repeated familiar lines about the investigation being “another witch hunt” involving documents he “had the RIGHT to declassify as President.” He described the August search of Mar-a-Lago being staged “to look like a made-for-TV crime scene with police sirens and flashing red and blue lights.”
The pleas echoed his appeals after his March indictment in New York state court on 34 felony charges of falsifying business records to pay hush money to women who claimed to have had sex with him. Trump pleaded not guilty in April and awaits trial in March 2024.
His campaign boasted that Trump raised more than $4 million in the first 24 hours after his New York indictment became public.
What is expected at hearing?
Gene Rossi, a former federal prosecutor, said defendants are usually brought before a judge for a preliminary appearance and later for a plea, but he expects both proceedings at once Tuesday because of the logistical challenges.
Also during the Tuesday hearing the judge will set conditions on his release before the trial. Trump must not expect a gag order to prevent talking about the case because he scheduled an 8:15 p.m. speech Tuesday in Bedminster. He held a similar event after his New York arraignment.
Trump verbally attacked the prosecutor and judge in his New York case, leading to death threats against them. In a similar strategy in the federal case, he has bashed Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith as “a coward and a thug.”
Rossi said that federal judges and prosecutors are far less likely to tolerate public attacks by Trump than the judge and prosecutors in the New York case.
“The state system is Triple A; he’s now in the major leagues and he’s going before federal judges and career prosecutors,” Rossi said. “And he is going to have to watch himself, and what he says and what he does because they’re not gonna play nice.”
Security experts don’t expect violent protests outside court
Trump promoted the hearing using similar language to when he recruited election protesters to the Capitol on Jan. 6. But security experts said charges stemming from the attack could dampen demonstrations against his criminal charges. Rallies outside the New York courthouse were sparsely attended and mild.
“We’re seeing that that’s had a chilling effect,” Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director, told MSNBC on Thursday. “And we see that in chat rooms, we see violent extremists say, ‘Hey, I don’t want to get arrested. This could be a setup, I’m not going.'”
What charges is Trump facing?
Trump was charged with willful retention of national defense information; conspiracy to obstruct justice; withholding a document or record; corruptly concealing a document in a federal investigation; scheme to conceal; and false statements and representations.
After a year of exchanging letters with the National Archives and Records Administration, Trump returned 15 boxes in January 2022 that featured some classified documents including letters exchanged with North Korean leader Kim Jung Un. Prosecutors visited the estate in June with a subpoena and were given more classified documents, with a certification from Trump’s lawyers that those were all of them. But FBI agents seized more classified records during an August search.
Trump has argued the FBI had no business searching Mar-a-Lago because he was in negotiations to return disputed records and that as a former president he had a right to the documents.
The documents held some of the country’s most closely guarded secrets. Trump’s attorney general, Bill Barr, told Fox News Sunday he was “shocked by the degree of sensitivity of these documents and how many there were, frankly.”
“We have to wait and see what the defense says and what proves to be true,” Barr noted, but he added that “if even half of it is true, then he’s toast.”
Who is representing Trump?
Trump announced Friday in a social media post Todd Blanche, who has participated in his New York state criminal case, and a firm to be named later will represent him.
That was a change from Trusty and John Rowley, who had been leading his team dealing with federal investigations.
“We will be announcing additional lawyers in the coming days,” Trump said in the post on Truth Social.
The clerk of court, Angela Noble, notified Trump’s lawyers on Monday that Blanche, Chad Bowman, Maxwell Mishkin and Lauren Russell that they are not members of the federal bar in South Florida. Under rules governing lawyers, Noble said they could participate in the case if they file a written application and got permission from the court.
Who is the judge in the case?
The hearing Tuesday will be overseen by Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman, according to The Miami Herald.
But the case was assigned to Judge Aileen Cannon, who was appointed to the bench by Trump. She is familiar with the investigation because she ordered a special master to review the documents after the FBI search.
Trump had requested the review by arguing some records could be off limits to investigators because of attorney-client or executive privilege.
But the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned her order, saying a defendant traditionally challenges the evidence in a case after charges are filed.
Legal experts divided about whether Cannon should recuse herself from the case.
Joyce Vance, a former U.S. attorney in Alabama, said there is “persuasive authority” Cannon should step aside after leaning heavily in Trump’s favor. But another former federal prosecutor, Nancy DePodesta, said it’s not clear from previous hearings that Cannon must recuse herself.
Eric Holder, who served as attorney general in the Obama administration, told MSNBC’s “Inside with Jen Psaki” he was concerned about Cannon’s handling of the case in earlier phases when she was “excoriated by the Circuit Court.” He questioned whether she has the ability to project neutrality.
But Holder said it is difficult to force a judge to recuse from a case. “She ultimately makes the first determination about whether or not she should be recused,” he said.