Former President Donald Trump Pleads Not Guilty to 37 Federal Felony Charges in Classified Records Case

Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 37 federal charges that stem from Special Counsel Jack Smith’s probe into his alleged improper retention of classified records at his Florida Mar-a-Lago home in federal court in Miami Tuesday. 

The former president’s charges include conspiracy to obstruct justice, false statements, and willful retention of national defense information. 

This is the first time in U.S. history that a former president has faced federal criminal charges. 

In an exclusive interview last week, the former president, the current front-runner in the 2024 GOP presidential primary, first signaled he would not plead guilty to the charges. 

In Miami Tuesday, Trump appeared in federal court for the Southern District of Florida, where Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman said: “In the case of the United States of America versus Donald J. Trump…” After the judge read the charges, former President Trump issued his plea. 

Trump’s defense lawyer Chris Kise did most of the talking for Trump’s defense team; however, defense attorney Todd Blanche told Judge Goodman, “We certainly plead not guilty.”

Special Counsel Smith was in the courtroom on Tuesday but did not speak to the judge. Instead, David Harbach, federal prosecutor, said for the special counsel’s office. 

Former President Trump was released under several conditions. One of the conditions included that he appear in court for future hearings. He has no restrictions on his travel and does not have to surrender his passport. 

Judge Goodman said he does not want Trump to speak to any potential witnesses about the case. Still, many potential witnesses may be people in the former president’s inner circle. He made clear there will be a list of people the former president can contact but cannot speak to about the case and a no-contact list. 

Before the Tuesday formal arraignment, Trump called the investigation a “WITCH HUNT.”

“MAGA,” Trump posted on his TRUTH Social.

Attorneys for Trump called his indictment a “turning point in our nation’s history.”

“The targeting prosecution of a leading political opponent is the type of thing you see in dictatorships like Cuba and Venezuela,” said Alina Habba, Trump’s lawyer. “It is commonplace there for rival candidates there for rival candidates to be prosecuted, persecuted, and put into jail.”

The former president could face decades in federal prison if convicted on all counts stemming from Smith’s investigation. 

Trump charged with dozens of counts related to confidential documents

Among the charges are the 31 counts of willful retention of national defense information, including documents that related to military capabilities of a foreign country; documents concerning White House intelligence briefings related to various foreign countries; an undated document concerning U.S. nuclear weaponry; an undated document concerning the details and timeline of an attack in a foreign country; a June 2020 document concerning nuclear capabilities of a foreign country; a document relating to communications with a leader of a foreign country dated October 21, 2018; a document from December 2019 concerning foreign country support of terrorist acts against U.S. interests; an undated document concerning military contingency planning of the U.S. and more. 

Former President Trump is also charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice. According to the indictment, the “purpose” of the conspiracy was for Trump “to keep classified documents he had taken with him from the White House and to hide and conceal them from a federal grand jury.”

The former president was charged with two counts of withholding documents of record as well as one count of concealing a document in a federal investigation, one count of a “scheme to conceal,” and making a false statement dating to June 2022 when he said a “diligent search” of Mar-a-Lago was conducted. The search was conducted “after receipt of the subpoena” and “any and all responsible documents accompany this certification.”

“In fact, after June 3, 2022, more than 100 documents with classification markings remained at The Mar-a-Lago Club until the FBI search on August 8, 2022,” states the indictment.

In an interview last week, Trump said his federal indictment is “election interference at the highest level.”

“This is the most corrupt administration in history — there has never been an administration so corrupt, and they’re just starting to find it right now,” said Trump. “They are trying to deflect all of their dishonesty by bringing this ridiculous boxes hoax case.”

“They’re not going to get away with it,” he added.

“I did absolutely nothing wrong,” said Trump, citing the Presidential Records Act, and said it “makes me totally innocent.” 

Former President Trump pleaded not guilty to state charges stemming from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation in April. He is accused of falsifying business records related to alleged hush-money payments made to former stripper and porn actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 campaign.