(LifeSiteNews) — Former U.S. President Donald Trump pleaded “not guilty” on Tuesday to the more than three dozen federal charges levied against him related to his handling of classified documents after leaving the White House. Trump is the first former U.S. president in American history to face federal charges from the Department of Justice (DOJ).
After flying into Miami Monday night, Trump turned himself in to authorities on Tuesday with his aide, Walt Nauta, who is also facing charges in the federal indictment. Trump was formally placed under arrest, booked, and reportedly fingerprinted, though it’s been reported that no mugshot will be taken.
Trump supporters and opponents lined the streets outside the Miami federal courthouse where Trump was arraigned. Police had temporarily cleared part of the area earlier in the day following a bomb scare that turned out to be a false alarm.
As LifeSiteNews previously reported, the Biden administration’s DOJ took the unprecedented step of indicting the former president and Biden’s preeminent political rival on 37 federal charges on Thursday in relation to his handling of classified documents. FBI agents previously raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in Palm Beach, Florida, last summer to retrieve the documents.
The 49-page indictment alleges that Trump took home boxes of classified materials, including documents pertaining to U.S. nuclear programs and military vulnerabilities, without authorization. The indictment also accuses Trump of failing to turn all of the documents over to the National Archives when requested and conspiring to obstruct federal law enforcement from retrieving them.
Thirty-one of the 37 charges concern the willful retention of national defense information, while the remaining six include making false statements, corruptly concealing documents or records, and conspiracy to obstruct justice, The Daily Wire reported.
Trump has persistently argued that he had already declassified the documents in question. However, the indictment states that Trump was caught on audio recording acknowledging that he possessed documents of a classified nature that he had not declassified while president.
“As president, I could have declassified it,” Trump allegedly said in a meeting with a writer, a publisher, and two of his staffers, all of whom lacked security clearance. “Now, I can’t, but, you know, this is still a secret.”
It’s unclear so far what strategies Trump’s defense team will employ to attempt to knock down the charges, which could potentially result in dozens of years of prison time if Trump is found guilty.
On Friday, Trump announced that two of his former lawyers would not be representing him as he contends with the most recent indictment and that another attorney and “additional lawyers” would be announced soon.
“For purposes of fighting the Greatest Witch Hunt of all time, now moving to the Florida Courts, I will be represented by Todd Blanche, Esq., and a firm to be named later,” Trump said on Truth Social. Trump previously hired Blanche to help him tackle his earlier Manhattan indictment on charges related to alleged hush money payments.
“I want to thank Jim Trusty and John Rowley for their work, but they were up against a very dishonest, corrupt, evil, and ‘sick’ group of people, the likes of which has not been seen before. We will be announcing additional lawyers in the coming days,” Trump wrote.
The judge assigned to the case is Trump-appointee U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who granted Trump’s request last year for a “special master” to review the Mar-a-Lago FBI raid. Cannon’s decision was later overturned by an appeals court.
Reacting to his indictment on Thursday, Trump compared his handling of classified documents with that of current U.S. President Joe Biden, who was also found to have kept boxes of classified materials at his home and personal office.
“The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax, even though Joe Biden has 1850 Boxes at the University of Delaware, additional Boxes in Chinatown, D.C., with even more Boxes at the University of Pennsylvania, and documents strewn all over his garage floor where he parks his Corvette, and which is ‘secured’ by only a garage door that is paper thin, and open much of the time,” Trump said on his social media platform Truth Social.
“I never thought it possible that such a thing could happen to a former President of the United States, who received far more votes than any sitting President in the History of our Country, and is currently leading, by far, all Candidates, both Democrat and Republican, in Polls of the 2024 Presidential Election. I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!” he said.
The latest charges against Trump follow his indictment and arraignment earlier this year on 34 felony charges brought against him by a far-left district attorney in Manhattan in connection with alleged falsification of business records.
Trump pleaded “not guilty” to all 34 of those charges.
The former Republican president is expected to make a video statement Tuesday night following his arraignment in Miami.
Most Republicans have condemned the charges against Trump as the political weaponization of the federal government, selective prosecution of political opponents, and an attack on the democratic process in the lead-up to an election year.
Entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy on Monday pledged to pardon Trump if elected to the White House in the 2024 election, and has called on all of Trump’s Republican challengers to do the same.
“The use of police force by a sitting U.S. President against his chief political rival in the midst of a presidential election sets a dangerous precedent in our country,” Ramaswamy said in a press release.
“No one is above the law: the U.S. President shouldn’t be able to use the federal police to arrest his opponents,” he said. “No one should be below the law either, yet there are now two standards of justice depending on your political viewpoints.”
“That’s the single greatest threat to our constitutional republic today,” Ramaswamy said.
On Friday, Trump’s chief Republican rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis also blasted the Trump indictment as an example of “the weaponization of federal law enforcement,” which he said “represents a mortal threat to a free society.”
A small number of less conservative Republicans, such as former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, have suggested that they agree with the charges brought against Trump.