The Guardian of London
Donald Trump pleaded not guilty Thursday to federal charges over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, marking the third time this year the former president has been forced to respond to a criminal indictment.
Trump was arrested and arraigned on four felony counts outlined in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment: 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 arraignment came two days after Smith’s office filed its indictment, accusing Trump of executing a “criminal scheme” to remain in office even after it became clear that he had fairly lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.
Trump traveled from his Bedminster Club in New Jersey to Washington on Thursday with his lawyers and several top aides to appear at the arraignment. He was formally arrested at the E Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse, just blocks from the US Capitol, where the deadly January 6 insurrection unfolded.
Sitting in the courtroom Thursday, Trump was accompanied by two of his attorneys, John Lauro and Todd Blanche. Smith also attended the arraignment, which was overseen by US magistrate judge Moxila Upadhyaya. After entering his plea of not guilty, Trump was released on the conditions that he adhere to all federal, state and local laws and avoid discussing the case with any witnesses. The next hearing in the case has been set for 28 August.
Returning to Ronald Reagan Washington national airport after the arraignment, Trump denounced the indictment as “a persecution of a political opponent”, as he remains the frontrunner in the Republican presidential primary.
“This is a very sad day for America,” Trump told reporters. “If you can’t beat him, you persecute him or you prosecute them. We can’t let this happen in America.”
Smith’s 45-page indictment asserts that Trump and his associates disseminated lies alleging widespread fraud in the 2020 election, while convening slates of fake electors in key battleground states. The indictment also listed six co-conspirators who were not charged in the indictment.
While they were unnamed, the descriptions of five of the six matched those of the Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, Kenneth Chesebro as well as the former US justice department official Jeff Clark. According to Smith’s indictment, Trump and his associates’ relentless campaign of misinformation culminated in the insurrection, which claimed the lives of at least seven people.
“Despite having lost, the defendant was determined to remain in power,” the indictment reads. “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 charges in Washington represent the second indictment filed by Smith, who previously charged Trump in June with retaining national security documents at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them. That case is currently scheduled to go to trial in May 2024.
Trump has also been indicted in an unrelated case by the Manhattan district attorney, who charged him over hush-money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. He is expected to be indicted a fourth time in Georgia, where he may face racketeering charges over his election subversion efforts.