Washington — Former President Donald Trumpby a federal grand jury on charges stemming from his efforts to remain in power after he lost the 2020 presidential election, adding to the former president’s ongoing legal troubles as he mounts a third bid for the White House.
According to the indictment handed up Tuesday by a federal grand jury, Trump 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.
Special counsel Jack Smith, in announcing the charges Tuesday, called what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, an “unprecedented assault” on democracy. “It was fueled by lies: 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.”
The indictment says of Trump that despite having lost, he “was determined to remain in power.” So, for over two months after the election, Trump “spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won,” the indictment states, and adds, “These claims were false, and the defendant knew they were false,” but “repeated and widely disseminated them anyway,”
Six unnamed co-conspirators are alleged by the indictment to have been “enlisted” to assist Trump in “his criminal efforts to overturn” the election “and retain power.”
Trump and his co-conspirators allegedly “pushed officials to ignore the popular vote” and “organized fraudulent slates of electors” in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to the indictment.
The indictment accuses Trump and his co-conspirators of using “knowingly false claims of election fraud” to organize fraudulent slates of electors in seven states.
Prosecutors allege Trump and his co-conspirators also attempted to use the power of the Justice Department to conduct “sham election crime investigations,” and attempted to enlist then-Vice President Mike Pence to use his ceremonial role in affirming the electoral vote count on Jan. 6 to “fraudulently alter the election results.” The indictment also alleges Trump repeatedly pressured Pence to fraudulently reject or return Mr. Biden’s electoral votes.
“After it became public on the afternoon of January 6 that the vice president would not fraudulently alter the election results, a large and angry crowd — including many individuals whom the defendant had deceived into believing the vice president could and might change the election results — violently attacked the Capitol and halted the proceeding,” the indictment says.
In a detailed accounting, the indictment claims Trump watched the violence unfolding on television, and ignored pleas to unequivocally condemn the violence.
The indictment makes it clear that Pence is a key witness in the case, and prosecutors say Pence took extensive, contemporaneous notes. Pence is one of Trump’s opponents for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
The grand jury did not indict Trump on any specific charges related to inciting an insurrection, former Trump impeachment manager Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin pointed out to CBS News.
From “about November 14, 2020” through Inauguration Day, Jan. 20, 2021, the indictment says, in Washington, D.C., “and elsewhere,” “Trump, did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with co-conspirators, known and unknown to the grand jury, to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate one or more persons in the free exercise and enjoyment of a right and privilege secured to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States — that is, the right to vote, and to have one’s vote counted.”
Trump has been summoned to appear at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday before Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya at the federal courthouse in Washington, D.C.
The Trump campaign said in a statement that the indictment was “the latest corrupt chapter in the continued pathetic attempt by the Biden Crime Family and their weaponized Department of Justice to interfere with the 2024 Presidential Election.” The former president’s campaign questioned why it took “two and a half years” to bring the charges, during the presidential campaign. It also claimed that Trump “always followed the law…with advice from many highly accomplished attorneys.”