(The Center Square) – Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty Tuesday to 37 counts that allege he kept sensitive military documents, shared them with people who didn’t have security clearance, and tried to get around the government’s efforts to get them back.
Trump’s arraignment at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Courthouse was largely procedural except for heightened security, lots of media coverage and hundreds of supporters outside the federal courthouse in Miami.
The 49-page indictment laid out the charges against Trump and his valet and alleged co-conspirator, Walt Nauta. Trump was charged with keeping classified documents after leaving office and later obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them.
Nauta did not enter a plea on Tuesday, his arraignment was delayed for two weeks, according to media reports. About 40 reporters and 10 members of the public watched the proceedings in the courtroom. No cameras or electronic devices were allowed in the courtroom.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman ordered Trump not to speak to Nauta or other witnesses about the facts of the case. Trump and Nauta were released without travel restrictions. They did not have to surrender their passports.
In a post on his social media platform, Trump referred to Jack Smith, the special counsel with the U.S. Department of Justice appointed by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, as a “thug” who planted documents in the boxes. Trump did not provide evidence to support his claim.
“This is the Thug, over turned consistently and unanimously in big cases, that Biden and his CORRUPT Injustice Department stuck on me. He’s a Radical Right Lunatic and Trump Hater, as are all his friends and family, who probably ‘planted’ information in the ‘boxes’ given to them. They taint everything that they touch, including our Country, which is rapidly going to HELL!,” Trump wrote on Truth Social.
The indictment contains specific dates and times with to-the-minute details of where the documents were stored, where they were moved, and who was involved.
Among the records were 197 that contained classified markings, including 98 marked “secret” and 30 marked “top secret.” The “top secret” designation means that unauthorized disclosure “reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage” to national security,” according to the indictment. Trump turned those records over to the National Archives and Records Administration on Jan. 17, 2022, in response to demands from that federal agency.
On June 3, 2022, an attorney for Trump provided the Federal Bureau of Investigation with 38 additional documents with classified markings. And during a raid of Mar-a-Lago on Aug. 8, 2022, the FBI recovered 102 additional documents with classified markings.
While the U.S. Secret Service provided security to Trump while he was at his Palm Beach property, Trump never told the agency that classified documents were stored there, according to the indictment. Mar-a-Lago hosted 150 social events – such as weddings, fundraisers and movie premieres for tens of thousands of guests from January 2021, when Trump left office, through the FBI raid on Aug. 8, 2022. Mar-a-Lago had about 150 employees during that time, prosecutors said in the indictment.
Prosecutors allege the documents belong to some of the nation’s most secret agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Security Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, National Reconnaissance Office, the Department of Energy and the Department of State.
The documents contained information regarding defense and weapons capabilities of the United States and other allied nations, U.S. nuclear programs, plans for possible retaliation in case of an attack and potential U.S. vulnerabilities, according to the indictment.
Trump stored the boxes in several locations at Mar-a-Lago, his social club with 25 guest rooms in Palm Beach. The boxes that contained classified documents were stored in a ballroom, a bathroom and shower, an office space, his bedroom and a storage room, prosecutors alleged in the indictment.
The club was not authorized to store classified documents.
Prosecutors further alleged that Trump showed classified documents to people not authorized to see such records. In one case on July 21, 2021, at the Bedminster Club in New Jersey, Trump allegedly showed a writer, a publisher and two staff members classified documents. During the recorded interview, Trump said that the documents were “highly classified” and that could have declassified them while president, but could no longer do so after leaving office, according to the indictment. In August or September 2021, prosecutors allege Trump showed a representative of his political action committee a classified map of a country.
Trump is the first president to face felony federal criminal charges.
As a candidate for president in 2016, Trump repeatedly spoke about the handling of classified documents.
“In my administration I’m going to enforce all laws concerning the protection of classified information,” he said on Aug. 18, 2016, according to the indictment. “No one will be above the law.”
In April, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts in New York related to charges he paid hush money to adult film star Stormy Daniels through a lawyer before the 2016 presidential election and covered it up as a legal expense before being elected president.