A grim Donald J. Trump leaned back from the defendant’s table inside a jammed 13th-floor courtroom in Miami on Tuesday, jaw set, arms crossed, his back muscles tensing visibly under his dark suit jacket.
About 20 feet away, in the second row of the visitors’ gallery, was Jack Smith, the special counsel who had put him there, alert and poker-faced. Smith looked on as three Justice Department lawyers under his supervision offered Trump a bond agreement to release him on his own recognizance, without bail, which was respectful and accommodating, but profoundly humbling.
After a 50-minute courtroom encounter unlike any other in the country’s history, Trump exited by a side door recessed in dark wood panelling, but not before allowing himself a curious peek over his shoulder at the 40 or so reporters crammed into the room.
About a minute later, Smith and his team walked to the opposite side of the room and left wordlessly. He did not look back.
The first-ever arraignment of a former President on federal charges coincided with the first public encounter between the two men, Trump and Smith, at the centre of the Mar-a-Lago documents case. The two did not say a word to each other. But these most dissimilar of adversaries are locked in a legal battle with immense political and legal implications for a polarized nation.
One of Trump’s lawyers is a key witness. Some of the most potentially damning evidence against the former president came from notes made by one of his lawyers, M. Evan Corcoran. The lawyer’s notes essentially gave prosecutors a road map to building their case.
Trump’s body language in the courtroom suggested he understood the gravity of the situation. A former President who thrives on being in control seemed uncomfortable with having so little as a defendant. Trump, who has denounced his indictment as a witch hunt and called Smith a “thug”, did not say a word at the hearing. Nor did the magistrate judge, Jonathan Goodman, ask him a single question.
Trump has promised to have more to say later. Several of his political aides were seen outside the courthouse mixing with a small but vocal group of supporters, who were shouting their support.
New York Times News Service