Former President Donald Trump arrived Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Miami to surrender to authorities ahead of a historic court appearance on charges that he illegally hoarded classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
He was expected to face a magistrate judge, kickstarting a legal process that will unfold at the height of the 2024 presidential campaign and carry profound consequences not only for his political future but more urgently for his own personal liberty.
Four black SUVs entered the garage beneath the Miami courthouse, followed by police officers, ahead of his scheduled 3 p.m. appearance. Security remained tight outside the building but there were no signs of significant disruptions. Once inside, he was formally booked, though he was not expected to have a mugshot taken.
Cameras weren’t allowed inside the courthouse, but hundreds of journalists from around the world were gathered outside.
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Reporters from China, the UK, Australia, France, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Germany and Switzerland were among the hundreds of journalists who have converged on the courthouse. Some of them have spent several days camped out in the muggy heat.
The international attention and growing crowds were another sign of the extraordinary nature of the event and the person at the center of it. A criminal defendant like no other, Trump is the first former president to appear before a federal judge on criminal charges. He also is leading the Republican field for the 2024 presidential nomination, and has so far held his status as frontrunner even as he has faced other legal troubles, like a criminal case in New York state.
Security was tight. A yellow-tape police line and about a half-dozen federal police vehicles formed a barricade, keeping people from a palm tree-lined breezeway and the public entrance to the modern, largely glass Wilkie D. Ferguson federal courthouse. A police helicopter passed overhead at times, and about two dozen Miami police officers circled the building’s perimeter on bicycles.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, stopped by the courthouse himself Tuesday. He said the city is ready to handle any protests that occur, and that local law enforcement has experience handling large demonstrations.
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Take a look at the former president’s procession to court… and the liberal reaction to it.
President Trump walking to the courthouse.
Pray for this man. pic.twitter.com/R3u4X4dsid
— I Meme Therefore I Am 🇺🇸 (@ImMeme0) June 13, 2023
BREAKING: The Trump arraignment is moments away as his motorcade arrived at the Miami Courthouse moments ago, as seen in the video below.
This is the first time ever that any former US President has been arraigned in a federal criminal case. It's only the second time a former… pic.twitter.com/W0zx33Rtja
— Brian Krassenstein (@krassenstein) June 13, 2023
ALL EYES ON TRUMP! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/OC0zyE92cd
— Team Trump (Text TRUMP to 88022) (@TeamTrump) June 13, 2023
The scene attracted both pro-Trump protestors and anti-Trump demonstrators.
Dominic Santana, who showed up in the jailhouse uniform complete with handcuffs and a plastic ball and chain, said he “wanted to join the circus.”
Santana came to the U.S. as a child from Cuba and retired in Miami after decades operating an eatery in the New York area. The 61-year-old considers himself a political independent and says his mother and daughter voted for Trump.
“A fellow New Yorker can spot a rat a mile away,” he said. “Frankly, he should’ve been locked up ages ago.”
Among those who arrived early were the father-son duo of Florencio and Kevin Rodriguez, who came to the U.S. fifteen years ago as asylum seekers fleeing dictatorship in Cuba.
Wearing a shirt that reads “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president,” the younger Rodriguez, Kevin, said it is possible that Trump is guilty of illegally retaining classified documents.
But he questioned the fairness of the proceedings in light of what he said was prosecutors’ lax attitude toward President Joe Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton — both of whom have also been accused of mishandling classified intelligence albeit without any intention of hiding their actions.
Madelin Munilla, 67, who came to Miami a child when her parents fled Fidel Castro’s revolution in Cuba, carried a sign with a photo of Biden alongside other leaders such as Castro, comparing the U.S. president with those who had their opposition put in jail.
“This is what they do in Latin America,” she said.
Trump’s defense attorney, Alina Habba, made a similar argument when speaking to the press this afternoon.
“Joe Biden himself retained possession of classified documents and have [sic] not been prosecuted,” Habba said. “The decision to pursue charges against President Trump while turning a blind eye to others is emblematic of the corruption we have here. We are at a turning point in our nation’s history. The targeting, prosecution of a leading political opponent is the type of thing you see in dictatorships like Cuba and Venezuela.”
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Habba was trending on Twitter after this speech.
Take a look —
"The targeting prosecution of a leading political opponent is the type of thing you see in dictatorships like Cuba and Venezuela."
🚨MUST WATCH: Trump attorney Alina Habba speaks outside the Miami courthouse. pic.twitter.com/HZ8xettnQq
— Trump War Room (@TrumpWarRoom) June 13, 2023
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.