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Trump to appear in court in Miami after being indicted over classified documents


Law enforcement authorities are preparing for whatever happens inside and outside a courthouse in Miami today.


Former President Trump is to surrender, facing 37 charges relating to mishandling secrets. Photos show cartons of documents stored in a bathroom and a ballroom in his Florida residence, and the indictment says some papers contain defense and nuclear information. But Trump supporters have talked of protests and even violence.

FADEL: The Justice Department leads the prosecution and plays a role in keeping order, and NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson covers them. Good morning, Carrie.


FADEL: So we've never had a former president be prosecuted by the U.S. Justice Department. What kind of preparations are underway?

JOHNSON: You know, this is all happening in the backdrop of the assault on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, and law enforcement really wants to avoid a repeat of what happened that day. There's already been a lot of angry rhetoric coming from the former president and some of his supporters, including current members of Congress. And there's been a lot going on behind the scenes, security-wise, involving the Secret Service, the U.S. marshals and local police in Miami, too. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez says there are going to be extra police and EMS on the scene today with even more first responders standing by. He says he wants people who might show up to support Trump to be peaceful today.

FADEL: Yeah. And as you mentioned, there's been a lot of angry rhetoric from former President Trump and his supporters. And the former president has spent the last few days making himself out to be a victim, claiming he's being targeted by prosecutors because he's running for president again. How is the Justice Department responding to that?

JOHNSON: The special counsel, Jack Smith, said last week, we have one set of laws in this country and they apply to everyone. Today, the former president is going to show up at the courthouse for processing, like, in many ways, other criminal defendants. Normally, that would involve fingerprints, a mug shot and other steps. It's not clear whether Trump will be handcuffed. He was not in New York City earlier this year when he faced state charges in Manhattan over those hush money payments to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

FADEL: OK, so that's all what happens before Trump gets into the federal courtroom. What do you expect out of this initial court appearance today?

JOHNSON: These are really short hearings. Typically, Trump and his aide, Walt Nauta, can ask to have the charges against them read by the magistrate judge, or they can waive that step. They may be asked if they want to enter a plea. Presumably, that would be not guilty. And they may be asked to turn over their passports. They may have to check in with court supervision while the case proceeds and agree to certain travel restrictions. Since Donald Trump is involved in a presidential campaign, the magistrate judge will want to be mindful of that, too.

FADEL: So much is historic, unprecedented, unusual about this case. The Justice Department signaled last week it wants to have a speedy trial. Is that wishful thinking in a case like this one? How speedy can it be?

JOHNSON: You know, in some ways, it's up to the defendant, Donald Trump. The special counsel says he wants a speedy trial. That could happen within 70 days, but that would be well ahead of the presidential primary season - what the Justice Department wants. The defense could lodge a number of hurdles and complications. This case involves a lot of classified documents. Do Trump's lawyers have security clearances to see them? Will Trump make arguments about wanting to use all of those papers in the courtroom? And will he make other pretrial motions for things like selective prosecution? All those things could delay a trial by months, and that could be the strategy of Trump's team - to delay until after the election if they can get a judge to agree.

FADEL: NPR's Carrie Johnson, thank you.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel
Leila Fadel is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Carrie Johnson
Carrie Johnson is NPR's National Justice Correspondent.