Donald Trump appeared to stumble over his words when he was asked to state his full name and age at his arraignment on charges of attempting to overturn the 2020 election.
Mr Trump arrived at the E Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse in Washington DC on Thursday where he pleaded not guilty to four criminal counts of an alleged election hoax conspiracy that led to the January 6 riots at the US Capitol.
Mr Trump, dressed in his trademark navy blue suit and red tie, entered the courtroom at 3.51pm accompanied by John Lauro, a veteran Washington-based criminal defence attorney, and Todd Blanche, the New York-based lawyer who is leading his defence in the other criminal cases against him.
He was made to wait about 25 minutes before the magistrate judge entered the room at 4.15pm, and appeared nervous and fidgety.
After attorneys for the government and defence introduced themselves, Mr Trump stood to take his oath from a courtroom deputy.
US Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya then asked the former president to state his full name.
“Donald J Trump — John — Donald John Trump,” Mr Trump replied hesitantly.
He was then asked for his date of birth, and tripped over his words again. At first, he said “seven seven,” before correcting himself and saying “77”.
After explaining his rights to remain silent and to legal representation, and reminding him of the lengthy prison sentence he faces if convicted, Judge Upadhyaya asked Mr Trump if he understood.
He replied in the affirmative.
Mr Lauro then entered a plea of not guilty on all counts on his behalf.
Prosecutors did not seek to detain Mr Trump, and set a date of 28 August for a first hearing before Judge Tanya Chutkan. Mr Trump is not required to attend.
In comments to reporters afterwards, Mr Trump described it as a “very sad day” before claiming Washington DC had deteriorated in the two and a half years since he left office.
“This was never supposed to happen in America.... if you can’t beat ‘em, you persecute them,” he said.
As his motorcade returned to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, it was met with a chorus of insults from a small group of protesters.
“F** you, terrorist,” one man yelled, according to Wall Street Journal reporter Andrew Restuccia.
Earlier this week, Mr Trump was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, witness tampering, conspiracy against the rights of citizens, and obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding in relation to his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The indictment also described six unnamed co-conspirators, who have been identified from details contained in the document as New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Mr Trump lawyer John Eastman, “Kraken” lawyer Sidney Powell, former top Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark, and attorney Kenneth Chesebro.
Mr Trump has claimed in a series of unhinged posts to Truth Social that President Biden and the US Department of Justice had “weaponised” the federal government against him.
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