Trump Prepares to Make Familiar Trip to Courthouse, This Time in Washington

by Pelican Press
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Former President Donald J. Trump is expected to appear at 4 p.m. on Thursday in the U.S. federal courthouse at the foot of Capitol Hill, the site of a yearslong government effort to hold accountable those who tried to subvert democracy.

Mr. Trump’s appearance before Moxila A. Upadhyaya, a federal magistrate judge appointed by President Biden, comes about six weeks after his arraignment in Miami on charges of mishandling government documents after he left the White House and seeking to block investigators.

His second federal indictment is likely to follow a cadence similar to his first.

The former president will fly down on his private jet from his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. He is expected to arrive around 3 p.m., at the E. Barrett Prettyman courthouse, the venue for dozens of trials stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The U.S. Marshals Service, which is responsible for security inside federal courthouses, will escort him to an area where he will be booked for a third time this year. (He was arraigned in New York in the spring in connection with a hush-money payment to a pornographic actress before the 2016 election.)

The sheriff in Fulton County, Ga., where another potential indictment connected to Mr. Trump’s efforts to undermine the 2020 election looms, has suggested that if Mr. Trump is charged, he will be processed like anybody else, mug shot and all. That will not happen on Thursday: The marshals did not photograph Mr. Trump in Miami, and they will not take his picture in Washington, according to a law enforcement official involved in the planning.

But federal rules dictate that an accused person be reprocessed in each jurisdiction in which he or she faces charges, so Mr. Trump will have to be fingerprinted for a second time using an electronic scanning device. He is also expected to answer a series of intake questions that include personal details, such as his age.

As of late Wednesday, there have been no credible threats of organized efforts to disrupt the proceedings, a senior federal law enforcement official said, although officials expect pro-Trump demonstrations and are on the lookout for individuals or small groups that may act violently.

The level of security, both outside the building and inside, is likely to be among the most intense ever deployed at a federal courthouse, officials said.

Federal law enforcement agencies are coordinating with the city’s Metropolitan Police Department to guard the building and to block off some of the surrounding streets.

And the courtroom itself will be packed with security. Mr. Trump, as always, will be accompanied by his Secret Service detail. The marshals will be present to protect the judge and the special counsel Jack Smith should he attend the hearing, as he did in Miami.

The hearing should be relatively straightforward.

Mr. Trump will be asked to enter a plea — what many anticipate will be not guilty — in response to the four-count indictment unsealed on Tuesday.

Then the government will be asked to present conditions for his release.

In the Florida case, government officials requested no bail and no restrictions on his travel, acknowledging his status as a leading candidate for the 2024 presidential Republican nomination.

There are no indications that they plan to change their request this time.

But there might be a wrinkle or two. In Miami, the magistrate judge, Jonathan Goodman, amended the bond deal reached between the two sides because it did not include restrictions on Mr. Trump’s contact with potential witnesses and his co-defendant Walt Nauta, who continues to work for him in some capacity.

It is possible that Judge Upadhyaya might have a similar issue with some element of Mr. Trump’s new bond agreement, or she might simply hand off the case to the assigned trial judge, Tanya Chutkan, a President Obama appointee.

The Trump side of the courtroom could be more of a wild card.

The former president and his allies have accused Mr. Biden, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and Mr. Smith, without evidence, of conspiring to destroy his chances of re-election by weaponizing federal law enforcement against him. And his team has made it clear that it does not think it can get a fair trial in Washington, an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

One of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, John Lauro, suggested on Wednesday that the trial be moved to a nearby state, with a friendlier and more conservative electorate.

“Well, there’s other options — West Virginia is close by,” he told CBS.

The most consequential decisions, however, will be made in the coming weeks, after Judge Chutkan takes over. District court judges in Washington have been inundated by so many Jan. 6 cases (more than 1,000 people have been charged) that their calendars are often booked for months and, in some cases, more than a year in advance.

Mr. Smith has called for a “speedy trial,” presumably before the election. It remains to be seen if the judge will accommodate that timetable.

Mr. Lauro, speaking to another interviewer on Wednesday, suggested it would be more fair to give Mr. Trump “years” to prepare his defense.

“Why don’t we make it equal?” he told NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. “The bottom line is that they have 60 federal agents working on this, 60 lawyers, all kinds of government personnel. And we get this indictment, and they want to go to trial in 90 days? Does that sound like justice to you?”

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