Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Trump’s Miami court date brings fears of violence, rally plans

Trump’s Miami court date brings fears of violence, rally plans

MIAMI — Federal and local authorities on Sunday amped up security preparations ahead of Donald Trump’s first appearance in federal court on criminal charges here, monitoring online threats and potential gatherings of far-right extremists while marshaling more police officers to be on duty.

Escalating violent rhetoric in online forums, coupled with defiant statements from the former president and his political allies, have put law enforcement officials on alert for potential disruptions ahead of Trump’s court appearance. He is facing a 37-count federal indictment, 31 of which allege he willfully kept classified documents in his possession after leaving the White House.

Authorities were monitoring plans for pro-Trump rallies in Miami, including one outside the federal courthouse on Tuesday purportedly organized by a local chapter of the Proud Boys, a far-right extremist group, some leaders of which were found guilty of seditious conspiracy in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The case, filed by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, marks the first time a former president has been indicted on federal charges. Though Trump — who leads the Republican field in early polling for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination — was arraigned in a New York court in April on state charges of falsifying business records, legal experts said the federal charges pose a more serious legal threat and carry potentially stiffer punishments if he is found guilty.

Trump is scheduled to fly from his golf resort in Bedminster, N.J., to Miami on Monday, campaign aides said. A federal official, however, said the U.S. Secret Service, which maintains protection for former presidents, was pushing for Trump to make the trip early Tuesday. The travel plans were not finalized as of Sunday afternoon, the official said.

Aides declined to comment on whether Trump has meetings planned with his legal team ahead of the court appearance. Todd Blanche, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer, recently rejoined the former president’s legal team.

Trump is scheduled to make public remarks in Bedminster on Tuesday night, aides said. He similarly used a speech at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida to denounce Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who filed the New York state charges, on the evening after his appearance in the New York City courtroom.

Trump, during a radio interview with longtime adviser Roger Stone on Sunday afternoon, repeated his call for protests. For his part, Stone — who helped mobilize the protest movement that drew thousands to the nation’s capital on Jan. 6, 2021 — encouraged demonstrators to remain peaceful, civil and legal.

But Trump’s supporters have at times alluded to potential violence — including Kari Lake, a Republican from Arizona, who has planned a rally in support of Trump at a hotel in Palm Beach, Fla., on Monday night. During a conference of Georgia Republicans on Saturday, Lake suggested Trump’s prosecution could be met with violence, noting that she and other supporters are members of the National Rifle Association.

“If you want to get to President Trump, you’re going to have to go through me, and you’re going to have to go through 75 million Americans just like me,” Lake said, drawing roaring cheers and a standing ovation. Earlier in her speech, she called the indictment “illegitimate” and told the audience, “We’re at war, people — we’re at war.”

Trump stares down criminal jeopardy with bluffs and bluster

Trump’s hard-line GOP allies, including Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (Ohio), on Sunday cast the federal prosecution as politically motivated, echoing the former president who has called it a “witch hunt” aimed at curtailing his bid to return to office. But others, including one prominent former Trump administration aide, called the charges laid out by federal prosecutors exceedingly incriminating.

“If even half of it is true, he’s toast,” William P. Barr, who served as attorney general in the Trump administration, said on “Fox News Sunday.” “It is a very detailed indictment and it’s very, very damning.”

On the same show, Trump attorney Alina Habba — who is not representing him in the classified documents case — said that Trump and his legal advisers would make a determination soon about whether to push for a speedy trial. She said there was no chance he would seek a plea deal.

“I could never imagine — I know I would never advise that, especially when he’s not done anything wrong,” Habba said.

On June 11, lawmakers and officials, including former attorney general William P. Barr, reacted to former president Donald Trump’s federal indictment. (Video: The Washington Post)

Aides to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), another GOP presidential contender, did not respond Sunday to requests for comment about his plans ahead of Trump’s arrival in the state.

Early Sunday afternoon, the plaza around the courthouse in downtown Miami was relatively quiet. Television camera crews, camped out for days, passed the time in lawn chairs. There was hardly a visible security presence, and no local police or federal officers appeared to be patrolling.

The expectation among local officials, however, is that Monday morning will bring a significant presence of security personnel to the area.

Miami officials barred police officers from taking Tuesday off and instructed plainclothes detectives to wear their uniforms in case they needed to be deployed, according to emails obtained by The Washington Post.

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

Local police also were monitoring social media calls for rallies centered around Trump’s arrival and court appearance. A Miami-Dade police Homeland Security Bureau advisory to other agencies notes a “flag waving” rally at noon Monday outside the Trump National Doral resort, in anticipation of the former president possibly arriving at the property.

The advisory viewed by The Post cites a tweet by right-wing provocateur Laura Loomer. She also tweeted an announcement about a “peaceful rally” at noon Tuesday outside the Miami federal courthouse and urged people to bring their pro-Trump shirts, hats and signs; bullhorns; and “love” for the ex-president.

Another police advisory, citing a Telegram chat post, noted a rally Tuesday morning outside the federal courthouse in Miami purportedly organized by the Vice City Proud Boys, a Miami chapter of the Proud Boys.

In conspiracy-theory-fueled online forums where support for Trump runs high, anger over the indictment cropped up among anti-LGBTQ+ posts, book-banning campaigns and eulogies for “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, who died Saturday.

Mainstream Trump supporters, as well as far-right movements such as the Proud Boys, said they regard the charges as a liberal plot to pave the way for a broader crackdown on conservatives. “You’re next,” read a post in a public forum for Proud Boys supporters.

Jacob Ware, an extremism researcher at the Council on Foreign Relations, likens the widespread embrace of such positions to a “mass radicalization.”

“Donald Trump still retains that ability to bring all of these disparate groups on the violent far right together,” Ware said. “He remains the most important factor.”

As typically happens after a flash point involving Trump, violent political rhetoric surged on right-wing social media and podcasts, with commentators accusing Democrats and the federal government of “unconstitutional” actions that must be stopped.

Still, calls for street action were scarce, and no nationally coordinated response appeared to emerge over the weekend from Trump’s fragmented base.

On Sunday, outside the federal courthouse, a helicopter briefly hovered overhead. But in the relative calmness, several wild roosters and hens wandered the property, some with clusters of chicks in tow.

Nakamura and Allam reported from Washington and Arnsdorf from Columbus, Ga. Hannah Knowles in Greensboro, N.C., and Carol D. Leonnig, David Ovalle and Amy B Wang in Washington contributed to this report.

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