June 13, 2023

Welcome back to Sneak. Smart Brevity™ count: 1,030 words ... 4 minutes.

Situational awareness: Former President Trump is set to speak at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, at 8pm ET, before hosting a $100,000-per-head fundraiser tonight with top donors.

1 big thing: Trump's post-arrest surprise

Clockwise from top left: MSNBC, Fox News, CNN and NBC News

The unprecedented arrest and arraignment of a former president on federal charges today ended not with a bang, but with a surprise trip to an iconic Cuban restaurant four miles from Miami's federal courthouse.

  • "Are you ready? Food for everyone!" Trump declared to a throng of at least 200 supporters packed inside Versailles.
  • Moments later, the crowd began singing "Happy Birthday" to the twice-indicted former president, who turns 77 tomorrow.

Why it matters: Trump is determined to fight his charges in the court of public opinion, the New York Times' Maggie Haberman notes. The strategy could propel him to the GOP nomination — but it will be of little use in his uphill climb to stave off a conviction.

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Getty Images

Driving the news: The surreal scene in Little Havana capped off an otherwise muted afternoon given the historic nature of what unfolded inside the courthouse, where cameras were not permitted.

  • As with his first arraignment in New York, news channels across the country and world broke in with live, wall-to-wall coverage of Trump's motorcade traveling to the courthouse.
  • It turned the surrender of a former president into a bizarrely familiar scene — softening some of the fireworks the public might have expected.

Inside the room: Through his lawyer Todd Blanche, Trump pleaded not guilty to the 37 counts brought by federal prosecutors, which include violations of the Espionage Act and conspiracy to obstruct justice.

  • Trump was digitally fingerprinted but did not sit for a mugshot, with an existing photo instead uploaded to the government's private booking database, according to NBC News.

The intrigue: Magistrate Judge Jonathan Goodman did not impose any travel restrictions — allowing Trump to continue to campaign freely — but he did order the former president not to speak to any potential witnesses about the case.

  • That includes his body man and indicted co-conspirator Walt Nauta, who accompanied Trump on his post-arraignment campaign stop to Versailles.
  • Special counsel Jack Smith closely watched Trump as the former president exited the courtroom — without breaking his stare, according to CBS News. Trump did not once look at Smith.

Read Axios' full live blog.

2. 🚓 Courthouse circus stays peaceful

A Trump supporter holds up a crucifix outside the courthouse. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Fears of civil unrest and violence outside the courtroom spurred federal and local authorities to take extra security precautions, with Miami police preparing for anywhere between 5,000 and 50,000 protesters.

  • The crowd — while circus-like and packed with both Trump supporters and counterprotesters — was ultimately far smaller than anticipated.

Why it matters: Online chatter on extremist forums and incendiary rhetoric from pro-Trump Republicans has yet to result in organized violence after either of the indictments brought against Trump in the last three months.

  • One possible explanation: The deterrent effects from the Justice Department's sprawling Jan. 6 investigation, which has produced charges against more than 1,000 people.
  • Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.), whose cryptic tweet after Trump's indictment sparked allegations of a call to arms, warned supporters against violence today: "They want MAGA conservatives to react to this perimeter probe and in doing so, set yourselves up for targeted persecution and further entrapment."
Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

Chaos did strike briefly when an anti-Trump protester dressed in prison garb jumped in front of Trump's motorcade as he was leaving the courthouse.

  • The man, who was holding a "Lock Him Up" sign, was immediately swarmed by police and arrested.
Vivek Ramaswamy
Ramaswamy outside the courthouse. Photo: Victor J. Blue/Bloomberg via Getty Images

GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy held a press conference in front of the courthouse vowing to pardon Trump if elected and challenging — in writing — every other candidate to commit to doing the same.

3. 🚨 DeSantis crafts plan to dismantle DOJ

DeSantis signs a Florida digital bill of rights on June 6. Photo: Paul Hennessy/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

For months, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has been consulting a "brain trust" of government experts, members of Congress and former administration officials on a detailed plan to overhaul the Justice Department and FBI, RealClearPolitics reports.

Why it matters: Republicans have made the alleged "weaponization" of government a central tenet of their grievance agenda. DeSantis, who has cast himself as a Trump-like leader with more focus and less baggage, wants to prove he can permanently end the so-called "deep state."

Details: A private strategy session DeSantis held on Saturday — the timing of which was reportedly coincidental — revealed at least six specific elements of his plan to return the DOJ and FBI to a more limited "pre-9/11" mission, according to RCP:

  • Physically relocate the FBI headquarters from D.C. and break up other "problematic components of the DOJ."
  • Fire political and career appointees in droves and dismantle civil service protections.
  • Put the "kibosh" on DOJ and FBI's role in policing misinformation.
  • Reorganize DOJ's Civil Rights Division.
  • Direct DOJ to go after progressive local prosecutors in big cities who “are not prosecuting cases against violent criminals."
  • Revoke the security clearances of certain former intelligence officials

Go deeper: Inside Trump's plan for a second-term government purge

4. 🛑 Senate's 4-front blockade

Photo: Rebecca Droke/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) announced he will place a hold on all Justice Department nominees, saying in a statement: "If Merrick Garland wants to use these officials to harass Joe Biden’s political opponents, we will grind his department to a halt."

Why it matters: Vance's effort to slow-walk DOJ confirmations over the Trump indictment means four federal agencies or departments are now facing blockades from individual senators — both Republicans and Democrats.

  • Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), chair of the Senate's health committee, vowed yesterday not to move forward with Biden's nominee to lead the National Institutes of Health until the administration produces a "comprehensive" plan to lower prescription drug prices.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), chair of the Senate's energy committee, declared last month he will oppose all EPA nominees after months of attacking the Biden administration over its "radical climate agenda."
  • Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) has been blocking hundreds of military promotions for months over the Pentagon's abortion policies.

📬 Thanks for reading tonight. This newsletter was copy edited by Kathie Bozanich.