Former President Donald Trump Claims Indictment is ‘Persecution,’ Says it is a ‘Sad Day for America’

Former President Donald Trump proclaimed his arraignment on federal charges Thursday was a “sad day” for America before boarding his plane to head back to New Jersey following his court appearance in Washington, D.C.

Trump departed Washington immediately after his arraignment in federal court, where he pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, defraud the United States, and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, as well as a conspiracy against rights. 

In a statement, Trump criticized the state of Washington, D.C., which he said was filled with broken buildings and graffiti, and the weaponization of the Justice Department against a political opponent. 

“This was never supposed to happen in America. This is the persecution of the person that’s leading by very, very substantial numbers in the Republican primary and leading Biden by a lot, so if you can’t beat him, you persecute him, or you prosecute him. We can’t let this happen in America.”

Unlike his previous arraignments, the former president’s statement before boarding his plane was the only public remark he was expected to make Thursday. Following his Florida and New York arraignments, Trump gave speeches to a crowd of supporters that evening criticizing the charges and launching into other issues he often brings up during rallies and speeches. 

Trump has repeatedly accused the Biden administration of a weaponized justice system amid his mounting legal battles. The arraignment Thursday deals with the accusations Trump tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election and the January 6 incident at the U.S. Capitol.

Indictment marks the second time Trump has been charged with a crime by Jack Smith

The indictment marks the second time the former president has been charged with a crime by Jack Smith, the special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland. The other case related to his alleged mishandling and withholding of classified documents upon leaving office included 37 felony counts.

Trump is also facing charges from local New York prosecutor, who have accused him of falsifying business records in connection to an alleged hush money payment to porn star and stripper Stormy Daniels. 

The next hearing in the 2020 election conspiracy case has been set for August 28, only days after the first debate for the 2024 GOP presidential primary. It is not yet known if Trump will participate.

The hearing, set for the end of the month, will be the first one before U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will oversee the case. Trump pleaded not guilty Thursday before a magistrate judge, Moxila Upadhyaya. 

Upadhyaya said Chutkan is willing to waive Trump’s appearance at the hearing so he is not required to attend. The judge is expected to set a trial date then.