Former President Donald Trump, who has been sued for negligent handling of state secrets since leaving the White House, pleaded guilty to the charges against him during a historic appearance in federal court in Miami on Tuesday.
“We plead guilty without a doubt”, announced his lawyer Todd Blanche during the trial, AFP journalist noted.
This sets the stage for a very damaging case for his 2024 US presidential campaign.
The 76-year-old Republican is accused of endangering the security of the United States by keeping classified documents, including information about military plans or nuclear weapons, in the bathroom or storage room of his luxury Mar-a-Lago home in Florida.
He was accused of refusing to return these documents despite court orders, which earned him charges of “unlawful possession of information related to national security”, but also “obstruction of justice” and “perjury”.
A federal judge indicted him on 37 charges. He left shortly after court.
Since his questioning, Republicans have been decrying the “establishment” that was designed to keep him out of the race against Democratic President Joe Biden, and possibly a second term.
At the same time, his campaign team has been sending emails to his supporters encouraging them to contribute financially to his defense.
However, only a few dozen protesters went to a Miami court to contest his charges.
Often wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats, they denounced the cases against Donald Trump in front of an army of journalists.
“As a country that stands as a beacon to the world, I am surprised that I have to see this disgraceful scene,” 48-year-old Lazaro Esner told AFP.
For 24 hours, US media helicopters have been documenting the billionaire’s every move, from his private plane to his golf club to this court, a large building with glass windows surrounded by palm trees.
This is the first time a former US president has been charged at the federal level.
But Donald Trump has already experienced the temptation of appearing in court: in early April, he was indicted by a New York state judge for several counts of fraud related to payments to an actress from X movies to remain silent before the 2016 presidential election. She claims to be his mistress.
After appearing in New York in April, Donald Trump made a meeting in New Jersey that same evening to address his supporters at 8:15pm (00:15 GMT Wednesday).
Donald Trump’s first words before his historic appearance
In the United States, a law compels presidents to turn over their emails, letters and other working documents to the National Archives. Another prohibits keeping state secrets in unauthorized and unsecured locations.
When he left the White House in January 2021, Donald Trump took dozens of boxes full of files with him.
In January 2022, after several reminders, the former president agreed to return boxes containing nearly 200 classified documents, but kept some secret.
To recover them, FBI agents conducted a spectacular raid at Mar-a-Lago on August 8 and seized approximately thirty boxes containing 11,000 documents.
What impact will this case have on his electoral ambitions? Many of his supporters continue to swear in his favor, convinced that he is the victim of a conspiracy.
But Donald Trump probably isn’t done with legal troubles. A Georgia attorney is set to announce the outcome of his investigation into trying to change the 2020 presidential election by September.
A special prosecutor is also investigating his role in the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021.
As for the former president’s criminal trial in New York, it could be organized as early as 2024, during the Republican primaries, in which he is currently the favorite.
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