Trump’s ‘Very Sad Day For America’ Went About as Expected

Donald Trump showed no expression as he walked up the stairs to his Boeing 757 in New Jersey Thursday for a short flight to Washington, where he appeared in court on federal charges that he tried to steal the 2020 election.

(Bloomberg) — Donald Trump showed no expression as he walked up the stairs to his Boeing 757 in New Jersey Thursday for a short flight to Washington, where he appeared in court on federal charges that he tried to steal the 2020 election.

Media coverage was intense as it’s the first time a former president has been charged with crimes allegedly committed while he was in office. Cable news outlets were broadcasting live as Trump Force One touched down at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, just over an hour before the start of the 4 p.m. arraignment. 

A motorcade of black SUVs then relayed him to Washington’s federal court, across the street from the Capitol building where the Jan. 6, 2021, attack by thousands of Trump’s supporters had unfolded. Smatterings of flag-waving Trump supporters appeared to be vastly outnumbered by law enforcement.

The former president was processed much like any other criminal defendant with the US Marshals Service taking his fingerprints and personal information. He didn’t have a mug shot taken however.

As Trump entered the building, his legal spokeswoman Alina Habba stepped in front of television cameras to say it was “not a coincidence” that Trump was facing his third criminal indictment in five months. She claimed the cases are the work of President Joe Biden’s “lawfare” against his biggest rival.

About 110 people — including members of the press and public, law enforcement officers, law clerks, and court staff — began filling the courtroom of US Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya more than an hour before the hearing was scheduled to start. The spectators included some of the judge’s own family. In a rarely seen occurrence, several local district judges and Washington’s chief federal judge, James Boasberg also attended the hearing, observing from the back row. 

Many other members of the press and the public viewed the proceedings from overflow rooms elsewhere in the courthouse where a live feed was provided on video monitors. Many sat in lines overnight outside the courthouse, including a 22-year-old man who held a spot for the Associated Press. He returned later to get his own spot.

Special Counsel Jack Smith entered the courtroom with his team about 15 minutes before the hearing was set to begin, prompting chatter from spectators to fall to a whisper. Trump — wearing a blue suit and red tie with a flag pin — walked in a few minutes later from a private area, having avoided the public hallway. Smith and Trump sat about 20 feet (6 meters) apart. 

At one point Trump looked around the room and mouthed the word “hi,” though it wasn’t clear who he was greeting. About a half dozen Secret Service agents stood in a line behind the former president, who seated himself between two of his lawyers. He casually chatted with one of them while looking at papers on the table. At one point the former president whispered something that made his lawyer laugh.

Smith, whose investigation led to an earlier indictment of Trump for retaining classified records and obstructing government efforts to get them back, looked in Trump’s direction more than once. The men didn’t appear to make eye contact or acknowledge each other.

Trump has railed against Smith on his social media site calling the special counsel “deranged” on multiple occasions.

Upadhyaya entered the courtroom about 20 minutes late and greeted Trump and his lawyers. The former president stood and raised his right hand to be sworn in. Asked if he intended to answer all questions truthfully during the hearing, Trump said, “I do.”

Read more: Trump Pleads Not Guilty to Charges of Obstructing Election

At the judge’s request, Trump then stated his full name — Donald J. Trump — and his age, 77. The judge asked Trump standard questions that most defendants hear during an arraignment, including whether he had taken any medications that would make it difficult to understand the proceedings. “No,” Trump said.

The judge then read out the counts as well as the maximum penalties Trump faces. The former president at times leaned forward at the table and appeared to pay close attention. The judge also advised Trump of his right to remain silent.

Trump formally entered his plea at 4:25 p.m., doing so himself even though the judge said Trump’s lawyer could do it for him.

“Not guilty,” Trump said.

As expected, Smith’s lawyers didn’t seek to have Trump detained. The judge warned Trump against committing any crimes and not to communicate about the case with any witnesses except through his attorneys. Any violations could result in Trump being jailed pending trial, she warned. Trump said “yes” when asked if he was prepared to comply with the conditions.

Trump’s motorcade then drove him back back to the airport through the rain, as broadcast by TV crews that followed him the entire way. On the tarmac, Trump stepped out of his SUV and stood under a waiting umbrella held by his valet, Waltine “Walt” Nauta — his co-defendant in the classified records case who is accused of helping Trump try to hide records sought by the government.

Trump made a brief public comment before getting back on his plane. The former president criticized the appearance of Washington, saying the city had become marked by graffiti, “filth” and empty buildings since he left office. He then repeated his allegation that the the case was politically motivated.

“This is a very sad day for America,” Trump said.

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