Around 70 miles separate the site of the crime allegedly committed by Donald Trump, the former president’s mansion in Mar-a-Lago, from the federal court of justice in Miami, where a grand jury has everything in place to try him. The alleged crime is not a single instance, but seven federal felonies related to the handling of classified documents that Trump allegedly took without permission when he left the White House in 2021, and which he retained at his Florida estate despite repeated requests from the relevant authorities for them to be returned. It was those refusals that resulted in an FBI search of the Republican primary candidate’s home last August.
Special counsel Jack Smith — appointed by the Department of Justice, an agency of the administration of Joe Biden, Trump’s successor in the Oval Office and his presumed challenger again in the 2024 presidential elections — has decided to indict the tycoon after completing his inquiries. It is a historic moment in U.S. legal history: never before has a president or former president been investigated for a federal crime.
Trump’s appointment at the federal court is scheduled for June 13 in downtown Miami, but the major networks have had television crews stationed in front of the courthouse since Thursday, killing time between broadcasts, sheltering under white tents from the morning sun and the biblical storm that fell on the city in the afternoon.
The timeout ended shortly after 7 p.m., when Trump dropped the bombshell on his social network, Truth Social, in a message that only the former president could have written: “The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax, even though Joe Biden has 1850 Boxes at the University of Delaware, additional Boxes in Chinatown, D.C., with even more Boxes at the University of Pennsylvania, and documents strewn all over his garage floor where he parks his Corvette, and which is “secured” by only a garage door that is paper thin, and open much of the time.”
Few of the reporters outside the Miami courthouse ventured to predict what will happen there on Tuesday, but all agreed that it will be a genuine spectacle of the kind for which Trump is known. It is also unclear who will appear in court, besides the defendant. What is known is that the grand jury consists of 23 citizens, who have been reviewing documents and taking testimony for a month, and that their work is scheduled to continue until Trump answers his summons.
The last time Trump appeared in court was in April, in New York, where he was indicted on 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal scandals (one of them an extramarital affair with porn actress Stormy Daniels) during the 2016 presidential campaign. A New York judge has set the trial for that case for March 25, 2024.
At that time, Trump called for protests and augured that a storm of “death and destruction” was about to be unleashed, bringing up the memory of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but all that came about was a peaceful gathering of detractors and supporters in a park in front of the Manhattan courthouse, under the watchful eye of an overwhelming media presence.
The Justice Department has not yet made public the charges against Trump. However, U.S. media have advanced that the indictment consists of seven charges, including conspiracy to obstruct justice and willfully retaining national security documents. Trump received the news of his indictment on Thursday at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, in “disbelief and sadness,” according to sources close to him.
After leaving the White House, Trump has taken refuge at his extravagant Mar-a-Lago mansion, where he remained for weeks during the aftermath of the Capitol riot on January 6, 2021. It remains to be seen if his indictment in New York will alter his prospects of gaining the Republican nomination to attempt a return to the Oval Office in the 2024 presidential race. Trump has led the polls among Republican voters as the preferred candidate for his party’s nomination with double-digit percentage differences over his most direct competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. How this new judicial setback will affect his aspirations is now the big question.
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