Now that former President Donald J. Trump has entered a plea of not guilty at his Miami arraignment, barring an unforeseen event, the criminal case against him will become a traditional trajectory.
The case against Mr. Trump, accusing him of illegally preserving national defense documents and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them, is the first time federal charges have been brought against a former president. But the course of the case through the justice system should, with any luck, proceed like other criminal cases, albeit against the background of the political calendar.
The only date set so far for a next step is a June 27 hearing at which Trump’s co-defendant and personal assistant, Walt Nauta, will make his plea. A spokesman for Mr. Trump, Steven Cheung, said he was not sure if Mr. Nauta and Mr. Trump have a joint defense deal.
The parties will begin a slow but steady rhythm of status conferences, meeting in court every few months as the government begins to provide evidence to the defense through what is known as the discovery process. That evidence will help Mr. Trump’s lawyers decide what motions they plan to file to challenge the charges against him.
Mr. Trump will also have to finalize the members of his legal team. To that end, he met privately Monday night with a handful of Florida attorneys at his Miami club, Doral, according to a person close to him who was not authorized to speak publicly about efforts to reassemble his legal team. . Mr. Trump found himself in need of additional lawyers after the two who had taken charge of the documents case, James Trusty and John Rowley, resigned the day after the charges were filed.
The meetings are said to have gone well, but it remained unclear whether any of the lawyers he interviewed would be hired. Trump’s advisers hope to avoid getting into a situation where they quickly hire someone who may not be a good fit for the client and his other attorneys. According to a person familiar with the discussions, nearly half a dozen attorneys were interviewed.
For now, Mr. Trump will lean heavily on the New York attorney who appeared with him at the indictment, Todd Blanche. Mr. Blanche is also defending Mr. Trump against criminal charges in Manhattan state court over a hush money payment to a porn star.
It is unclear what role another attorney who stood alongside him, Christopher M. Kise, will have as the case progresses. Mr. Kise was initially hired to fight a legal battle over requiring an outside arbitrator to review reams of government documents seized last summer during an FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, the private club and residence of Mr. Trump in Florida.
In a brief post-trial interview, Mr. Kise, a former Florida attorney general, dismissed reports that Mr. Trump had struggled to find lawyers interested in working on the case.
“Contrary to recent coverage, President Trump has some very good options that he is considering and will take his time to make an informed decision,” Mr Kise said. “There are some excellent lawyers who are not only willing, but very interested in working with him on this case.”
Mr Kise said it was his own job “to provide advice and counsel to my client”.
The one unusual aspect of Mr Trump’s case is the pace.
Prosecutors working for Special Counsel Jack Smith will most likely try to move the case forward quickly, all too aware that the prosecution is playing as Mr. Trump continues his presidential campaign. Mr. Trump’s lawyers will certainly try to delay the case, perhaps with a view to postponing it beyond the 2024 election. That has been Mr. Trump’s approach in almost all of the lawsuits he has faced over the years and this one probably won’t be an exception.
Mr. Trump is expected to continue a fairly steady stream of political events over the coming months, although the needs of the court calendar in the Florida case will in some ways dictate his actions. Unlike when Mr. Trump chose not to appear in person at the civil rape and defamation lawsuit that writer E. Jean Carroll brought against him in New York, he is unlikely to be allowed the same flexibility by the federal judge hearing his criminal. case in Florida.
At this point, it remains unclear whether Trump will be present at the first Republican primary debate, scheduled for August 23 in Milwaukee.
But if he does show up, he will almost certainly be pressured about his charges – not only by the moderators but also by the other candidates. Mr. Trump also faces electoral interference charges from the Fulton County, Georgia district attorney, and from Mr. Smith alleging similar attempts to thwart the transfer of power after he lost the 2020 election.