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What happens during and after Trump's arraignment?

To go from trial to arraignment could take months — if not over a year — as both sides prepare for a drawn-out legal battle.
What happens during and after Trump’s arraignment?
Posted at 10:36 AM, Jun 12, 2023

Former President Donald Trump is expected to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon before a federal magistrate judge in Miami on Tuesday after receiving a 37-count indictment on Friday. 

Trump's charges stem from an investigation involving how the former president handled classified and top-secret documents after leaving the White House in January 2021.

What is Trump being charged with?

Trump is facing 37 criminal counts, according to the indictment:

31 counts - Willful retention of national defense information

1 count - Conspiracy to obstruct justice

1 count - Withholding a document or record

1 count - Corruptly concealing a document or record

1 count - Concealing a document in a federal investigation

1 count - Scheme to conceal

1 count - False statements and representations 

The first 35 counts carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. 

SEE MORE: John Bolton: Trump acquittal would be 'corrosive' to national security

When is Trump's arraignment?

As of midday Monday, it is not official exactly what time Trump will be arraigned on Tuesday. The former president previously said his arraignment will be at 3 p.m. ET.

There are some questions on whether Trump's arraignment can even be held on Tuesday. Trump's attorneys Jim Trusty and John Rowley left Trump's defense on Friday, and there are pro hac vice considerations, meaning Trump may need to add local counsel to his defense. It is unclear whether Trump has been able to find representation from the Miami area in time for Tuesday's arraignment. It's also unclear whether the judge will require local representation for the case to move forward.

What is an arraignment?

The arraignment is the initial hearing, generally scheduled on the same day, or within a few days, of formal charges being filed. The defendant is presented with the charges and is informed of their rights. 

The judge also decides at arraignment whether the defendant should be held in prison or released before trial. Defendants are also asked whether they plead guilty or not guilty. Given Trump has said the case before him is a "witch hunt," it is expected he'll enter a not-guilty plea.

There are 94 district courts around the U.S. Generally the defendant will be tried in the district where the alleged crimes are committed. In Trump's case, he is being tried in South Florida because the crimes allegedly took place at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

SEE MORE: Here's what will happen when Trump appears in court Tuesday

What happens after the arraignment?

Trump is expected to address supporters Tuesday evening from his Mar-a-Lago resort. He is also expected to continue campaigning for the Republican Party's 2024 presidential nomination. 

An actual trial likely would not begin for some time, possibly in the heat of the 2024 election. 

In federal cases, courts often hold a preliminary hearing. The federal courts consider these as "mini-trials." In preliminary hearings, the judge is expected to rule if there is probable cause that a defendant committed a crime. If the judge believes there is not enough evidence to establish probable cause, the judge can throw out the case.

Between the arraignment and the trial, the prosecution and defense will undergo the discovery phase. During this time, both sides are expected to gather evidence and find witnesses. 

Prosecutors are required to give the defense information about the evidence it intends to use in the trial. The prosecution is also expected to hand over exculpatory evidence, which can include materials the prosecution finds that might help the defense. 

Before the trial, the two sides can enter motions, such as a motion to suppress certain evidence collected. The two sides could also request a change of venue. 

Often, cases end with the defendant pleading guilty as part of a plea bargain. In these cases, a prosecutor may agree not to recommend enhanced charges to a crime. But the judge has the final say on the defendant's sentence.

Can Trump still run for president?

The short answer is yes, however, there are some caveats. 

For one, a potential trial could come during the midst of the 2024 election. That could make campaigning a challenge. Another is the judge could put travel restrictions on Trump, such as requiring he remains in Florida while he awaits trial. 

As far as whether he could serve as president again, the answer seems to be yes. The Constitution states that a person must be 35 years of age, a natural-born citizen and a resident of the U.S. for at least 14 years. The Constitution also stipulates that a person cannot be elected if that person has already served the majority of two terms in office. 

Read the indictment

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