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Trump's inner circle and team assess best next steps for the presidential candidate

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Former President Trump is spending the night at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J., tonight. That's after spending part of the afternoon in a federal courtroom in Miami, where he was arraigned on dozens of counts of mishandling classified documents. The former president used his golf club as the venue for his first public remarks after the charges. Trump did not mince words.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: Today, we witnessed the most evil and heinous abuse of power in the history of our country.

CHANG: This speech tonight, as well as an impromptu visit to a famous South Florida Cuban restaurant that's popular with Republican candidates were Trump's latest efforts to turn today's events into a political opportunity.

NPR's Franco Ordoñez joins us now with more. Hey, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Hey, Ailsa.

CHANG: OK, so I know that Trump did not speak during the actual court hearing today, but he certainly has had a lot to say afterwards. Can you just tell us more about his remarks tonight?

TRUMP: Yeah, it was really some of his greatest hits - I mean, James Comey, Hillary Clinton, the Steele dossier. You know, for those who don't necessarily remember all of those grievances, the former president kind of reminded us of it all, you know? And new on this list is President Biden and his special counsel, Jack Smith, who he called a raging Trump hater. You know, Trump claimed that he was not the one who thinks he's above the law, but was the one following the law, and he accused the Biden administration of targeting him because he was running for reelection in 2024.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: This is called election interference and yet another attempt to rig and steal a presidential election.

ORDOÑEZ: Now Ailsa, just to be clear, President Biden has said he never once suggested to the Justice Department what they should or should not do. But this is part of the Trump strategy to paint himself as a victim - a victim of a double standard of justice.

CHANG: Well, how do you think that strategy is going to play out in the Republican primary?

ORDOÑEZ: I mean, it is early, so we'll see. His opponents in the Republican primary, though, so far are treading very carefully. Speaking on Fox News, for example, Nikki Haley said the Department of Justice and FBI have lost all credibility with the American people. But she also criticized the former president in a way that we haven't heard before.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NIKKI HALEY: If this indictment is true - if what it says is actually the case, President Trump was incredibly reckless with our national security.

ORDOÑEZ: But Trump's closest rival, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, came to his defense. And Vivek Ramaswamy is urging other candidates to join him in pledging to pardon Trump if he's convicted in these federal classified documents case. So really, I mean, that's just the political environment that we're talking about. You know, the reality is Trump and his supporters have made the case that he's being unfairly targeted, and it's put his revivals (ph) on their back foot because they don't want to risk alienating base voters who - they feel the system is rigged against Republicans.

CHANG: Well, I understand that Trump was released without having to pay bail. And as we mentioned, Franco, Trump did not go immediately to New Jersey, did he?

ORDOÑEZ: No, he didn't. He stopped first at a popular Cuban restaurant, Versailles. It was much like a campaign stop. He shook hands, posed for pictures. It's all part of an effort to kind of turn today's event to his favor, as you noted earlier. He's campaigning. He's fundraising. And as we noted, he has opponents on their heels. And look, he does - going to have some more times to do this. He faces more legal scrutiny. He's already been indicted in New York. And there's another federal probe into the January 6 effort to overturn the results of a presidential election. Prosecutors in Georgia are also leading an investigation into Trump's efforts to pressure state election officials there.

CHANG: Right.

Real quick there, I mean, there were Atlanta police officers watching the crowd control in Miami today. Tell us real briefly why that was.

ORDOÑEZ: Well, it's never happened before, so each of these investigations kind of instruct each other. And the police were there to learn, to - just in case Trump investigation results in another indictment in Atlanta - so they can learn from it.

CHANG: That is NPR's Franco Ordoñez. Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thank you, Ailsa. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.