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  • Former President Donald Trump leaves his Trump National Doral resort in Doral, Fla.Jim Rassol/The Associated Press

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Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges after being formally arraigned for mishandling classified documents and obstructing efforts to get them back, becoming the first former U.S. president in history to face federal indictment.

Mr. Trump entered not guilty pleas to 37 criminal counts in a Miami court on Tuesday afternoon. He did not say anything during a nearly hour-long appearance, with lawyer Todd Blanche speaking on his behalf. He was released with no conditions, so he is free to travel around the country and abroad.

Hundreds of pro-Trump and anti-Trump protesters showed up outside the building but were largely peaceful. The former president gave a thumbs-up from the back of a tinted-window SUV as his 20-vehicle motorcade drove off.

Mr. Trump, who is seeking to reclaim the White House next year, is polling far ahead of other candidates in the Republican presidential nomination race and has vowed to keep running even if criminally convicted.

Tuesday marked the second time in as many months that the former president has been criminally arraigned, after a state-level indictment in Manhattan in April over a hush-money payment to a porn star. He could be hit with even more serious charges in the coming months, depending on the outcome of two investigations into his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Mr. Trump and fellow Republican leaders have repeatedly attacked the independence of the judicial system, and some supporters have threatened armed insurrection, raising the prospect of a trial that will further rend the country’s already yawning political divisions.

In posts on his Truth Social platform, the former president labelled Jack Smith, the special counsel who had him charged, a “Thug” and “Lunatic.” If elected, Mr. Trump vowed to “GO AFTER” President Joe Biden and his family.

“Today, we witnessed the most evil and heinous abuse of power in the history of our country,” Mr. Trump told a fundraiser at his estate in Bedminster, N.J., on Tuesday evening, describing his arrest as “political persecution” by Mr. Biden.

Mr. Smith’s indictment accuses Mr. Trump of taking highly sensitive military secrets to Mar-a-Lago, his Florida estate, after he left office in 2021. The former president allegedly stored documents in a bathroom and other unsecured places, and showed them to people without security clearances.

When the U.S. government asked for them back, the indictment says, Mr. Trump orchestrated a plan to deceive them in order to keep the papers. His valet, Walt Nauta, is charged with helping the scheme.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Trump repeatedly made political hay out of his rival, Hillary Clinton, using a private e-mail server as secretary of state, leading his supporters to chant “lock her up.”

The former president was digitally fingerprinted on his arrest but did not have a mugshot taken and was not handcuffed. There were no cameras allowed in the courtroom. Magistrate Jonathan Goodman presided over the arraignment, but the case itself will be overseen by Aileen Cannon, a Trump-appointed judge who last year made rulings that briefly stopped Mr. Smith’s investigation before she was overruled on appeal.

Some of Mr. Trump’s supporters have taken to online forums to call for a violent uprising to protect him. Last year’s Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee, Kari Lake, warned that anyone wanting to “get to president Trump” would have to “go through” members of the National Rifle Association.

Even Mr. Trump’s rivals for the Republican presidential nomination have repeated his claims that the prosecution is politically motivated. Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador, said on Tuesday that she would be “inclined” to pardon him if she became president.

Julie Novkov, an expert in politics and the judiciary at the State University of New York, said a more conventional political candidate would be muscled out of the presidential race by their own party in the wake of such criminal accusations. That much of the Republican Party is instead backing his claim of political prosecution has troubling implications for support of the country’s constitutional institutions.

“That’s extremely dangerous for American democracy,” she said. “If it gets to the point where Trump is facing a conviction and he, or people with status in the Republican Party, are trying to claim this is all illegitimate, it’s going to be damaging.”

Attorney-General Merrick Garland appointed Mr. Smith in a bid to give the investigation some distance from the Biden administration. A career prosecutor, Mr. Smith has previously worked on corruption cases involving Democratic Senator Bob Menendez and former Virginia Republican governor Bob McDonnell.

Mr. Trump is already the only U.S. president to have been impeached – and acquitted by the Senate – twice. Last month, he was found liable by a civil court for sexually abusing a former magazine writer, a verdict that he is appealing.

Previous classified documents cases suggest much of the prosecution will turn on Mr. Trump’s intentions. In the cases of people who have been convicted, such as former CIA director David Petraeus and former national-security adviser Sandy Berger, the accused clearly acted deliberately.

In the cases of former vice-president Mike Pence, who had classified documents at his private house, and Ms. Clinton, both turned over the documents to the government and neither was charged. A separate special prosecutor is investigating Mr. Biden, who disclosed last year that he had classified documents at home.

“It’s not just that Trump hung onto these documents notwithstanding the government’s efforts to retrieve them,” said Daniel Richman, a Columbia University law professor and former federal prosecutor, “but that he led a sustained effort to keep the government from getting these.”

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