Now that former President Donald J. Trump has entered a plea of not guilty at his arraignment in Miami, the criminal case against him will, barring an unforeseen event, settle into a traditional trajectory.
The case against Mr. Trump, accusing him of illegally retaining national defense documents and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them, is the first time that federal charges have been filed against a former president. But the case’s passage through the legal system should, with any luck, proceed like other criminal matters, if against the backdrop of the political calendar.
The only date set so far for a further step is a hearing on June 27 at which Mr. Trump’s co-defendant and personal aide, Walt Nauta, will enter his plea. A spokesman for Mr. Trump, Steven Cheung, said he was unsure whether Mr. Nauta and Mr. Trump have a joint defense agreement.
The parties will begin a slow but steady rhythm of status conferences, meeting every couple of months in court as the government starts to provide evidence to the defense through what is known as the discovery process. That evidence will help Mr. Trump’s lawyers decide what motions they plan to file in attacking the charges against him.
Mr. Trump will also have to finalize the members of his legal team. To that end, he met privately with a handful of Florida-based lawyers at his club in Miami, Doral, on Monday night, according to a person close to him who was not authorized to speak publicly about the efforts to remake his legal team. Mr. Trump found himself needing additional lawyers after the two who had taken lead on the documents case, James Trusty and John Rowley, resigned the day after the charges were filed.
The meetings were said to have gone well, but it remained unclear whether any of the lawyers he interviewed would be hired. Mr. Trump’s advisers are hoping to avoid rushing into a situation of quickly hiring someone who may not gel with the client and with his other lawyers. Nearly a half-dozen lawyers were interviewed, according to one person familiar with the discussions.
For now, Mr. Trump will lean heavily on the New York lawyer who appeared with him at the arraignment, Todd Blanche. Mr. Blanche is also defending Mr. Trump against criminal charges in state court in Manhattan stemming from a hush-money payment to a porn star.
It is unclear what role another lawyer who stood beside him, Christopher M. Kise, will have as the case goes forward. Mr. Kise was initially hired to handle a legal fight over imposing an outside arbiter to review reams of government records seized last summer during an F.B.I. search of Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s private club and residence in Florida.
In a brief interview after the court appearance, Mr. Kise, a former Florida solicitor general, rejected reports that Mr. Trump had struggled to find lawyers interested in working on the case.
“Contrary to the recent reporting, President Trump has a number of very good options that he’s considering and will take his time to make an informed decision,” Mr. Kise said. “There are a number of excellent lawyers that are not only willing, but very interested in working with him on this case.”
Mr. Kise said his own job was “to provide advice and counsel to my client.”
The one unusual aspect of Mr. Trump’s case will be its pacing.
Prosecutors working for the special counsel Jack Smith will most likely seek to drive the case forward quickly, all too aware that the prosecution is playing out as Mr. Trump pursues his presidential campaign. Mr. Trump’s lawyers will surely try to slow the case down, perhaps with an eye toward dragging it out until after the 2024 election. That has been Mr. Trump’s M.O. in nearly ever legal case he has faced over the years, and this one is not likely to be an exception.
Mr. Trump is expected to continue with a fairly steady stream of political events in the coming months, although the needs of the court calendar in the Florida case will in some ways dictate his actions. Unlike when Mr. Trump chose to opt out of personally appearing at the civil rape and defamation trial brought against him in New York by the writer E. Jean Carroll, he is unlikely to be permitted the same flexibility by the federal judge who hears his criminal case in Florida.
At this point, it remains unclear whether Mr. Trump will attend the first Republican primary debate, which is scheduled for Aug. 23 in Milwaukee.
But if he does show up, he will almost certainly be pressed about his indictments — not only by the moderators but also by the other candidates. Mr. Trump is also facing the prospect of charges concerning election interference from the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., and from Mr. Smith concerning similar efforts to thwart the transfer of power after he lost the 2020 election.
Alan Feuer covers extremism and political violence. He joined The Times in 1999. @alanfeuer
Maggie Haberman is a senior political correspondent and the author of “Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America.” She was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2018 for reporting on President Trump’s advisers and their connections to Russia. @maggieNYT
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