In an almost surreal sequence of events that defied the once noble legacy of the U.S. presidency, former President Donald Trump, already marred by a litany of firsts throughout his political career, orchestrated a mesmerizing motorcade entrance, concealing the imminent arrest that awaited him in a Miami courtroom on serious federal criminal charges.
With crowds filling the area around the courthouse, the unprecedented scene unfolded as a symbolic embodiment of his remarkable knack for theatricality, further punctuating his notorious legacy as the first President twice impeached, to face civil sex harassment charges resulting in a lawsuit loss, and to be indicted on state criminal charges.
Now, another dark milestone joins this extensive list, as he becomes the first President to face federal charges, including allegations connected to the Espionage Act, leaving his supporters stunned and angry.
Trump made his first court appearance on Tuesday, June 13, entering a plea of not guilty to 37 charges related to the alleged mishandling of classified documents.
As he went through the booking process with deputy marshals, authorities took electronic copies of Trump’s fingerprints but omitted taking a mugshot due to his notoriety as ex-President.
The hearing marked the escalation of legal jeopardy for the 2024 GOP front-runner, with special counsel Jack Smith in attendance.
The charges brought forth by the Justice Department’s classified documents case against Trump include 37 felony counts.
The allegations involve the illegal retention of national defense information and the concealment of documents violating witness-tampering laws in the Justice Department’s ongoing investigation into these materials.
Trump’s close aide, Walt Nauta, was also indicted and faces charges related to a conspiracy to obstruct the federal investigation.
Nauta was also booked and arraigned.
A bystander reportedly asked the former President about his emotions as they left his Doral resort in a motorcade with Nauta in a different vehicle.
Trump responded with a confident wave, stating that he was feeling “great.”
However, before the court appearance, Trump took to social media, expressing his belief that it was “ONE OF THE SADDEST DAYS IN THE history OF OUR COUNTRY. WE ARE A NATION IN DECLINE!!!”
The hearing presided over by magistrate judge Jonathan Goodman, operated as both an initial appearance and an arraignment.
Aileen Cannon was randomly selected as the trial judge in the case, but Goodman filled in for the arraignment.
Cannon, a Trump nominee who received criticism in the past for her decision to order a third-party review of an FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, saw that decision overturned by a conservative appeals court.
Many legal experts have suggested Cannon recuse herself. So far, there’s no indication she will step aside.
Goodman ordered Trump not to discuss the case with Nauta.
The case began an anticipated lengthy and dramatic judicial process involving criminal proceedings and potential appeals that could unfold over several years.
Notably, Trump already faces separate criminal charges from New York City’s local prosecutors, stemming from an alleged hush money scheme during the 2016 campaign that included accusations of falsifying business records.
Last month, a civil jury found Trump liable for the sexual harassment of writer E. Jean Carroll in New York.
The former President, who lost his 2020 re-election bid to Joe Biden, could also face more indictments including in Atlanta and in Washington.
Respectively, those cases are related to his allegedly tampering with the presidential election in Georgia, and his role in the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.
The DOJ documents case potentially carries a prison sentence that could stretch for decades.
Among the counts, 31 pertain to the willful retention of national defense information, irrespective of classification.
In addition to the obstruction conspiracy charge, Trump faces four counts related to document concealment and a false statements charge.