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Trump pleads not guilty to 37 felony counts in federal classified documents case

Former President Trump calling and waving to someone out of the frame as he and several other people enter a building.
Former President Trump visits Versailles restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood after being arraigned at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Courthouse on Tuesday.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)
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Former President Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 felony charges Tuesday in connection with his handling of classified documents and alleged attempts to prevent the government from recovering them.

It marks the first time an American president has been charged with a federal crime. If found guilty in the case, he could face decades in prison.

Wearing a navy suit and red tie, Trump was brought in about 15 minutes before the hearing began and sat slumped in his chair, hands clasped in his lap, as he waited for the judge to arrive, ABC News reported. He looked down at the floor for most of the hearing, and his lawyer waived a reading of the 49-page indictment.


Special counsel Jack Smith sat in the front row watching Trump closely, CBS News reported. Smith did not speak.

“We most certainly enter a plea of not guilty,” Trump’s attorney Todd Blanche told federal Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman, who oversaw the arraignment.

Trump was released on his own recognizance, wasn’t asked to surrender his passport and is still allowed to travel internationally, according to news reports. Goodman ordered Trump not to discuss the case with his personal aide and co-defendant, Walt Nauta, or witnesses.

Trump, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination again, returned to his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., on Tuesday night for a private fundraiser, where he delivered a campaign speech containing a series of falsehoods about the government, the indictment and his other legal troubles.

He promised to “totally obliterate the deep state” and threatened that “justice will be done” on election day.

It was not immediately clear whether the date of his next hearing had been set.

On Friday, after a yearlong investigation, the Justice Department unsealed the indictment against the former president, charging that he unlawfully took classified records when his presidency ended in 2021, then obstructed the government’s efforts to retrieve hundreds of the secret documents — some of them related to U.S. nuclear weapons operations and national defense vulnerabilities.


The indictment states that Trump kept the records in unsecured areas of his Florida estate, including in a bathroom, a ballroom and a storage room. The Mar-a-Lago property is a private club that hosts thousands of people each year.

According to the indictment, top-secret and other classified records that the FBI recovered after a subpoena and a search of the property included details on U.S. and foreign nations’ nuclear and other defense and weapons capabilities, potential vulnerabilities of the U.S. and its allies to military attack, and plans for possible retaliation in response to such an attack.

The indictment also details two instances in which Trump discussed and shared classified documents with people who did not have security clearances.

Trump is charged with willful retention of national defense information, conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding documents or records, corruptly concealing documents in a federal investigation, scheming to conceal, and making false statements and representations.

In a post on his Truth Social platform hours before his appearance, Trump called Smith a “thug” and accused him, his friends and his family of planting evidence in the case. He also questioned why Smith had not reviewed allegations against President Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, which Smith does not have the authority to review.

Nauta faces charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, withholding documents or records, corruptly concealing documents in a federal investigation, scheming to conceal, and making false statements and representations. His arraignment was delayed for several weeks after he was unable to secure local counsel.


The case is assigned to federal Judge Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee who was criticized for her rulings in his favor last year and assigning a special master to review the seized classified records. Her rulings, which delayed the investigation for several weeks, were overturned by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which said that she never had the legal authority to intervene.

Smith said last week that he would seek a speedy trial. That will largely depend on Cannon, who has significant control over the calendar, jury selection and what evidence will be allowed.

Blanche and fellow attorney Chris Kise represented Trump at the arraignment. The former president’s previous legal team resigned Friday after his indictment became public.

Trump was placed under arrest when he surrendered to federal authorities on Tuesday before his arraignment. A spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service told the Associated Press that the agency had enough photos of Trump, so did not take his mugshot for booking. Trump’s digital fingerprints were taken and his birth date and Social Security number were recorded, the spokesman said.

This is the second time this spring that Trump has been in court to enter a not-guilty plea. He was indicted in New York City in March on charges related to an alleged hush money payment to a porn actor in the final days of the 2016 campaign. He also faces two ongoing criminal inquiries into his role in 2020 election interference.

Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara) urged Americans not to tune out the case.

“Today cannot be viewed as just another day in the typical flurry that surrounds Donald Trump’s shocking words and actions. The charges filed against the
former president include major violations of our national security and serious evidence of criminal obstruction. If filed against someone else, the gravity of the case laid out against them would be immediately apparent,” Carbajal said in a statement.


Trump and his allies have repeatedly called the charges a witch hunt intended to keep him from winning back the presidency in 2024.

On Monday, he said in a social media post that if elected, he’ll appoint a “special ‘prosecutor’ to go after” people including Biden and his family. A president does not have the power to appoint a special counsel; that authority lies with the U.S. attorney general.

Miami Police Chief Manuel Morales said at a news conference Monday that his officers were prepared for a crowd of up to 50,000 people outside the court Tuesday, but the few hundred protesters and counterprotesters who showed up were outnumbered by members of the media.

The circus-like atmosphere outside court was the only view of the day’s events that most Americans will see. The magistrate judge refused a request by media outlets, including The Times, to allow photos and videos of the unprecedented proceedings. Cecilia Altonaga, chief U.S. judge for the Southern District of Florida, separately banned reporters from carrying any electronics into the courtroom.

Outside the courthouse, the former president’s supporters chanted, “Free Donald Trump!” and “USA!” while waving “Make America Great Again” flags. Opponents held signs that read, “Trump, you are not above the law” and “31 counts of espionage/Lock him up!”

Trump’s campaign issued a fundraising appeal during his arraignment, vowing that he would never drop out of the 2024 race.


Attorney Alina Habba, speaking for Trump, made incendiary remarks outside the courthouse, reiterating false claims by other surrogates of the former president.

“The people in charge of this country do not love America. They hate Donald Trump,” she said.

A man dressed in prison stripes and holding an orange sign that read “Lock him up” charged Trump’s motorcade as it departed, and was quickly arrested.

Soon after leaving the courthouse, Trump was back to campaigning, visiting a Cuban restaurant where supporters had gathered. Some restaurant patrons sang “Happy Birthday” to the former president, who turns 77 on Wednesday.

“Some birthday,” Trump said.

Wire reported from Washington and Lin from Los Angeles.