Former President Donald Trump pumps fist to supporters before hearing

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FORT PIERCE — Former President Donald Trump was greeted by a familiar sight Thursday when he arrived for his third appearance at hearings in the federal classified-documents case.

About 70 people — with flags, shirts and hats emblazoned with slogans supporting the presumptive Republican presidential nominee — lined up along South Fifth Street behind the Alto Lee Adams Sr. U.S. Courthouse, hoping to catch a glimpse.

What the crowd had to say

It was an early start for some supporters, such as Bob Fix, of Loxahatchee.

“I got up at 3, hit the road at 6,” Fix said. “I ended up getting to Fort Pierce a little after 7.”

The crowd included many of the same faces who have been at Trump’s other court appearances in the Sunrise City, the first of which drew about 200 people in February. The second drew about 50 earlier this month.

“We’ve been with him since 2015,” said Beau Slay, of Fort Pierce, general manager of Moonswiners Bar-B-Q. “As long as he’s fighting, we’re fighting.”

A consistent presence at Trump events across the country since the 2016 campaign has been Maurice Symonette, of Miami, who leads the group Blacks for Trump.

“Black people are no longer blind,” Symonette said. “Blacks and whites must unite behind Trump.”

When Trump arrived at 9:30 a.m., he could be seen through the tinted window of his armored vehicle giving the crowd a thumbs-up and pumping his fist.

Jimmy Jackson, of Virginia, travels the country selling Trump merchandise at events like Thursday’s. He was at the hearing here earlier this month, too.

Tensions mostly stayed low all morning until about 11:45 a.m., when an argument broke out between Trump supporters and someone speaking against Trump.

Later in the afternoon, an altercation occurred that resulted in at least one arrest. Fort Pierce police spokesman Larry Croom said officers made an arrest about 1 p.m. after a minor scuffle between two men. There were no injuries, he said.

Croom said he had not seen the report, so he could not comment on who was arrested.

Trump left the courthouse at 2:50 p.m. and Orange Avenue was reopened to traffic at 3:10 p.m.

Where things stand in the case, the election

Trump’s appearance coincided with his attorneys asking U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon to throw out the 40 felony charges related to keeping and hiding documents with classified designations and alleged obstruction of justice. More than 300 classified documents were recovered from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property in Palm Beach more than a year after he left office, most under subpoena in June 2022 and during an FBI search in August 2022.

Thursday’s hearing ended without a ruling from Cannon on the defense requests. Later that evening, Cannon issued a ruling denying one of the two arguments the defense made.

Other defendants in the case are Walt Nauta, Trump’s valet and bodyguard, and Carlos de Oliveira, property manager at Mar-a-Lago.

Trump also faces 44 charges in three other criminal cases, even after six charges were dismissed Wednesday in a state election-interference case in Georgia.

Trump’s legal team, and the prosecution led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, also are still awaiting word on a potential trial date. That date currently is May 20. However, Cannon appears set to push it back.

Smith’s team had asked for a July 8 date, while Trump’s team wants trial to begin after the November presidential election. In a hearing earlier this month, Cannon called the prosecution’s timeline “unrealistic.”

Trump officially became the presumptive Republican nominee Tuesday after winning enough delegates to have a majority at the party’s convention, July 15-18 in Milwaukee. President Joe Biden became the presumptive Democratic nominee also on Tuesday, in advance of the Democratic convention, Aug. 19-22 in Chicago.

Staff writers Corey Arwood, Laurie K. Blandford, Melissa E. Holsman and Nick Slater contributed to this report.

Wicker Perlis is TCPalm’s Watchdog Reporter for St. Lucie County. You can reach him at wicker.perlis@tcpalm.com and 504-331-0516.


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