1 of 4 | Former President Donald Trump said he will "of course" plead not guilty to charges related to his alleged mishandling of classified documents. File Photo by Gary I Rothstein/UPI | License Photo
June 9 (UPI) -- Former President Donald Trump said he will plead not guilty when he appears before a federal judge in Miami next week to answer to a grand jury indictment alleging he mishandled classified documents after leaving office.
Trump told Fox News Digital on Thursday night that he would "of course" plead not guilty to the charges when he appears in federal court, maintaining that he is "totally innocent."
Trump said he was summoned to appear for arraignment at 3 p.m. Tuesday in Miami, just south of where more than 100 top secret papers were seized last year during a raid at his Palm Beach resort.
He is the first former president in history to face federal criminal charges.
Jim Trusty, Trump's attorney, accused the Justice Department of being "weaponized" against Trump and continued to assert a president's right to declassify government materials before leaving office, saying in an interview with NBC that Trump is facing charges for "something that was never criminal for any other president in history."
"There's no criminal statute within the Presidential Records Act that says it's a violation to possess any of these things -- even the most sensitive documents," Trusty said.
The yet-to-be unsealed indictment is the culmination of a nearly seven-month Justice Department investigation by special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed in November to look into the former president's handling of secret documents that were absconded from the White House during Trump's final days as president.
Trump has said previously that he had the authority, even as the outgoing commander-in-chief, to "automatically" declassify the documents -- a position that many of his supporters have gotten behind.
News of the indictment sparked outrage from Trump's GOP allies as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., accused President Joe Biden of using the Justice Department to topple his main political rival in the 2024 race for the White House.
"Today is indeed a dark day for the United States of America," McCarthy wrote on Twitter, while calling out Biden's own missteps with classified records. "It is unconscionable for a president to indict the leading candidate opposing him. Joe Biden kept classified documents for decades. I, and every American who believes in the rule of law, stand with President Trump against this grave injustice. House Republicans will hold this brazen weaponization of power accountable."
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, also blasted the indictment, calling it a "sad day for America. God Bless President Trump," he tweeted.
Jordan, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday demanding he share information about the search of Trump's resort in August and about Smith's resulting investigation.
"Because you have not provided this information, and in light of your appointment of Jack Smith as special counsel, we write to request an unredacted copy of the memorandum outlining the scope of Mr. Smith's probes regarding President Trump and any supporting documentation related to his appointment as special counsel," Jordan wrote.
"Accordingly, please provide the committee with an unredacted copy of the memorandum outlining the scope of special counsel Smith's investigations pursuant to his appointment on Nov. 18, 2022, and any other document describing, listing or delineating the authority and jurisdiction of the special counsel as soon as possible, but no later than 5 p.m. on June 20, 2023."
Former Vice President Mike Pence, who recently announced his 2024 candidacy for president, has called on Garland to unseal the indictment and address the American people, given the historic nature of events.
"Before the sun sets today, the attorney general of the United States should be standing in front of the American people to unseal this indictment, to provide the American people with the facts and information," Pence said in a radio interview.
Evidence from the special counsel investigation was presented to a federal grand jury in Florida instead of in Washington, where a separate grand jury had been seated to also hear the case, although no other indictments were expected in the matter.
However, Trusty said the Florida grand jury indicated the Justice Department acknowledged it would have "had some venue problems" if the charges were brought in the nation's capital.
Instead, he said, the government was going out of its way to "sanitize" and "repackage, re-market it for consumption down in South Florida."
Trump, meanwhile, has gone on a public offensive, mainly taking aim at Biden in posts to his Truth Social platform.
"The corrupt Biden Administration has informed my attorneys that I have been Indicted, seemingly over the Boxes Hoax," the former president wrote, adding, "I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!"
The indictment comes a week after federal prosecutors received an audio recording of Trump discussing a classified military document he kept with him after he left the White House. Investigators in the case obtained the audio in which Trump acknowledges he knowingly held onto a previously unrevealed classified document.
The recording was taped at Trump's Bedminster, N.J., golf club in July 2021, about six months after his term ended, during a meeting between the former president, two of his aides, and writers of a memoir on former chief of staff Mark Meadows, who was not present.
Trump's voice on the tape suggests he was fully aware the documents had never been declassified, contrary to what the former president has acknowledged publicly about the covert materials.