Supporters gather as Trump attends hearing in Fort Pierce

FORT PIERCE, Fla. — Seeking to turn legal problems into political gain, former President Donald Trump arrived Monday to a crowd of supporters at a federal courthouse in Florida for a closed hearing in the criminal case charging him with mishandling classified documents.

In the latest mixing of court appearances into Trump’s election-season calendar, supporters with signs and flags assembled outside a courthouse barricade. A Trump campaign message to allies with the subject line of “I’m in court. Again!” warned that unspecified opponents “want me arrested” and “erased from the ballot.”

The message underscored anew his team’s strategy of politicizing his four criminal prosecutions, including in the battleground state of Florida, where he faces dozens of felony counts accusing him of hoarding highly classified records at his Mar-a-Lago estate and obstructing FBI efforts to get them back.

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Monday’s court date was scheduled as a procedural hearing, closed to the public, to discuss the procedures for handling classified evidence in the trial currently set for May 20. U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon set arguments in the morning from defense lawyers and in the afternoon from prosecutors, each outside of the other’s presence.

“Defense counsel shall be prepared to discuss their defense theories of the case, in detail, and how any classified information might be relevant or helpful to the defense,” Cannon wrote in scheduling the hearing.

Another sealed hearing is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Tuesday with the special counsel and cleared counsel for Walt Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira. Trump is not required to appear and counsel for Trump are allowed to attend, according to Cannon.

The closed hearings comes as prosecutors have also revealed that a prospective government witness has received threats over social media that are now the subject of federal investigation.

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Trump’s motorcade arrived at the courthouse in Fort Pierce shortly after 9 a.m. Supporters outside held signs with messages including “Trump 2024” and “Florida is Trump Country.”

'Trump 2024 Save America' painted on hood of Nissan outside Fort Pierce federal courthouse, Feb. 12, 2024

James Bailey/WPTV

“Trump 2024 Save America” is printed on the hood of a Nissan parked outside the Alto Lee Adams Sr. United States Courthouse, where former President Donald Trump was attending a hearing, Feb. 12, 2024, in Fort Pierce, Fla.

“He’s got our support and everyone else that’s out here,” Erin Lowry, a Trump supporter, said.

The hearing is one of several voluntary court dates that Trump has attended in recent weeks — he was present, for instance, at appeals court arguments last month in Washington — as he looks to demonstrate to supporters that he intends to fight the criminal prosecutions he faces while also seeking to reclaim the White House this November.

Trump faces charges in Atlanta and Washington related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. He’s also charged in state court in New York in connection with hush money payments made to porn actor Stormy Daniels. He has denied any wrongdoing.

“People call it a witch hunt. What else could it be?” Albert Ruiz, a Trump supporter said. “The guy can spit on the sidewalk and they write him up.”



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