Donald Trump indicted over efforts to overturn his defeat in 2020 election
The plot to overturn the 2020 election culminated in an unprecedented physical assault by Trump's supporters on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, as Congress met to certify Biden's victory
Donald Trump has been indicted on four counts by a federal grand jury for plotting to overturn his 2020 election defeat, the third time this year the former US president has been criminally charged as he seeks to retake the White House in 2024.
The 45-page indictment was filed by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith after the grand jury heard months of testimony from some of Trump's closest associates of how Trump tried to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden, who became the U.S. president in January 2021.
Trump, 77, 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.
These charges relate to Trump's actions over a period of more than two months from soon after election day (November 3) until the day he left the White House on 20 January 20.
The plot to overturn the 2020 election culminated in an unprecedented physical assault by Trump's supporters on the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, as Congress met to certify Biden's victory.
"Despite having lost, the defendant was determined to remain in power. So for more than two months following election day on November 3, 2020, the defendant spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won. These claims were false, and the defendant knew that they were false,” the indictment reads.
Trump in a statement to his supporters said that he did nothing wrong and the charges against him were politically motivated. Trump has rejected any suggestion he was in the wrong after the 2020 election.
The indictment was issued by a grand jury of citizens in the District of Columbia and sets forth the crimes charged in detail. It caps an inquiry into events surrounding the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol.
"The attack on our nation’s capital on January 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. As described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies," said Special Counsel Smith.
"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,” he said.
While the indictment affirms Trump’s right to free speech, it claims the former president “pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results”.
According to the indictment released by the Department of Justice, the former president is charged with a conspiracy to defraud the US “by using dishonesty, fraud and deceit to obstruct the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election." The second count charges him of “a conspiracy to impede” the January 6, 2021, congressional proceeding where the election results were certified.
Federal prosecutors charge him with “a conspiracy against the right to vote and to have that vote counted." The indictment identifies six co-conspirators, four attorneys, a political consultant, and "a Justice Department official who worked on civil matters," ABC news reported.
Trump, currently the leading candidate for the Republican Party's 2024 nomination, has been summoned to appear before a federal district court on August 3. Six unnamed co-conspirators were also included in the indictment, one of whom is believed to be Rudy Giuliani, who served on Trump’s legal team.
Trump, who is again running for president, denies wrongdoing. On social media, he called the case "ridiculous".
“As you know, I did nothing wrong. It’s well-documented that I told Americans to act 'peacefully' and discouraged the use of any violence. This is nothing but an egregious act of Election Interference and a final act of desperation from crooked Joe as he crashes in the polls,” Trump said in a statement after he was charged on four counts.
Trump's campaign put out a statement decrying the investigation and called the counts "fake charges." This is Trump’s third indictment but marks the first time that he has been formally held accountable for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the run-up to the violent riot by his supporters at the US Capitol.
The former president has repeatedly criticised special counsel for the Department of Justice Smith, who is investigating Trump for several cases.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the charges alleged in this indictment are very serious and must play out through the legal process, peacefully and without any outside interference.
“Like every criminal defendant, the former President is innocent until proven guilty. Our founders made clear that, in the United States of America, no one is above the law – not even the former President of the United States,” she said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said that the insurrection on January 6, 2021 was one of the saddest and most infamous days in American history, personally orchestrated by Trump and fueled by his insidious big lie in an attempt to undermine the 2020 election.
“In a deadly effort to overturn the will of the American people and block the peaceful transition of power, our nation’s Capitol—the very symbol and home of American patriotism and democracy—fell under attack to thousands of vicious and violent rioters,” the two top Democratic leaders said.
In April, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump on charges related to payments in 2016 to porn star Stormy Daniels. In June, Trump was indicted in Miami for allegedly retaining White House documents, including classified documents.
In the southern state of Georgia, a prosecutor has indicated that she also could soon indict Trump for trying to illegally overturn the 2020 election result in that state.