Trump charged in probe of Jan. 6, efforts to overturn 2020 election

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A grand jury indicted former president Donald Trump on Tuesday for a raft of alleged crimes in his brazen efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election—the latest legal and political aftershock stemming from the riot at the U.S. Capitol two and a half years ago.

The four-count, 45-page indictment accuses Trump, who is again running for president, of three distinct criminal schemes, charging that he conspired to defraud the U.S., conspired to obstruct an official proceeding and conspired against people’s rights.

“The attack on our nation’s capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy,” special counsel Jack Smith told reporters after the indictment was filed. “It was fueled by lies, lies by the defendant.”

Smith also praised the law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol, saying they “did not just defend a building or the people sheltering in it. They put their lives on the line to defend who we are as a country and a people.”

The charges represent the third indictment of the former president filed since March—setting the stage for one of the stranger presidential contests in history, in which a major party frontrunner may have to alternate between campaign stops and courtroom hearings over the next year and a half.

A federal grand jury in Miami indicted Trump last month for mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House and obstructing government efforts to get them back. A state grand jury in New York has charged him with falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments during the 2016 campaign. And a state grand jury in Georgia is weighing whether to charge Trump for his efforts to undo the 2020 election results there.

Trump, who has pleaded not guilty in the documents case, denies all wrongdoing related to the 2020 election as well. His spokesman, Steven Cheung, accused the current administration of trying to interfere with the 2024 election by targeting the current GOP frontrunner, and compared the Biden administration to some of the worst authoritarian regimes in history.

“President Trump has always followed the law and the Constitution, with advice from many highly accomplished attorneys,” Cheung said in a statement. “Three years ago we had strong borders, energy independence, no inflation, and a great economy. Today, we are a nation in decline. President Trump will not be deterred by disgraceful and unprecedented political targeting!”

Tuesday’s indictment paints Trump in late 2020 as a sore loser and inveterate liar—willing to say almost anything to try to reverse his defeat at the hands of Democrat Joe Biden.

“Despite having lost, the Defendant was determined to remain in power,” the indictment charges, accusing Trump of unleashing a blizzard of false claims about purported mass voter fraud and then trying to get state, local, and federal officials to act to change the vote results.

“These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false,” the indictment states. “In fact, the Defendant was notified repeatedly that his claims were untrue—often by the people on whom he relied for candid advice on important matters, and who were best positioned to know the facts—and he deliberately disregarded the truth.”

The former president was ordered to appear in federal court in Washington on Thursday. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, a 2014 Barack Obama appointee and a former D.C. public defender.

While Trump’s legal woes have grown exponentially in recent months, he has only solidified his early lead over the field of 2024 GOP contenders for the presidency. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), an ardent Trump supporter, issued a statement criticizing the Justice Department, claiming the indictment was an effort to “attack the frontrunner for the Republican nomination” and distract the public from stories about President Biden while his son Hunter is trying to plead guilty to tax charges.

In broad strokes and specific scenes, the indictment recounts much of what was already known about Trump’s efforts to stay in the White House despite losing the election. But the indictment frames that conduct as a destructive criminal conspiracy that attempted to demolish a bedrock function of American democracy.

While no one else is charged alongside Trump, the indictment describes six unnamed and so far uncharged co-conspirators, who also appear to be in significant legal jeopardy. It was not immediately clear why they were not charged with crimes in the indictment, or if Smith plans to pursue charges against those people in the future.

At the top of that list is Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and former lawyer for Trump. Giuliani is identified in the indictment only as “Co-Conspirator 1,” but his identity is clear from the document’s descriptions of that person’s actions.

Most of the other uncharged co-conspirators are identifiable based on details in the indictment and previous reporting by The Washington Post and other outlets. That reporting shows Co-Conspirator 2, described in the indictment as “an attorney who devised an attempted to implement a strategy to leverage the Vice President’s ceremonial role overseeing the certification proceeding” is John Eastman.

The indictment describes Co-Conspirator 3 as an attorney whose unfounded claims of election fraud Trump himself said sounded “crazy”—a description that matches Trump ally Sidney Powell. Co-Conspirator 4 is described as a then-Justice Department official who “attempted to use the Justice Department to open sham election crime investigations.” Other details of that person’s actions match Jeffrey Clark, whom Trump considered appointing as attorney general in the final days of his administration.

Co-conspirator 5 is described in the indictment as a lawyer who tried to implement a plan “to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding,”—a reference that appears to match Kenneth Chesebro, a Trump attorney who worked on the scheme to enact false presidential electors.

Lawyers for the uncharged co-conspirators did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The indictment says Trump used private phone calls, memos and other meetings to pressure his vice president Mike Pence to help him overturn the election.

There were at least four calls before Jan. 6, the indictment says, including a call on Christmas and one on New Year’s Day. On Christmas, Pence told Trump he did not have the “authority” to overturn the election. On Jan. 1, he again told Trump that, according to the indictment. “You’re too honest,” Trump allegedly responded.

Pence rejected Trump again on Jan. 3, according to the indictment. The indictment says Pence and his team were also pressured by Eastman in the days leading up to Jan. 6. “When Co-Conspirator 2 acknowledged to the Defendant’s Senior Advisor that no court would support his proposal, the Senior Advisor told Co-Conspirator 2, ‘[Y]ou’re going to cause riots in the streets.’ Co-Conspirator 2 responded that there had previously been points in the nation’s history where violence was necessary to protect the republic. After that conversation, the Senior Advisor notified the Defendant that Co-Conspirator 2 had conceded that his plan was ‘not going to work,'” the indictment says.

The indictment also alleges that on the night of Jan. 6, after Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to try to prevent the formal certification of Biden’s victory, “the White House counsel called the defendant to ask him to withdraw any objections and allow the certification. The defendant refused.”

Trump had publicly predicted he would be indicted for more than two weeks, announcing on social media on July 18 that his attorneys had been told he might be charged in the case. On Tuesday, that grand jury panel hearing evidence in the case gathered early at the courthouse. They were seen leaving in the afternoon.

About 5 p.m., reporters in the courthouse saw a prosecutor with Smith’s office and the grand jury foreperson deliver the indictment to a magistrate judge.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya accepted the grand jury return, saying, “I do have one indictment return before me, and I have reviewed the paperwork in connection with this indictment.”

A short time later, the document was available on the federal court computer system for all to see.

Smith was tapped in November to take charge of the Justice Department’s classified-documents and 2020 election investigations, after Trump launched his 2024 campaign and Attorney General Merrick Garland—an appointee of President Biden—concluded that an independent prosecutor should oversee the probes.

A state grand jury in Fulton County, Ga., is also considering whether to file broad charges against Trump and his lawyers, advocates, and aides over their efforts to undo the 2020 election results. A decision on that front is expected in August, although previous plans to announce a charging decision have been delayed. Michigan and Arizona are also investigating aspects of the efforts to block Biden’s victory in their states.

Trump is scheduled for trial in March on the New York state charges of falsifying business records, and a federal judge in Florida has scheduled the classified-documents trial to start in late May.

Smith vowed Tuesday to seek a speedy trial in Washington on the alleged election conspiracy charges.

That investigation proceeded along multiple tracks in recent months, people familiar with the matter have told The Washington Post, with prosecutors focused on ads and fundraising pitches claiming election fraud as well as plans for “fake electors” who could have swung the election to Trump.

A key focus of the investigation was determining to what degree Republican operatives, activists and elected officials—including Trump—understood that their claims of massive voter fraud were false at the time they were making them.

Smith’s Jan. 6 investigation has sought to navigate thorny issues of where precisely the line should be drawn between political activity, legal advocacy, and criminal conspiracy. In doing so, the former war crimes prosecutor focused intently on the conduct of a relatively small number of lawyers and senior advisers who allegedly tried to advance Trump’s falsehoods to stay in office.

At a community event in North Philadelphia Tuesday evening, Garland briefly addressed reporters outside of a police district headquarters. He did not discuss the specifics of the indictment but expressed confidence in how the investigation has been handled.

“Mr. Smith and his team are experienced, principled career agents and prosecutors” who “follow the facts and the law wherever they lead,” said Garland.

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24 thoughts on “Trump charged in probe of Jan. 6, efforts to overturn 2020 election

  1. “House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), an ardent Trump supporter, issued a statement criticizing the Justice Department, claiming the indictment was an effort to “attack the frontrunner for the Republican nomination” and distract the public from stories about President Biden while his son Hunter is trying to plead guilty to tax charges.” Does Speaker McCarthy realize a grand jury returned this indictment? This is a group of regular citizens who heard testimony from dozens of Trump appointees, campaign staffers, and Republican officials from many different states, who then concluded there is enough evidence to charge him with a crime, to be tried by a jury of his peers. On the morning of November 9, 2016, awakening to the news of Trump’s election, I told my wife “at some point Trump will do something so stupid or insane that he will end up in prison.” I just do not understand how tens of millions of people, some very educated, can still support this narcissist. Growing up in this red state, most of my friends, co-workers, and several relatives are committed conservatives, with whom I can respectfully disagree but still respect and admire. Unfortunately, too many of these people have joined the Trump cult, and our republic is weaker and in danger because of this cult.

    1. David, among those who have gone down the Trump rabbit hole are elected officials such as Todd Rokita, Jim Banks, Mike Braun, and countless others. No doubt they all will continue to stand by Trump. Their fealty to Trump is a betrayal of the oaths they swore to (with one hand on a Bible, no less) to protect us from the likes of Trump.

    2. Most galling, they watched the man call a crowd to their place of work that swarmed in and tried to stop them from executing their constitutional duties.

      And they refused to vote for his immediate impeachment and conviction because … that wasn’t impeachable behavior.

      But please, go on about the rule of law.

    3. All politicians are narcissists. I would imagine the people who you know that have joined the “Trump cult” are simply well-informed on what is really happening. Any news channel on TV is telling you nothing but lies. You have to dig deeper to understand what is currently happening to our country. Yes, Trump can’t get out of his own way half of the time, but he is working for the people and is slowly exposing corruption so much deeper than we could have ever imagined. We must be well informed.
      The current administration led by a corrupt and compromised puppet and operated by who knows…. is running our once proud country into the ground.

    4. Jeffrey showing exactly why most people aren’t qualified to do their own research.

  2. I agree with each of you…what power does Trump have over these people? He’s not a religious man, but the far right is beating their bibles for him…perhaps they don’t think that being faithful in your marriage is important. I cannot believe that people are still willing to support him, but then again, he did claim that he could stand in the middle of Times Square and kill people and not be found guilty. It’s a sad time. President Biden has accomplished so much…DEMOCRATS…post his accomplishments…WAKE UP…ORGANIZE

  3. The true insurrection is happening right in front of our eyes in real time. It took place during the last election season with made-up charges and the suppression of damning evidence against the Biden crime cartel (the laptop was a Russian plant, right?). Did you really think that a couple of thousand unarmed protesters were going to take over DC and reinstall Trump as some kind of emperor? Didn’t DJT request 10k national guardsmen to secure the capital? Didn’t I hear him call for “peaceful” protest on the morning of the 6th? That’s still legal, right? Hate Trump – no problem, but don’t let your derangement cause you to turn a blind eye to what’s going on right now – a sitting president using the DOJ as a weapon towards his opposition. Idi Amin would be quite impressed.

    1. + David. From a political point of view I can give someone the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they didn’t realize or missed the decades of evidence that “it” was a con man. But, if you voted for him twice, I have nothing but utter contempt for you.

    2. Larry w. – The only voice of reason, so many people are absurdly uninformed about what is happening to them right now. Everybody can obsess with Trump but they better look at the real world. You won’t see it on the evening news.

    3. In case you missed it Larry, many of the protesters on January 6 were armed. That is why they couldn’t enter the secure area where Trump and his co-conspirators were speaking, and why numerous police were injured (some even died) during the rampaging of the Capitol. And no, Trump did NOT order 10,000 guardsman to protect the Capitol on J6 (he sat glued to the TV in his private dining room, throwing ketchup on the wall as his VP refused to throw the election as Trump wanted). If you had watched the J6 hearings, you would know these facts.

    4. +larry w. you refer to derangement but nearly everything you mention in your post is either a Q conspiracy theory or been litigated and proven false more times than one can count. You are just another member of the MAGA cult who believes every lie this man tells, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. Trump has been a fraud his entire life and is nothing more than a made-for-television “reality” star who is using his cult to further enrich himself, at the cost of our republic.

    5. David S and Brent B are both regurgitating the MSM talking points. Discussing Jan 6 for another minute is a waste of time. Pelosi staged the whole thing, Trump repeatedly called for Peace. Watch the films and dig a little deeper than the lying CNN etc… No Police were killed but one innocent victim was killed by an officer.
      It’s so disgusting to see grown men and women follow around like sheep. Do you your homework and understand what is happening to our Country right now. We have the most corrupt, compromised administration in history.

    6. The only sheep are the clowns telling you to do your own research.

      Because you’re not doing research. You wouldn’t know what research was if it hit you.

      Research means an open mind to change, it means you are always learning.

      Not a single person “doing their own research” is doing that. They’re pounding kool-aid.

    7. Joe B If you sit and believe what is on the news every day, you are the one who needs to open your mind to what is really happening to this country. All I’m saying is to dig beyond what you are being sold every day. * THEY ARE LYING TO YOU!

    8. And you’re getting the straight truth?


      Name me one thing that your own research has changed your mind on

  4. The repeal of the 1st Amendment through the party in power’s DOJ is racing to completion. Welcome to the Banana Republic, where we imprison our political opponents. Castro and Putin would be proud.

    1. “racing to completion….” ? Seriously? Almost 30 months. The details are stunning–read the indictment. And: the Special Counsel Act was a Republican invention . Special Counsels are completely independent. Jack Smith is a lifelong conservative Republican.

  5. Demagogue – (Merriam-Webster) — “a leader who makes use of popular prejudices, false claims and promises in order to gain power”.
    History will judge all of us harshly for allowing our republic to be used by this charlatan.

  6. And does any Republican really want to claim a Democratic “weaponizing” of the justice system? What else would you call Todd Rokita’s reign as AG, a man who now feels compelled to keep his top lawyers constrained from criticizing him through NDAs.
    As for weaponizing, any one want to look into the DOJ investigative efforts by Trump. The DAG investigating young Biden was a Trump appointed Special Counsel, who has made clear he was not constrained by anyone from DOJ or the White House. The investigation into the FBI, another Trump Special Counsel investigation, was a massive waste of resources and time. One misdemeanor for a young agent who admitted to altering an email. Two trials resulting in not guilty finding. A finding the FBI was overzealous. Underwhelming.
    The First Amendment doesn’t give you the right to defame, nor does it give a government executive the right to lie to the public. The First Amendment is broad, but it has limits. And to say that the President of the US has the right to tell the public that he was cheated of his reelection, fail to provide any evidence, and then work to derail his opponent’s succession to office is not protected speech.

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