Jun 13, 2023, 9:41pm EDT
politicsNorth America

A defiant Trump bemoans ‘evil’ charges in Bedminster speech

Former U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks following his arraignment on classified document charges, at Trump National Golf Club, in Bedminster, New Jersey, U.S., June 13, 2023.
REUTERS/Amr Alfiky

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The Scene

BEDMINSTER, NJ — Hours after his arraignment in Miami, former President Donald Trump arrived at his home in Bedminster to a crowd of his most fervent supporters. There, in front of a clubhouse overlooking the private club’s golf course, Trump maintained his complete innocence in a roughly 30-minute speech while bemoaning the serious charges against him.

“This is one of the most outrageous and vicious legal theories ever put forward in an American court of law,” Trump said, taking particular aim at the Espionage Act charge he faces. “The Espionage Act has been used to go after traitors and spies, and has nothing to do with a former president legally keeping his own documents.”

The indictment alleges that Trump held onto and mishandled government records, not just personal papers.

Trump also sought to make the case that Democrats, including former President Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, and current President Joe Biden have committed more egregious misdeeds with classified information, though experts have said those cases aren’t comparable to Trump’s. Throughout his speech, Trump described the charges against him as “political interference,” “fake and fabricated,” and “evil and heinous.”

“I’m not the one who thinks I’m above the law. I’m the one that followed the law,” Trump declared.

Attendees included MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, who bashed the RNC’s push to promote ballot harvesting. He told reporters ahead of Trump’s speech that he’s spoken with the former president — who in recent months has begun promoting the very efforts that he slapped down during the 2020 election — and advised him that the newfound effort was “wrong.” Pastor Robert Jeffress, conservative commentator Sebastian Gorka, and former Trump official Kash Patel also attended.

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Step Back

Hours before his speech, Trump was in Miami, where he pleaded not guilty to the 37 charges against him in the classified documents case — before greeting supporters at a Cuban restaurant. He arrived with his usual entourage of aides and senior advisors — including Walt Nauta, a personal aide charged alongside his boss.

Tuesday’s arraignment was Trump’s second this year: In April, the former president was indicted in Manhattan over his alleged role in giving "hush money" to adult film actress Stormy Daniels prior to the 2016 election.

Publicly, Trump has handled both indictments similarly: With loud protestations of innocence and allegations that the cases brought against him are politically motivated. His presidential campaign has sought to fundraise off of his legal troubles, and so far, neither case has affected his political standing in the Republican primary.

According to the latest indictment, Trump stored several boxes of sensitive documents at unsecured locations within his Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida, including a shower and bathroom at the club. Many of these documents contained information relating to nuclear weapon capabilities and military plans in response to a foreign attack, prosecutors alleged.

On at least two occasions, Trump reportedly showed some of these documents to people who did not have proper clearance, with Trump admitting that he had not declassified the files. His former attorneys also allege that he had pushed for some of those documents to be concealed or destroyed after they were subpoenaed by a grand jury.