Good morning. It is around 6am in Washington DC, where today we expect to see the 45th president of the United States, Donald Trump, in court.
The former president is accused of conspiring to defraud the United States government, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiring against rights, and obstruction and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding. Here is what we know and what we are expecting:
Trump’s third appearance in a courtroom as a criminal defendant is expected at 4pm Eastern time (9pm BST).
Prosecutors in Washington will outline the four conspiracy and obstruction counts and a judge will set bail conditions.
The magistrate judge, Moxila Upadhyaya, will set a schedule for pre-trial motions and discovery.
Both sides are likely later to file motions seeking to shape what evidence and legal arguments will be permitted at trial, which could be many months away.
In a possible preview of Trump’s defence, his lawyer John Lauro called the indictment “an attack on free speech and political advocacy”, implying Trump’s lies about election fraud were protected under the constitutional right to freedom of expression.
This is Martin Belam in London. I’ll be covering the build-up to Donald Trump’s court appearance for the next couple of hours before handing over to my colleagues in the US. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tulsi Gabbard, a former Congresswoman and 2020 presidential candidate, has also hit back against Donald Trump’s indictment and criticized Joe Biden’s presidency.
“Trump indictment is Biden Admin’s latest tyrannical tactic to distract and drain resources from his main political adversary. So now anyone who criticizes how govt runs an election is a criminal? Dem elite are destroying our democracy/country,” Gabbard tweeted.
She went on to say:
“This is yet another example of president Joe Biden’s politicized department of justice is willing to go to try to destroy is main political opponent as the presidential election is going on.
This foundational purpose of what the Biden administration is doing is really the thing that should be concerning to everyone.”
Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene has called the indictment against Donald Trump a “political assassination.”
Greene, a staunch Trump ally, tweeted on Thursday:
“Today’s indictment of President Trump is a political assassination attempt by Joe Biden and his henchmen to remove the leading presidential candidate from the ballot in 2024.”
“The American people will reelect President Trump! #Trump2024,” she added.
Mike Pence has hit back at the “gaggle of crackpot lawyers” that worked with Donald Trump to allegedly attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election results.
The Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt reports:
Trump was charged with four felonies this week over his attempts to meddle with the presidential election. The 45-page indictment shows that Pence was a crucial figure in Jack Smith, the special counsel, being able to bring those charges.
“Contemporaneous notes” taken by Pence, and referred to in the indictment, document how Trump and his advisors pressured Pence to reject the certification of the election in January, which could have resulted in the House of Representatives handing Trump a second-term in office.
On Wednesday, as Trump and his legal team attempted to downplay those efforts – one of Trump’s lawyers suggested that they only asked Pence to do “pause the voting” on January 6 – the usually meek Pence reacted angrily.
“Let’s be clear on this point. It wasn’t just that they asked for a pause,” he told Fox News.
“The president specifically asked me, and his gaggle of crackpot lawyers asked me, to literally reject votes, which would have resulted in the issue being turned over to the House of Representatives, and literally chaos would have ensued.”
For the full story, click here:
Donald Trump has vowed to get his revenge on Joe Biden and his attorney general for charging him “with as many crimes as can be concocted”.
Posting on Truth Social, the former president wrote:
Look, it’s not my fault that my political opponent in the Democrat Party, Crooked Joe Biden, has told his Attorney General to charge the leading (by far!) Republican Nominee & former President of the United States, me, with as many crimes as can be concocted so that he is forced to spend large amounts of time & money to defend himself. The Dems don’t want to run against me or they would not be doing this unprecedented weaponization of “Justice.” BUT SOON, IN 2024, IT WILL BE OUR TURN. MAGA!
US Marshals have been seen inside the federal courthouse where Donald Trump is to due to appear later today.
A group of heavily armed men, including members of the service’s special operations unit, were seen arriving inside the court with tactical gear and rifles, CNN reported.
A bomb-sniffing dog, a black lab named Legend, was also seen on patrol, as well as Secret Service agents patrolling inside the building.
From NBC’s Ryan J Reilly:
Federal prosecutors have charged Donald Trump over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, the latest criminal case before the former president that comes just weeks after he was charged with retaining national defense information.
You can read the indictment here in full:
Biotech entrepeneur and GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy appeared outside the federal courthouse in Washington in an attempt to boost his visibility.
In a video posted to Twitter, Ramaswamy questioned why Trump has been indicted in three “supposedly independent prosecutions” in the midst of a presidential election. “The government does not trust the people to select their leaders,” he said.
When Donald Trump appears at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, DC this afternoon to answer the indictment brought against him by special counsel Jack Smith for allegedly trying to overturn his 2020 election loss, he will not be formally arrested or have his mugshot taken.
The former president will undergo digital fingerprinting as part of the booking process at the federal courthouse, and will be required to provide his social security number, date of birth, address, and other personal information, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing US Marshals Service spokesman Drew Wade.
Trump will not have his photograph taken during his processing, “since he’s already easily recognizable and there are already many photographs available”.
He will also not be placed under arrest, according to Wade. In accepting the indictment on Tuesday, US Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya issued a summons for his appearance, not an arrest warrant.
For those involved with the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol, special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment brought a collective sigh of relief, according to a Washington Post report.
For them, the indictment served as the start of a final stage of accountability for Donald Trump and his allies that the committee long sought, but also as a validation of the group’s work, the paper wrote, citing sources.
The indictment also elevated their findings outside of the political arena, where their work was subject to constant allegations of partisanship, bringing the credibility of the criminal justice system.
Retired group chats were revived and calls placed to old colleagues as lawmakers and investigators absorbed the news.
Tim Heaphy, the lead investigator for the committee, told the paper:
As I read the indictment, it really struck me how closely it hews to our structure and our findings. Facts are what matters. And lawyers get too much credit for facts. We gathered really important facts because a lot of people came forward and gave us those facts. Those same facts are leading to a criminal indictment of the former president.
The indictment comes more than two years after a group of Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to disrupt the congressional certification of Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The January 6 attack, which has already resulted in more than 1,000 arrests, caused the deaths of seven people, a bipartisan Senate report found.
Despite the deadly consequences of the Capitol insurrection, past efforts to hold Trump accountable for the violence and his broader election subversion campaign have fallen short. The House voted to impeach Trump for inciting the insurrection, but he was acquitted by the Senate. The House then passed a bill calling for the formation of an independent commission to investigate the Capitol attack, but that proposal also failed in the Senate.
House Democrats instead created a select committee to examine the origins and impact of the January 6 insurrection, and the panel held a series of hearings that painted a damning picture of a president hellbent on remaining in office even after it became clear he had fairly lost his bid for reelection. The select committee ultimately voted to refer Trump to the justice department for criminal prosecution, but the panel itself could not advance charges against the former president.
Kristy Parker, a former federal prosecutor and now counsel at the nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy, said:
The select committee did an outstanding job of presenting a lot of evidence that they gleaned from their interviews with people who essentially were willing to cooperate, but criminal investigators and prosecutors have the ability to subpoena people.
Unlike Donald Trump’s first two indictments, the former president’s third set of criminal charges stands out as the first major legal effort to hold him accountable for attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Pro-democracy experts welcomed the indictment as a victory for the rule of law that could help fortify America’s election systems in the face of ongoing threats from Trump and his allies.
The indictment charges Trump with four counts: 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 in his relentless pursuit to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election and remain in office.
“This is one of the worst things any American president has ever done,” said Michael Waldman, president and CEO of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University’s School of Law.
The magnitude of the indictment matches the magnitude of what Trump tried to do, which is to overthrow the constitutional system to stay in office.
The significance of the indictments extends beyond accountability, Parker argued. As Trump and his allies continue to spread lies about rampant voter fraud and threaten the foundation of America’s system of government, the recently announced criminal charges could send a chilling message to anyone else considering similar anti-democratic efforts in the future.
“We have been kind of living under a question mark ever since the events of January 6, and that question mark has been: are we as a country going to be able to hold this person accountable, even though he was the 45th president of the United States?” Kristy Parker, a former federal prosecutor and now counsel at the nonpartisan nonprofit Protect Democracy, said.
If you let a person like that walk away without any kind of accountability, then the chances of something like what we saw on January 6 happening again are extremely high.
Here are some key takeaways from the latest indictment:
Trump faces four charges
The former president is accused of conspiring to defraud the United States government, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiring against rights, and obstruction and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding.
In the 45-page indictment, prosecutors laid out their case in stark detail, alleging Trump knowingly spread false allegations about fraud, convened false slates of electors and attempted to block the certification of the election on January 6.
The former president was ‘determined to remain in power’
Federal prosecutors said Trump was “determined to remain in power”. Prosecutors said that for two months after his election loss, Trump spread lies to create an “intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger” and “erode public faith in the administration of the election”. They cited an example in Georgia, where Trump claimed more than 10,000 dead people voted in four days even after the state’s top elections official told him that was not true.
There are six un-indicted co-conspirators
The indictment included six un-indicted co-conspirators as part of Smith’s inquiry, including four unnamed attorneys who allegedly aided Trump in his effort to subvert the 2020 election results, as well as an unnamed justice department official and an unnamed political consultant.
While unnamed in the document, the details in the indictment indicate that those people include Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, Ken Chesebro as well as the former US justice department official Jeff Clark.
The special counsel wants a speedy trial
It’s unclear yet when the case will go to trial, but special counsel Jack Smith said his office will seek speedy proceedings. Smith said in a press conference on Tuesday:
I must emphasize that the indictment is only an allegation and that the defendant must be presumed innocent until proven guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt, in a court of law.
Indictments won’t disqualify Trump from office
Trump’s indictments will not bar him from seeking the presidency again, nor will any conviction. However, if he’s convicted, there would likely be lawsuits seeking to disqualify him from the ballot under the 14th amendment, which bars those who have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” from holding office. But Congress could override that disqualification in the 14th amendment by two-thirds vote.
The indictment follows a path laid by the House January 6 committee
The congressional panel, which was created to investigate the insurrection, concluded last December recommending criminal charges. Over the course of the investigation, the committee conducted more than 1,000 interviews, collected more than a million documents and interviewed key witnesses. In public hearings, some held at prime time, investigators aired dramatic and damning footage, making the case that Trump “was directly responsible for summoning what became a violent mob” despite understanding that he had lost the election.
The justice department received what the committee had uncovered, but conducted its own interviews and used its authority to gain key evidence that wasn’t easily accessible to Congress.
The final charges against Trump include ones that the committee had recommended, including conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Members of the media and public are lining up outside the federal courthouse in Washington, where Donald Trump is expected to appear at 4pm Eastern time (9pm BST).
The chief of the Capitol Police told reporters on Wednesday that the force is “prepared for whatever might happen”. He said there is “security plan in place” but declined to go into specifics.
Donald Trump’s former attorney general William Bar said he believes Trump “knew well he lost the election” and that special counsel Jack Smith has more evidence to prove that the former president knew the 2020 election was not stolen.
Barr, who resigned as Trump’s attorney general weeks after the election in December 2020, told CNN:
At first I wasn’t sure, but I have come to believe he knew well he had lost the election.
He went on to say that the four charges Trump is accused of in the latest indictment are just the “tip of the iceberg” and that Smith has “a lot more evidence” against him.
I think there is a lot more to come, and I think they have a lot more evidence as to President Trump’s state of mind.
“It would not come out very well for him” if Trump took the stand on that defense, Barr said, adding that he doubted if the former president “remembers all the different versions of events he has given over the last few years.”
Good morning from Washington DC. Thursday’s arraignment follows the release of a 45-page indictment that alleges that Donald Trump repeated false claims of election fraud, despite repeated warnings from multiple people in his circle, including senior leaders in the Department of Justice and senior attorneys who had been appointed by Trump, and the former vice-president Mike Pence, who told him “he had seen no evidence of outcome-determinative fraud”.
The indictment describes a conspiracy which, at its core, involves Trump and his co-conspirators allegedly trying to dupe Pence into falsely suggesting the outcome of the 2020 election had been in doubt.
To do so, prosecutors say Trump tried to use the Department of Justice to open “sham election fraud investigations” and repeatedly tried to co-opt Pence into rejecting electoral college votes for Joe Biden in an effort to stop his election win being certified.
When that failed, the indictment says, Trump tried to block the certification and exploited the January 6 Capitol attack by trying to push false claims of election fraud and to convince members of Congress to continue to delay the certification.
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, Ken Chesebro as well as the former US justice department official Jeff Clark.
This is Léonie Chao-Fong taking over the blog in Washington. You can reach me at email@example.com
My colleague in New York, Sam Levine, has put together this useful guide to some of the possible scenarios and outcomes from this criminal legal action against Donald Trump. He addresses some of the key unknowns, like for example “If convicted, can Trump be blocked from holding office?”, “What happens if Trump goes on trial during the presidential primaries?” and “could Trump theoretically pardon himself if he goes on to win the Republican nomination and then the election?”
Donald Trump has used his Truth Social platform to issue an early morning screed to call for a change of venue in the trial.
Labelling it a “fake ‘case’” which has been “brought by crooked Joe Biden and deranged Jack Smith”, Trump suggested “politically unbiased” West Virginia as a venue, arguing it is impossible for him to get a fair trial in Washington, which he described as “95% anti-Trump”.
The message suggests that anybody who thought Trump might temper his language, in light of the charges he faces, was misguided.
In the Washington Post this morning, one lawyer is quoted suggesting that the case could hinge on whether the prosecution can prove what is going on inside Donald Trump’s mind. It quotes Robert Kelner, who it describes as a veteran DC lawyer, saying:
I think the entire indictment really turns on the question of Trump’s intent. Arguably, there isn’t any smoking-gun evidence in the indictment regarding intent, though there is certainly circumstantial evidence. At the heart of the case is really a metaphysical question of whether it’s even possible for Donald Trump to believe that he lost the election, or lost anything else, for that matter.[Special Counsel Jack] Smith needs to show that all of the false statements Trump made about the election, which the indictment chronicles in great detail, were understood by Trump to be false; otherwise, it becomes a case about political speech and first amendment rights.
There is a decades-old question about whether, in the privacy of his own office or bedroom, Donald Trump admits to things that he doesn’t admit publicly or whether, even when he’s staring at himself in the bathroom mirror shaving, he’s telling himself the same lies that he tells the rest of us. I don’t think we know the answer. It may be an unanswerable question.
In his response to the indictment on Tuesday, Donald Trump’s statement described it as a “pathetic attempt by the Biden Crime Family and their weaponized Department of Justice to interfere with the 2024 Presidential Election”.
“Biden Crime Family” has become the latest epithet that Donald Trump drops into his statements in the hope that it will be picked up and amplified by his followers.
The former president has a knack for pithy phrases and nicknames which become shortcuts and memes for his fans – think rallies chanting “Lock her up” about opponent “Crooked Hillary” Clinton in the 2016 election or Trump dubbing his opponent “sleepy Joe” in 2020.
It isn’t just those in the Democratic party who have been on the receiving end. He has labelled his Florida governor opponent for the 2024 nomination “Ron DeSanctimonious” and Ted Cruz earned the Trump name “Lyin’ Ted”.
“Biden Crime Family” isn’t an original Trump phrase though, but one that has been floating around Republican circles for some time. In fact only a week ago Jill Biden’s first husband was using the phrase in a New York Post interview about his experience of dealing with the president and his wife after the split.
The “crime family” name derives from a continued Republican fascination with the legal worries of Biden’s son Hunter, who has pleaded not guilty to tax and gun charges. Overseas dealings involving the Biden family have been subject to a House Oversight Committee investigation, which is yet to report any wrongdoing.