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    Saturday, September 30, 2023

    With Trump indicted, officials prepare for a tempest: His court appearance

    People walk outside the C. Clyde Atkins Federal Courthouse building in Miami, Friday, June 9, 2023. Former President Donald Trump’s historic criminal case on felony charges of mishandling classified documents is set to likely unfold in Florida. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)
    Miami police talk to a member of the news media about where they can set up their tents in front of the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. federal courthouse building in Miami, Friday, June 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

    For the second time this year, Donald Trump has been indicted, and a major American city is preparing to host an event fraught with political and logistical complications: a former president appearing in court to face criminal charges.

    Trump faces dozens of counts in connection with keeping hundreds of classified documents after leaving the White House. The indictment in the case, filed in South Florida, accuses Trump of conspiring to obstruct justice; he has denied wrongdoing. Walt Nauta, an aide to Trump, was also charged.

    Both men have been summoned to make their initial appearances on Tuesday afternoon at the federal courthouse in downtown Miami.

    Much like when Trump traveled to a Manhattan courtroom in April to face felony charges brought there, the Miami proceedings are likely to produce a media circus, along with extensive security measures and possible demonstrations.

    Since news of the indictment broke, law enforcement officials have started assessing plans for how to get Trump in and out of the courthouse on Tuesday and are preparing to have additional police officers ready for deployment.

    An advance team of Secret Service agents began meeting Friday morning with federal court marshals and Miami police officials to assess how to create a security bubble around Trump.

    The Secret Service faced a similar challenge because of Trump's indictment in Manhattan on charges related to a 2016 payment to Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who alleged she had an affair with Trump years earlier. He pleaded not guilty in that case.

    Before he was indicted in New York, Trump had called for protests against the possibility of him facing charges, exhortations that paralleled his similar rhetoric before his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in January 2021.

    On the day of his court appearance in Manhattan, though, the scene outside was a surreal spectacle, with a horde of journalists joined by Trump supporters, protesters and curious observers. His presence required a raft of security measures, including shutting down the courthouse for a time so the Secret Service could make sure it was safe, closing a major roadway to enable his travel and postponing some routine court appearances to limit the number of people present.

    Soon after, Trump was the defendant in a civil case brought in New York City by E. Jean Carroll, an author who accused him of sexually assaulting and defaming her. The jury found Trump liable on both claims, awarding Carroll $5 million in damages; he is appealing.

    Trump never testified or appeared in court during that trial, and one of his defense attorneys told the judge beforehand that any court appearance by Trump would have created significant "logistical and financial burdens," among them the need for "a tactical plan" created by the Secret Service.

    Secret Service officials expect that orchestrating Trump's appearance at the Wilkie D. Ferguson Jr. Courthouse in Miami on federal charges should be far easier than preparing for his Manhattan arraignment, according to a law enforcement official familiar with the planning who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss planning.

    Miami's downtown is host to a less intense degree of car and pedestrian traffic than the Lower Manhattan neighborhood where Trump was arraigned in April, which could reduce some of the impact on local residents and commuters. And on top of aesthetic differences between the two locations - the Manhattan court is a grungy building facing a concrete park, while the Miami one is a gleaming facility surrounded by palm trees - the earlier arraignment was held in state court, while the appearance next week will be in a federal courthouse, and those tend to have stricter restrictions on public access.

    Trump's Secret Service security detail tentatively plans to fly him to Mar-a-Lago, his private club and home in Palm Beach, on Monday evening, the law enforcement official said. His security detail was still working Friday on a specific plan for how to get him to Miami on Tuesday for the court appearance. Mar-a-Lago is nearly 70 miles north of the courthouse, and Secret Service officials have raised concerns about driving him there and back in a secure motorcade.

    Secret Service officials are also concerned about whether Trump might seek to address the public at the courthouse, which the agency hopes to discourage, viewing it as too dangerous. After his Manhattan arraignment, Trump left New York, returned to Mar-a-Lago and delivered a speech denouncing that case.

    Local police departments in South Florida appeared to have been caught off guard by news of Trump's indictment and, on Friday, were scrambling to organize security arrangements.

    Miami officials have experience planning for high-profile events that draw large numbers into the city's downtown. Hours after Trump's indictment was unsealed, the city was preparing to host an NBA Finals game between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets only minutes away from the federal courthouse.

    But for Trump's indictment, they are preparing for both his court appearance and any unrest that could follow it.

    The Miami-Dade Police Department's Homeland Security Bureau issued a bulletin on Friday to law enforcement officials identifying a Facebook post that advertised a "Trump Document Hoax Rally" for outside the federal courthouse on Tuesday. This bulletin, which was seen by The Washington Post, said that about 50 people are expected to attend, but notes that the number could grow as word spread on social media. (The city of Miami has its own police force, while Miami-Dade County has a police force with jurisdiction countywide.)

    Local authorities were preparing to have extra police officers available on Tuesday. On Friday, the city of Miami announced in an internal email obtained by The Post that no officers or civilian public service aides - who are often tasked with handling traffic-control duties - would be allowed time off on Tuesday, an indication that the department wanted additional staff on hand that day.

    Miami police detectives who normally wear dress clothes were also asked to wear their regular department uniforms on Tuesday, in case they need to be deployed to the streets. And the Miami Police Department was also drafting plans to assign officers to standby response teams that can be quickly dispatched to any disturbances, according to a law enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss planning.

    In a statement, Manuel Morales, the Miami police chief, pledged to "work cohesively with our local, state, and federal partners" however they are needed.

    "We're committed to protecting everyone's first amendment right and will continue to serve our residents, business owners, and visitors while maintaining the safety of our community," Morales said.

    Even after the court appearance on Tuesday, Trump could still face other legal problems - and another city could face these same logistical hurdles.

    The Atlanta-area district attorney is investigating Trump and his allies over efforts to overturn President Biden's victory in that state during the 2020 presidential election.

    Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, has said she plans to announce any potential criminal indictments in the case over the summer. In a letter to law enforcement officials, Willis said there was a "need for heightened security and preparedness" as a result.

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    Jacobs reported from Miami. The Washington Post's Jess Swanson in Miami and Emily Wax in Washington contributed to this report.

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