On Tuesday, the Justice Department indicted President Trump on felony charges for his role in plotting to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the lead-up to the violent riot by his supporters at the U.S. Capitol.
This was an unprecedented effort to block the peaceful transfer of presidential power and threaten American democracy. The four-count indictment, the third criminal prosecution against Trump, shed new light on a bleak episode that has been the focus of extensive federal investigations and riveting public hearings.
It details Trump’s months-long campaign of misinformation about the election results, culminating in a violent uprising at the Capitol that Trump tried to capitalize on by delaying the final tally of votes that would have ensured his defeat.
Even amid a year of rapid-fire legal reckonings for Trump, Tuesday’s indictment was shocking in its allegations that a former president violated the “bedrock function” of democracy by conspiring to defraud the United States government that he previously led.
Thw tweet below verifies the news:
Trump indicted for efforts to overturn 2020 election and block transfer of power https://t.co/ZhFAitu9AA
— WTAE-TV Pittsburgh (@WTAE) August 2, 2023
The former president, an early favorite for the Republican nominee in 2020, is now facing legal repercussions for his desperate bid to remain in office. “The attack on our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy,” said Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith, whose office has spent months investigating Trump.
“It was fueled by lies, lies by the defendant targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. government: the nation’s process of collecting counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.” The Trump campaign has dismissed the allegations as “fake” and questioned the delay of over two years in bringing them forth.
The indictment released on Tuesday solely included charges against Trump. However, prosecutors made oblique references to six co-conspirators, including government and private sector lawyers who they claimed had collaborated with Trump to overturn the election results.
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They also proposed questionable plans to use fake electors to claim that Trump had won states that Democratic candidate Joe Biden had carried. The indictment claims the outgoing president and his supporters attempted to “exploit the violence and chaos” by keeping Congress in session late on January 6 to prevent Biden’s victory from being certified.
Trump’s constant prodding to ignore the electoral votes is given weight by the inclusion of handwritten notes from former Vice President Mike Pence. Vice President Pence, who is running against Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination, turned down an offer to speak before a House committee that was looking into the uprising.
After losing in court, he finally appeared, with prosecutors learning that Trump had mocked him as “too honest” in an attempt to halt the certification. On Thursday, Trump will make his first court appearance in the legal process that will unfold between the building that once served as the Oval Office and the Capitol that his supporters stormed.
The former president and his allies, as well as some of his opponents, have already written off the case as another politically driven prosecution. One of the greatest dangers to American democracy in recent memory is at the root of this case.
The tumultuous two months following the 2020 presidential election in which Trump refused to concede and instead pushed false rumors that the election had been stolen from him are at the heart of the indictment. The commotion culminated in the melee at the Capitol, as Trump supporters stormed the building, assaulted police, and interfered with lawmakers as they tallied electoral votes.
During the time between the election and the riot, Trump erroneously claimed that the election had been stolen, an idea that was repeatedly rejected by judges. He also called on state election authorities to overturn voting results in their states and put pressure on Vice President Pence to prevent the certification of electoral votes.
Prosecutors said the assertions included false information about duplicate votes cast in Nevada and Georgia and the votes of over 10,000 deceased Georgia voters. The indictment states that each defense has been disproved by federal or state authorities.
An official statement from the prosecution states that Trump “repeated and widely disseminated them anyway — to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, to create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and to erode public faith in the administration of the election.”
Trump’s justifications for his actions were laid out in detail, including his claims that he was within his legal rights to contest the election’s outcome in court and even to lie about doing so. The indictment, however, lays out in sharp detail the former president’s unlawful efforts to overturn the voters’ manifest will.
Since Trump claimed in mid-July that he had been informed by the Justice Department that he was a target of their investigation, the indictment has been widely anticipated. A House committee of both parties spent months looking into the events leading up to the violence in the Capitol, and they have now suggested that Trump be prosecuted for supporting an insurrection and impeding an official proceeding.
The indictment includes counts of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, and violation of a civil rights statute from the period following the Civil War and during the Reconstruction Era that makes it illegal to conspire to violate rights guaranteed by the Constitution, in this case the right to vote.
As the 2024 election heats up, more and more criminal cases are coming to light. Although he could hypothetically choose an attorney general to dismiss the charges or try to pardon himself as president, a conviction in this case or any other would not bar Trump from running for or serving as president.
Trump has been accused by New York state prosecutors of making up details of a hush money payment he made to a porn star before the 2016 election. In March, the trial will commence. The Justice Department has filed over three dozen criminal counts against him in Florida, alleging that, after leaving the White House, he illegally possessed sensitive papers and concealed them from investigators.
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In May, the trial will commence. Trump and his supporters in Georgia are being investigated by prosecutors for their possible role in an attempt to overturn Trump’s loss to Biden in that state. Fulton County’s district attorney is scheduled to make an announcement on potential charges within the next few weeks.
As part of his federal probe, Smith has had his team interview several high-ranking members of the Trump administration, including Pence, before a grand jury in Washington. Prosecutors also spoke with election officials in areas won by Biden despite being considered a contest, such as Georgia, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has been challenging the results of the election in court, has willingly spoken with investigators. Although Giuliani was not specifically named, he seems to fit the profile of one of the conspirators described in the indictment. On Tuesday night, a spokeswoman for Giuliani argued that Trump had a “good-faith basis” for his actions.
Smith, a former international war crimes prosecutor and head of the Justice Department’s public corruption section, was appointed as special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland last year to look into both attempts to overturn the election and Trump’s retention of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.
Despite Trump’s attacks on him as “deranged” and “politically motivated,” Smith has supervised major prosecutions of prominent Democrats. The Justice Department was looking into the riots long before Smith was appointed, and it was doing so concurrently with other criminal investigations into the rioters. More than a thousand people have been arrested and charged with various offenses related to the uprising, including seditious conspiracy.
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