This story originally appeared in Common Dreams on Aug 1, 2023. It is shared here with permission under a Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0) license.
Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday was indicted by a federal grand jury in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Trump—now the leading candidate for the GOP’s 2024 presidential nomination—faces four charges: conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding; and conspiracy against rights.
“The defendant lost the 2020 presidential election,” the indictment states. “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. But the defendant repeated and widely disseminated them anyway—to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election,” adds the document, which describes but does not identify by name six co-conspirators.
The election interference case has been assigned to Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, an appointee of former President Barack Obama in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. NBC News noted that she “is the only federal judge in Washington, D.C., who has sentenced January 6 defendants to sentences longer than the government had requested.”
Trump is expected to be arraigned in D.C. on Thursday before Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya, according to NBC.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) president Noah Bookbinder said Tuesday that “the charges leveled against Donald Trump today are the most significant he has yet faced because they address the most serious offense he committed: trying to block the peaceful transfer of power and keep himself in office despite losing the 2020 election by inciting a violent insurrection.”
“Had he succeeded, it would have effectively ended our almost two-and-a-half-century experiment in democratic self-governance,” added Bookbinder, a former federal prosecutor. “Jack Smith’s indictment cuts through Trump’s propaganda to explicitly demonstrate not just the facts, but the stakes of this case. Holding Trump accountable for his crimes pulls our democracy back from the precipice and prevents his criminal attempt to overturn an election from being forgotten or normalized. Nothing could be more important for the future of America.”
Michael Waldman, president and CEO of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law, said that “today’s charges matter beyond the fact that a former president is accused. Donald Trump and his co-conspirators tried to overthrow American democracy.”
“They wanted to negate the votes of millions of Americans. They did this using phony claims of voter fraud and rigged elections. These conspiracy theories are still being used to justify changes to voting and election law all over the country,” he continued. “Donald Trump will stand trial. The Big Lie will be on trial too.”
Stand Up America president and founder Sean Eldridge asserted that “accountability is essential to protecting our democracy and our freedom to vote, and today, Donald Trump is finally being held accountable for his attack on the rule of law and the will of the people.”
“This indictment serves as a stark reminder of the danger Trump still poses to our democracy,” he stressed. “Time and time again, Trump has demonstrated that he is unfit for the highest office in the land. To protect our democracy and our fundamental freedoms, voters must make sure he never sets foot in the White House again.”
Common Cause interim co-president Marilyn Carpinteyro declared that “no American is above the law—not even former presidents. The charges that a federal grand jury leveled today against former President Donald Trump are profoundly serious and must go to trial. The charges themselves are unprecedented, but so are the events that led to them.”
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol “revealed the monthslong conspiracy to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election and its culmination in the deadly insurrection,” she noted. “Anyone and everyone who broke the laws of this nation participating in that conspiracy must be held accountable.”
Public Citizen executive vice president Lisa Gilbert highlighted Tuesday that the bipartisan congressional panel ” recommended criminal charges for Trump’s role in inciting an insurrection and the attempt to overturn the 2020 election.”
“The committee’s work was based on reams of evidence obtained by nonpartisan career prosecutors, intelligence officers, and national security experts. Their recommendations were informed by more than one hundred subpoenas, over 1,000 interviews and depositions, and more than 140,000 documents,” she said, welcoming the charges.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement:
The insurrection on January 6, 2021 was one of the saddest and most infamous days in American history, personally orchestrated by Donald 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 third indictment of Mr. Trump illustrates in shocking detail that the violence of that day was the culmination of a monthslong criminal plot led by the former president to defy democracy and overturn the will of the American people. This indictment is the most serious and most consequential thus far and will stand as a stark reminder to generations of Americans that no one, including a president of the United States, is above the law. The legal process must continue to move forward without any outside interference.
Trump was previously indicted in June as a result of Smith’s classified documents probe and in April following Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into alleged hush money payments during the 2016 election. He could also soon face charges stemming from Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ probe of attempts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results.
The ex-president claimed on social media Tuesday that the new “Fake Indictment” is an effort to interfere with the next presidential election—an unsubstantiated allegation repeated by his campaign, which also took aim at his likely 2024 opponent, Democratic President Joe Biden.
Some advocacy groups and constitutional experts argue that regardless of the results of his legal issues, the 14th Amendment disqualifies Trump from holding office again because he incited the 2021 insurrection.
Among them are Familia Vota Education Fund and Free Speech for People, whose legal director, Ron Fein, said that “these criminal charges will hold Trump accountable in the criminal justice system, but states don’t need any permission from federal prosecutors to move forward on excluding him from presidential ballots under the 14th Amendment’s insurrectionist disqualification clause.”
Héctor Sánchez Barba, executive director and CEO of Mi Familia Vota, emphasized Tuesday that “we must continue to strengthen our democracy. That is why we are urging secretaries of state and chief election officials across the country to carry out the mandate of Section 3 of the 14th Amendment and bar Trump from the ballot.”
The new charges against Trump on Tuesday came as two of his “Big Lie” allies in Michigan, former attorney general candidate Matt DePerno and ex-state Rep. Daire Rendon, were indicted for illegally tampering with voting equipment as part of the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election.