Former US President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to federal criminal charges that he unlawfully retained national-security papers after leaving office and lied to investigators attempting to retrieve them.
Trump's plea, entered in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman in a federal court in Miami, sets up a legal struggle that will likely play out over the next few months as he tries to reclaim the presidency in the November 2024 election. A trial may take a year or more, according to experts.
Trump was frowning but kept silent for the whole of the 47-minute session.
He was released from jail with no conditions or travel restrictions, and no monetary bond was necessary. Goodman decided that he could not speak with possible witnesses in the case.
Trump's adviser Walt Nauta arrived in court alongside him but will not have to make a plea until June 27 since he does not have a local counsel. He, too, was freed without posting bond and was told not to speak to other witnesses.
Trump's second court appearance in recent months. In April, he pleaded not guilty in New York to state charges resulting from a hush-money payment incident.
Trump is the first former president to face federal criminal charges.
Trump has consistently asserted his innocence and accused Democratic President Joe Biden's government of conspiring against him. On Tuesday, he dubbed Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the prosecution, a “Trump hater” on social media.
During the hearing, the former president told supporters at Versailles, a Cuban restaurant, 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 state known for political competitiveness.
According to a grand jury indictment issued last week, Smith accused Trump of putting national secrets at danger by taking thousands of classified files with him when he left the White House in January 2021 and keeping them haphazardly at his Mar-a-Lago Florida home and his New Jersey golf club.
The indictment includes photos of boxes of documents kept on a ballroom stage, in a restroom, and strewn on a storage-room floor.
According to the indictment, these records contained information on the covert US nuclear program as well as possible vulnerabilities in the case of an attack.
According to the 37-count indictment, Trump lied to officials who attempted to reclaim them.
The indictment also claims that Trump and Nauta colluded to store sensitive materials and conceal them from investigators. Nauta has previously worked for the former president at both the White House and Mar-a-Lago.