WASHINGTON — The Department of Justice’s indictment against former President Donald Trump for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election not only targeted Trump, but six unnamed co-conspirators prosecutors said were instrumental in Trump’s allegedly illegal attempts to stay in power.
Though the indictment does not name them, it provides details about each alleged co-conspirator and their actions, allowing most of them to be identified when combining the charging information with what has already been made public about the events surrounding Jan. 6, 2021.
It could not be determined Wednesday why the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, did not charge any of the alleged co-conspirators in the indictment, which also noted there were other co-conspirators “known and unknown” to the grand jury In Washington, D.C. that handed up the indictment.
Smith also didn’t mention them when speaking briefly about the indictment on Tuesday, instead urging the American public to read all of its 45 pages. It’s possible the grand jury could return a superseding indictment in this case later, with additional co-defendants. That’s what happened in the classified documents case against Trump that the special counsel’s office is also investigating, according to former Trump White House special counsel Ty Cobb and other legal analysts.
One possibility, according to Cobb and other analysts, is that Smith and his team might be putting pressure on them to cooperate before criminally charging them. Leaving their names out “signals two things,” Cobb said. “One is that the grand jury is still working” and is looking at additional charges.
“Two, they’re listed as conspirators, not unindicted co-conspirators,” Cobb said, “which is a significant thing because it suggests they will be indicted unless they work out some arrangement with the government.”
Here is who USA TODAY can identify as Trump’s co-conspirators in the indictment. Much of the information about their alleged activities comes from the exhaustive 18-month investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection by a special House committee, which issued a lengthy report and held nine public hearings.
USA TODAY has reached out to representatives for all of the potential co-conspirators for response.
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Co-Conspirator 1: Rudy Giuliani
The indictment describes the first co-conspirator as “an attorney who was willing to spread knowingly false claims and pursue strategies that the Defendant’s 2020 re-election campaign attorneys would not.”
Trump directed the first co-conspirator, who appears to be his former personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to “spearhead” Trump’s efforts to overturn his loss, according to the Tuesday indictment. It specifically cites a moment where the first co-conspirator falsely accused two Georgia election workers of election fraud.
“He cited two election workers by name, baselessly accused them of ‘quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports as if they are vials of heroin or cocaine,’ and suggested that they were criminals whose ‘places of work, their homes, should have been searched for evidence of ballots, for evidence of USB ports, for evidence of voter fraud,’” reads the indictment.
In a court filing in July, Giuliani conceded he made two defamatory and false statements about those two election workers – known to be Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss – who both say they have received countless death threats due to the claims. The two election workers, and the false accusations against them, were featured during one of the hearings of the special House Jan. 6 committee investigating the insurrection.
Giuliani didn’t respond directly to whether he is Co-Conspirator 1 in the indictment on Tuesday night. But he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter, that, “Today’s indictment eviscerates the First Amendment and criminalizes the ruling regime’s number one political opponent for daring to ask questions about the 2020 election results.”
Co-Conspirator 2: John Eastman
Conservative lawyer John Eastman can be identified as Co-Conspirator 2, who is referred to in the indictment as an “attorney who devised and attempted to implement a strategy to leverage the Vice President’s ceremonial role overseeing the certification proceeding to obstruct the certification of the presidential election.”
The indictment alleges that Co-Conspirator 2 circulated a “two-page memorandum” outlining the plan. According to Bob Woodward and Robert Costa in their book “Peril,” that memo was authored by Eastman. CNN later reported on the memo as well.
The indictment also said this co-conspirator called the Arizona House speaker on the morning of Jan. 4, 2021, to urge him to use a majority of the legislature to decertify the state’s legitimate electors. “When the Arizona House Speaker explained that state investigations had uncovered no evidence of substantial fraud in the state, Co-Conspirator 2 conceded that he didn’t ‘know enough about facts on the ground’ in Arizona, but nonetheless told the Arizona House Speaker to decertify and ‘let the courts sort it out,'” it said.
Eastman faced 11 disciplinary charges in the State Bar Court of California for actions similar to those alleged in the indictment. The regulatory body alleged Eastman violated his duty to uphold the U.S. and California state constitutions in an attempt to “usurp the will of the American people and overturn election results for the highest office in the land.”
The indictment cited this line from a speech Eastman gave at the Jan. 6 Stop the Steal rally: “All we are demanding of Vice President Pence is this afternoon at one o’clock he let the legislatures of the state look into this so we get to the bottom of it and the American people know whether we have control of the direction of our government or not.”
“The latest indictment relies on a misleading presentation of the record to contrive criminal charges against Presidential candidate Trump and to cast ominous aspersions on his close advisors,” Charles Burnham, Eastman’s attorney, said in a statement.
Co-Conspirator 3: Sidney Powell
The indictment appears to identify former Trump attorney Sidney Powell as Co-Conspirator 3.
It states the co-conspirator filed a lawsuit against the governor of Georgia on Nov. 25, 2020, falsely alleging “massive election fraud” accomplished through voting machine software and hardware. Powell was one of four attorneys listed on that lawsuit, but the indictment also identified the co-conspirator as an attorney whose unfounded claims of election fraud Trump privately acknowledged to others sounded “crazy.”
In a deposition by former Trump staffer Hope Hicks during the investigation by the Jan. 6th select committee, Hicks said the president told her and others that Powell’s theories “sounded crazy.”
Powell was among a group of attorneys who filed a wave of lawsuits in several states, pushing a false claim that an international cabal tried to steal the election away from Trump in Michigan and several other states. Powell and others received federal sanctions from a Michigan judge. She has been involved in ongoing litigation over those sanctions and an attempt by the state to recover attorneys fees.
The indictment stated that even though Trump has said the ideas “sounded crazy” he “embraced and publicly amplified” the disinformation. He “did this despite the fact that when he had discussed Co-Conspirator 3’s far-fetched public claims regarding the voting machine company in private with advisors, the Defendant had conceded that they were unsupported and that Co-Conspirator 3 sounded ‘crazy.’”
Powell’s representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
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Co-Conspirator 4: Jeffrey Clark
Co-Conspirator 4 is outlined as “a Justice Department official who worked on civil matters and who, with the Defendant, attempted to use the Justice Department to open sham election crime investigations and influence state legislatures with knowingly false claims of election fraud.”
The fourth co-conspirator can be pinpointed as Jeffrey Clark, a high-ranking Justice Department official in Trump’s administration. Clark is known to have drafted letters with false claims of election fraud to coerce officials in key battleground states to open investigations into their elections.
The indictment also details Trump’s desire to have Clark installed as acting attorney general to empower him to further pursue Trump’s false claims of election fraud. On the morning of Jan. 3, the indictment reads, Clark “accepted the Defendant’s offer that he become acting attorney general.”
“We are fighting with Jeff Clark and all Americans who have been taunted, abused, searched, arrested and locked up by our federal government,” Russ Vought, president of the Center for Renewing America said in a statement. Clark is the director of litigation and a senior fellow at the conservative think tank.
Co-Conspirator 5: Kenneth Chesebro
Co-Conspirator 5 is described as a Trump attorney who helped devise and attempted to implement “a plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding.”
The plan, the indictment said, capitalized on ideas presented in memos drafted by Co-Conspirator 5, who was assisting Trump’s legal efforts related to a recount in Wisconsin aimed at overturning President Joe Biden’s win in the key swing state.
“The memoranda evolved over time from a legal strategy to preserve the Defendant’s rights to a corrupt plan to subvert the federal government function by stopping Biden electors’ votes from being counted and certified,” the indictment said, laying out voluminous details of the plan and efforts to unduly sway the legitimate election results in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Although that description could fit several lawyers who worked with Trump on his efforts to overturn the election, they closely match the actions of conservative attorney Kenneth Chesebro.
Chesebro is one of four attorneys singled out in the Jan. 6th final report which stated there could be enough evidence for criminal charges. The other three are all listed as co-conspirators: John Eastman, Rudy Giuliani and Jeffrey Clark.
Chesebro’s representatives did not respond to a request for comment.
Co-Conspirator 6: An unknown ‘political consultant’
The identity of this co-conspirator remained one of the big mysteries Wednesday, with no immediately apparent clues in the indictment to the identity or even gender.
The co-conspirator is identified as “a political consultant who helped implement a plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding.”
The person could be among at least 10 identified in the Jan. 6th committee’s final report as having been involved in efforts to overturn the election by using baseless or fraudulent claims and electors.
The indictment states co-conspirator 1 received both the “Wisconsin memo” and the “fraudulent elector memo on Dec. 7, 2020, then spoke with co-conspirator 6 regarding attorneys who could assist in the “fraudulent elector effort” in the targeted states. He then received from co-conspirator 6 “an email identifying attorneys in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.”
To manage the plan in Pennsylvania, co-conspirators 1, 5 and 6 participated in a Dec. 12, 2020 conference call organized by the campaign with Trump’s electors in that state. When the electors expressed concern about representing themselves as legitimate electors, the indictment stated, co-conspirator 1 “falsely assured them that their certificates would be used only if the Defendant succeeded in litigation.”
Afterward, co-conspirator 6 circulated proposed conditional language to that effect for potential inclusion in the fraudulent elector certificates, the indictment stated.