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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Trump pleads not guilty in documents case

Security at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. federal courthouse was tight Monday, with police and federal law enforcement sweeping the courthouse grounds before former President Donald J. Trump’s appearance.

By Glenn Thrush, Nicholas Nehamas and Eileen Sullivan

Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in federal court in Miami on Tuesday to criminal charges that he risked disclosure of defense secrets and obstructed the government’s efforts to reclaim classified documents he took with him upon leaving office.

After arriving from his nearby Doral resort, Trump was booked and escorted into a 13th floor courtroom at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. U.S. Courthouse in downtown Miami in a scene as surreal as it was momentous.

Inside the courtroom, Trump — wearing a dark suit and a red tie — sat with his arms crossed at the defense table while the magistrate judge overseeing the hearing described the indictment. One of his lawyers, Todd Blanche, entered a plea on Trump’s behalf.

“We most certainly enter a plea of not guilty,” he said.

Nearly 2 1/2 years after leaving the White House, Trump — twice impeached, previously charged in an unrelated case in New York, still under investigation for his efforts to retain power following his loss in the 2020 election, but currently the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination — began the legal process of defending himself against 37 counts lodged against him in the documents case last week by the special counsel, Jack Smith.

Trump’s personal aide, Walt Nauta, also appeared before the magistrate judge but did not enter a please. A lawyer for Nauta, who is charged with lying to investigators and scheming with Trump to conceal boxes containing classified documents from the FBI and federal prosecutors, asked for a two-week extension because he needed a local lawyer to sponsor him.

Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman, who oversaw the hearing, ordered Trump not to discuss the case with Nauta or any witnesses — a common restriction in a criminal case. The judge said he understood that the two men must speak on a daily basis, but said anything related to the case must go through their lawyers.

Trump was represented in court by Christopher M. Kise, a former Florida solicitor general, and Blanche, a prominent New York defense lawyer. His legal team has been in flux since two other lawyers representing him resigned shortly after the indictment was made public. Smith attended the hearing.

While Goodman oversaw Tuesday’s hearing, Trump’s case has been assigned to Judge Aileen M. Cannon, who earlier handled a lawsuit he filed challenging the FBI’s court-authorized search of his Florida estate and club, Mar-a-Lago. A ruling in Trump’s favor in that case by Cannon, who was nominated by Trump, was later overturned by an appeals court that was sharply critical of her legal reasoning.

Trump planned to travel back to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, following his arraignment to deliver a statement.

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