Trump pleads not guilty in federal documents case

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A sticker depicting former U.S. President Trump is put on a car window, during a rally at Tropical Park, as he is to appear in a federal court on classified document charges, in Miami, Florida, U.S., June 11, 2023. REUTERS/Marco Bello

Former U.S. President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal criminal charges that he unlawfully kept national-security documents when he left office and lied to officials who sought to recover them.

Trump’s plea, entered before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman in a federal court in Miami, sets up a legal battle likely to play out over coming months as he campaigns to win back the presidency in a November 2024 election. Experts say it could be a year or more before a trial takes place.

Trump, wearing a blue suit and a red tie, frowned and leaned back in his chair but did not speak during the 47-minute hearing.

He was allowed to leave court without conditions or travel restrictions and no cash bond was required. Goodman ruled that he was not allowed to communicate with potential witnesses in the case.

Trump’s aide Walt Nauta, who is also charged in the case, appeared in court alongside Trump but will not have to enter a plea until June 27 because he does not have a local lawyer. He, too, was released without having to post bond and was ordered not to talk to other witnesses.

Supporters chanted “We love Trump” as his motorcade departed the courthouse at 3:55 p.m. EDT (1955 GMT), roughly two hours after it arrived.

It was the second courtroom visit for Trump in recent months. In April, he pleaded not guilty to state charges in New York stemming from a hush-money payment to a porn star.

Trump is the first former president to be charged with federal crimes.

Authorities had prepared for possible violence, recalling the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, but Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told reporters that there had not been any security problems.

Trump has repeatedly proclaimed his innocence and accuses Democratic President Joe Biden’s administration of targeting him. He called Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the prosecution, a “Trump hater” on social media on Tuesday.

During a stop at Versailles, a Cuban restaurant, after the hearing, Trump told supporters that the United States was “rigged,” “corrupt” and “in decline.”

“We’ve got a government that’s out of control,” he said. Florida’s Cuban-American community is a substantial Republican voting bloc in the politically competitive state.

Smith accuses Trump of risking national secrets by taking thousands of sensitive papers with him when he left the White House in January 2021 and storing them in a haphazard manner at his Mar-a-Lago Florida estate and his New Jersey golf club, according to a grand jury indictment released last week.

Photos included in the indictment show boxes of documents stored on a ballroom stage, in a bathroom and strewn across a storage-room floor.

Those records included information about the secretive U.S. nuclear program and potential vulnerabilities in the event of an attack, the indictment said.

The 37-count indictment alleges Trump lied to officials who tried to get them back.

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