Another historic charge against Donald Trump: the former US President faces a court hearing on January 6, 2021 for attempted election interference and his supporters' attack on the US Capitol. Special Counsel Jack Smith announced the charges last night (local time).
The 45-page indictment charges Trump with four formal charges, including conspiracy against the United States. These are the most serious legal allegations against Trump to date, unprecedented for a former US President. Trump is due to appear in court in Washington tomorrow.
Smith said Trump is accused of plotting to defraud the United States, disenfranchise voters and obstruct an official process.
The series of charges
It is the second federal charge against the 77-year-old and the third charge against the ex-president for a crime. The new indictment is the first to include alleged crimes during his tenure in the White House.
Trump wants to run again for the Republicans in the presidential election next year. According to polls, Trump is far ahead in the field of Republican presidential candidates. He denies all allegations and sees any legal action against him as an attempt by his opponents to prevent him from moving back into the White House.
Trump's campaign team has fumed that the new charges are yet another attempt by President Joe Biden's administration to interfere in the 2024 presidential election. This is reminiscent of what happened in Nazi Germany and other authoritarian regimes. Trump has always obeyed the law.
The campaign after the election
Trump lost the 2020 presidential election to Democrat Biden. However, he never admitted his defeat, but has been spreading false claims ever since that massive electoral fraud robbed him of a victory.
At the time, Trump and those around him tried various ways to subsequently overturn the result - including with lawsuits, but also with political pressure on decision-makers in the federal government and in various states.
The campaign against the outcome of the election finally culminated in an unprecedented outbreak of violence on January 6, 2021: On that day, Trump supporters stormed the seat of the US Congress, where Biden’s election victory was to be formally confirmed at the time.
Trump had once again goaded his supporters in a speech shortly before, claiming that he had been deprived of a victory by massive election fraud. A violent mob then invaded Congress. Five people died in the riots.
The allegations against Trump
In the indictment, Trump is accused of spreading false claims about the election despite knowing better, and also instrumentalizing people in the Justice Department to do so. "Despite his defeat, the accused was determined to remain in power," it says.
Trump knew his fraud allegations were untrue. He "created an intense nationwide atmosphere of distrust and anger and undermined public confidence in the conduct of the election".
Trump knowingly led a conspiracy against the United States. He had teamed up with six accomplices who are not mentioned by name in the indictment. They are four lawyers, a US justice official and a political adviser.
The indictment cites false allegations, the installation of false voters, the abuse of government agencies and the attempted exploitation of Vice President Mike Pence as tools for the conspiracy. This also led to the Capitol storm.
At the time, Trump openly called on Pence, who chaired the January 6, 2021 congressional session in his role as vice president, to block the procedure for confirming Biden's election victory. When Pence refused, Trump incited his supporters against the vice. The mob that day hooted shouts of "Hang Pence."
The indictment also cites personal conversations between Trump and Pence - including citing notes from Pence at the time. In one of the conversations, Trump said to his deputy: "You're too honest."
The mountain of legal problems
Special Counsel Smith said he wanted a speedy trial in the case. The Capitol attack was "an unprecedented attack on the seat of American democracy." The attack was fueled by lies by the accused. He stressed that investigations into other people in the case were ongoing.
In the past few months, Trump had already been charged in two other cases: first in New York in the spring in connection with hush money payments to a porn star in New York. The Republican became the first ex-president in US history to be charged with a criminal offense.
Another indictment followed in June in Miami because Trump kept top-secret government documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate after his term in office and did not return them when requested. Trump pleaded not guilty in both cases.
In addition, he could possibly face another charge: In the state of Georgia, the public prosecutor's office also investigated Trump's role after the 2020 election for two and a half years. A decision on any charges is still pending there.