Trump is set to appear in court after being indicted over classified documents

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MIAMI (NPR) — Former President Donald Trump is in Florida, preparing to surrender to federal authorities and appear in court at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

In an unprecedented indictment of a former president, Trump faces 37 federal charges, including unlawfully retaining government secrets and conspiring to obstruct justice.

The indictment alleges that Trump was personally involved in packing the documents as he left the White House in 2021, that he bragged about having secret materials and caused his own lawyer to mislead the FBI about what kind of papers he had stored at Mar-a-Lago.

His aide Walt Nauta has also been indicted for concealing documents and for making false statements.

Trump says he is innocent and that he’s being unfairly targeted by prosecutors because he’s running for president again. His Republican allies in Congress are echoing these claims of bias in the Justice Department.

Special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed by the Justice Department to oversee an independent investigation of Trump, defended the work of his team and the FBI in remarks last week.

“We have one set of laws in this country, and they apply to everyone,” he said.

People walk in front of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse in Miami
People walk in front of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. United States Federal Courthouse in Miami, Florida, on June 12, 2023. Trump is expected to appear in court in Miami on June 13 for an arraignment regarding 37 federal charges, including violations of the Espionage Act, making false statements, and conspiracy regarding his mishandling of classified material after leaving office. [Giorgio Viera | Getty Images]

What is happening in court

Trump is appearing in court Tuesday for processing, a step that usually includes fingerprints, a mug shot and other administrative steps. There could be exceptions for Trump given his high profile.

It is not clear whether Trump will be handcuffed, either. He was not when he appeared in court in April in a New York state case about hush money payments made before the 2016 election.

Tuesday’s hearing is expected to be short. Trump and Nauta may hear the charges read aloud and may enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.

The judge could set certain restrictions as the case proceeds, potentially asking them to turn over passports, limit travel or check in with court supervision.

Outside the courtroom, law enforcement have been preparing to ensure events like the assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 do not happen again.

The Secret Service, which protects Trump, have been involved in conversations with the U.S. Marshals, who protect the federal courthouse. Local police have also been planning, with additional first responders on standby.

Unlike the leadup to the Capitol riot, though, extremism researchers say they are not seeing signs of large-scale and detailed planning around the courthouse appearance.

What happens next

Smith said Friday he is seeking a speedy trial. Under the law, that could mean within 70 days, which would be well ahead of the presidential primary season next year.

But there are a few factors that could push the date much further than that.

Given the case involves many classified documents, one question before the court may be whether Trump’s lawyers are even authorized to see the material, and whether Trump would want to use the documents in the courtroom.

Trump could also make other pretrial motions contesting various aspects of the case that could add up to months of delays. The legal team could even try to postpone the trial until after the presidential election.

In the meantime, Trump is making the federal indictment a part of his campaign for the White House. He’s even planning to talk Tuesday night at a fundraiser at his golf club in New Jersey.

He’s said that if he wins in 2024, he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate President Biden and Biden’s family.

A special counsel is currently looking into how Biden himself came to have classified documents in his private office and residence. But in that case, there’s no hint Biden is resisting turning over any of the papers, like Trump allegedly did for about a year.

Trump’s legal peril does not end with the classified documents case. Special counsel Smith is continuing to investigate Trump’s actions around the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, and the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office in Georgia is looking into attempts to pressure state officials in the weeks after the 2020 election. It remains to be seen whether Trump will also be charged in those investigations.

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