Donald Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday to dozens of criminal counts of mishandling some of the U.S. government’s most sensitive secrets and plans to prevent their return, in a historic first trial as a federal defendant.
The former president — and the favorite to contest next year’s election for the Republicans — handed himself over to U.S. Marshals in Miami for a hearing that set up the unprecedented scenario of a White House race raging both from the courtroom and during the vote was settled. box.
On the eve of his 77th birthday, Trump appeared before a magistrate to be formally presented with 37 counts under seven indictments filed by a special counsel investigation opened after an FBI raid on his Florida mansion 10 months ago.
But he dismissed his prosecution as politically motivated in a speech to supporters who framed the charges as an attempt to interfere in the 2024 election.
“Today we witnessed the most vicious and horrific abuse of power in the history of our country. Very sad to see,” Trump said after returning to his summer home in New Jersey.
The hearing — just weeks after Trump denied state-level financial fraud allegations in a separate Manhattan case — came with the mounting legal woes of the former reality TV star threatening his bid to return to the Oval Office. to derail.
The U.S. government — which has never prosecuted a former president before — accuses Trump of violating the Espionage Act and other laws when he deleted classified documents upon his departure in 2021 and failed to turn them over to the National Archives.
Authorities say he conspired to thwart investigators and knowingly shared national security secrets with people who did not have the required permissions.
After the hearing, Trump flew from Miami back to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he blamed President Joe Biden for his persecution.
“A corrupt incumbent president had his main political opponent arrested on false and trumped-up charges — allegedly guilty of himself and numerous other presidents — in the middle of a presidential election in which he is losing very badly,” Trump said, speaking from the front of the presidential election. the clubhouse, on a podium flanked by American flags.
He was cheered by several hundred supporters, including 100 members of a conservative organization of Vietnamese Americans who donned matching red dresses and chanted, “We love Trump.”
Trump enjoys strong support from Republican voters, 81 percent of whom believe the allegations against him are politically driven, according to a new Ipsos poll.
Antonio Rufa, 30, who had come to Bedminister to support the tycoon, called Trump’s indictment “a travesty”, while Vincent Larusso, 57, said the prosecution was designed to prevent Trump from running for re-election.
“This is not a democracy and people can see this from a hundred miles away,” Larusso told AFP.
The administration has recovered more than 300 documents with secret markings belonging to Trump since officials discovered his correspondence with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un had disappeared, US media reported.
The documents were the work of top national security and law enforcement agencies such as the CIA and NSA, according to prosecutors, and some related to the military and nuclear capabilities of the United States and abroad, and “plans for possible retaliatory action in response to a foreign attack.”
The 49-page indictment, denounced as “ridiculous” by Trump, includes photos of boxes of records piled up at Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach residence, in a ballroom and in a bathroom and shower.
An image showed that by December 2021, some of the boxes moved to a storage area fell, with the contents spilling all over the floor.
‘Don’t play with the ball’
Trump rejected his lawyers’ attempts to comply with a subpoena for the return of the documents, according to the indictment, which quoted him as asking a lawyer, “What happens if we just don’t respond at all or don’t play with them? ” ?”
The runaway frontrunner in the 2024 Republican primary — Trump leads second-placed Ron DeSantis by more than 30 points — has been impeached twice over allegations of misconduct in office and was recently charged with sexual assault.
He faces indictment or ongoing investigation in four criminal investigations — in Washington, Florida, Georgia and New York — and could face multiple charges as he campaigns to return to the White House.
The belligerent billionaire has repeatedly complained that the investigations against him amount to a baseless “witch hunt” — and has vowed to stay in the race regardless of the outcome of the document case.
He said Monday that upon his return to office, he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Biden, who is not facing any credible criminal charges.
Republican leaders in Congress and Trump’s rivals for the party’s presidential nomination have largely obscured the seriousness of the allegations against him, attacking the Justice Department instead.
According to the Pew Research Center, less than one percent of U.S. federal defendants end up and are acquitted. The vast majority – about 90 percent – plead guilty.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NewsMadura staff and is being published from a syndicated feed.)