Republican presidential candidate former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the Miami International Airport June 12, 2023 in Miami, Florida.
Win Mcnamee | Getty Images
WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump touched down in Miami, Florida on Monday afternoon, a day before he is expected to make his first appearance in court to face federal charges that he willfully retained scores of documents that contained some of the nation’s most sensitive military secrets.
But without a local lawyer to represent him in court, Tuesday’s appearance could be cut short, sources familiar with the matter told NBC News. In that case, Trump would go to the courthouse to surrender, but he would not be arraigned and enter a plea, according to NBC.
As of 5 p.m. ET on Monday, Trump and his co-defendant and personal valet, Walt Nauta, had not yet named an attorney who was allowed to appear before judges in the Southern District of Florida, according to the court docket for his case.
The two lead attorneys who had been representing Trump in the case resigned on Friday, just one day after Trump announced he had been indicted.
“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 social media Friday.
Blanche, who is based in New York, is not a member of the Bar of the Southern District of Florida.
Trump is still expected to name a lawyer before Tuesday afternoon.
The 2024 GOP presidential frontrunner is facing a 37-count federal indictment, filed last week by special counsel Jack Smith. The charges mark the first time a former U.S. president has been changed with a federal crime.
Trump appeared to be traveling to Florida alone on Monday from his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey. It was unclear whether his wife, former first lady Melania Trump, would join him in court on Tuesday.
Trump did not speak to reporters or cameras set up along his travel route Monday. But he posted repeatedly on his social media platform, Truth Social.
There, he pledged that if he were elected to a second term in 2024, he would appoint a “real special ‘prosecutor’ to go after” his successor, President Joe Biden, and “all others involved” with what Trump called “the destruction of our elections, borders and country itself.”
Trump’s call for revenge came amid several other posts in which he decried what he called the “weaponization” of the justice system.
Trump also took public shots at Republicans who did not endorse him, notably Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, who backed 2024 GOP hopeful Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over the weekend.
In Miami, preparations were underway Monday for any protests or counter protests outside the courthouse Tuesday.
There have been scattered calls from some Republican lawmakers urging people to gather in Miami. But as of Monday evening, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had not issued a specific threat bulletin for the event, or identified a possible danger to the public.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the city and state were taking a unified command approach to the day, pooling resources and information with federal agents and the U.S. Secret Service, which is responsible for the safety of current and former presidents.
Miami Police Chief Manny Morales told reporters his officers are bringing enough resources to “handle crowds anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000.” He said he did not expect any issues.
Trump is expected to return to New Jersey on Tuesday afternoon, following his appearance in court. A birthday campaign fundraiser is scheduled for Tuesday night, where Trump is expected to deliver remarks.
Trump insists he committed no crimes. The most serious of the allegations are 31 counts of willfully retaining national defense information, a violation of the Espionage Act. The other six relate to allegations that Trump made false statements, tried to conceal or withhold documents from investigators or conspired to obstruct justice.
The 49-page federal indictment was meticulously detailed, with photos showing dozens of boxes of presidential documents that Trump took with him when he left the White House in 2021.
The National Archives and Records Administration then spent more than a year attempting to get Trump and his lawyers to return the records, which included battle plans, nuclear capabilities and other highly sensitive military intelligence.
But as the indictment alleges, Trump repeatedly refused to turn over troves of documents, and he instructed Nauta to hide them from investigators who came armed with a subpoena.
The boxes were later shown to contain hundreds of classified documents, some of which were only seized after an FBI raid of Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, in 2022.
According to the indictment, “The unauthorized disclosure of these classified documents could put at risk the national security of the Unite States, foreign relations, the safety of the United States military, and human sources and the continued viability of sensitive intelligence collections methods.”
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