Now that former President Donald J. Trump has entered a not guilty plea to his Miami arraignment, the criminal case against him, barring an unforeseen event, will stabilize into a traditional trajectory.
The case against Trump, which accuses him of illegally withholding national defense documents and obstructing government efforts to recover them, is the first time federal charges have been filed against a former president. But the passage of the case through the legal system should, with any luck, proceed like other criminal matters, if against the backdrop of the political calendar.
The only date set so far for one step further is a hearing on June 27 in which co-defendant and Trump personal aide Walt Nauta will deliver his statement. A spokesman for Mr Trump, Steven Cheung, said he was not sure whether Mr Nauta and Mr Trump have a joint defense agreement.
The parties will begin a slow but steady pace of status conferences, meeting every two months in court as the government begins providing evidence to the defense through what is known as the discovery process. This evidence will help Trump’s lawyers decide which motions they plan to file against the charges against him.
Mr. Trump will also need to finalize the members of his legal team. To that end, he met privately with a handful of Florida-based attorneys at his club in Miami, Doral, on Monday night, according to a person close to him who was not authorized to speak publicly about efforts to remake his legal team. Mr. Trump found himself in need of more lawyers after the two who had taken over the documents case, James Trusty and John Rowley, resigned the day after the charges were filed.
The meetings were said to have gone well, but it was unclear whether any of the lawyers he interviewed would be hired. Mr. Trump’s advisers hope to avoid rushing into a situation of quickly hiring someone who may not agree with the client and his other lawyers. Nearly a half-dozen lawyers were interviewed, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
For now, Mr. Trump will lean heavily on the New York attorney who appeared with him during the indictment, Todd Blanche. Mr. Blanche is also defending Mr. Trump against criminal charges in Manhattan state court stemming from a cash payment to a porn star.
It’s unclear what role another attorney who stood by him, Christopher M. Kise, will play as the case moves forward. Mr. Kise was initially hired to handle a legal wrangle over requiring an outside arbitrator to review reams of government documents seized last summer during an FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence. in Florida.
In a brief interview after the court appearance, Mr. Kise, a former Florida attorney general, dismissed reports that Mr. Trump had struggled to find lawyers interested in working on the case.
“Contrary to recent reports, President Trump has a number of very good options that he is considering and will take his time making an informed decision,” Kise said. « There are a number of excellent lawyers who are not only willing but very interested in working with him on this case. »
Mr Kise said his job was to « provide advice and advice to my client ».
The one unusual aspect of Mr. Trump’s case will be its pace.
Prosecutors working for Special Counsel Jack Smith will most likely try to rush the case forward, all too aware that the prosecution is unfolding as Trump carries on his presidential campaign. Mr. Trump’s lawyers will certainly try to slow the case, perhaps with a view to dragging it out until after the 2024 election. This has been Mr. Trump’s MO in nearly every legal case he has faced over the years, and this is not likely to be an exception.
Trump is expected to continue with a fairly steady stream of political events over the next several months, although the demands of the judicial calendar in the Florida case will somewhat shape his actions. Unlike when Mr. Trump chose to opt out of appearing in person at the New York civil rape and defamation trial brought against him in New York by writer E. Jean Carroll, he is unlikely to be afforded the same flexibility by the federal judge hearing the his criminal trial. case in Florida.
At this point, it’s unclear whether Trump will participate in the first Republican primary debate, scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee.
But if he does show up, he will almost certainly be pressured for his allegations, not just by the moderators but by the other candidates as well. Mr. Trump is also facing the prospect of election interference allegations from the Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney and Mr. Smith regarding similar efforts to thwart the transfer of power after he lost the 2020 election.