Donald Trump: Ex-US president charged with plotting to overturn 2020 election defeat - what happens next
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Donald Trump has been charged with plotting to overturn his 2020 election defeat. This is the third time in four months that the former US president has been criminally charged amid his attempt to regain the presidency in the elections next year.
The Republican leader is accused of four counts including conspiracy to defraud the US by preventing Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s victory and to deprive voters of their right to a fair election.
The indictment concludes an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disturbance at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, that saw more than 1,000 Trump supporters arrested in connection with the attack.
In a brief statement, Special Counsel Jack Smith placed the blame for the violence squarely on Trump’s shoulders. He told Reuters: “The attack on our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy.
“As described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies - lies by the defendant, targeted at obstructing the bedrock function of the US government.”
The 77-year-old celebrity-turned-politician however denies any wrongdoing, branding the allegation “ridiculous.” Trump has already been charged in two other cases: with mishandling classified files and falsifying business records to cover up a hush-money payment to a porn star.
Mr Trump is scheduled to appear in court in Washington, DC on Thursday, August 3. Six unnamed co-conspirators are mentioned in the 45-page indictment: four lawyers, a Justice Department official, and a political consultant.
Mr Trump is accused of a “conspiracy to impair, obstruct, and defeat the federal government function through dishonesty, fraud, and deceit” in the court papers.
Addressing Mr Trump’s allegations of voter fraud in 2020, prosecutors say: “These claims were false and the defendant knew that they were false.” They also say Mr Trump tried and failed to convince Vice-President Mike Pence to attempt to block Mr Biden’s certification as president on January 6, 2021.
“As violence ensued, the Defendant and co-conspirators exploited the disruption by redoubling efforts to levy false claims of election fraud and convince members of Congress to further delay the certification based on those claims.”
The indictment also names numerous US officials and senior Trump campaign officials who, according to the indictment, advised the outgoing president that he had lost and there was no evidence of voter fraud.#
Mr. Trump, who now faces 78 criminal offence counts in three separate investigations, is the Republican Party’s frontrunner in the race to select its next presidential candidate as he seeks a rematch with Biden, 80, in November 2024.
The Trump team argued in a statement that the indictment on Tuesday amounted to electoral interference. The campaign claimed: “The lawlessness of these persecutions of President Trump and his supporters is reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the former Soviet Union, and other authoritarian, dictatorial regimes.”
What happens next in court?
Trump has been asked to appear before the same court who accepted his indictment, U.S. Magistrate Moxila A. Upadhyaya, in Washington DC at 4pm on Thursday (August 3). At a formal arraignment, Trump may be asked to enter a plea. After hearing from prosecutors and the defence, the court will establish release conditions.
The government earlier requested, and a federal judge in Miami granted, Trump’s release without bail after he vowed to appear at future proceedings and not violate any laws. Prosecutors withdrew standard requests for defendants to surrender their passports and comply with potential travel restrictions and pretrial supervision notification procedures.
The parties will likely discuss how soon the government will turn over evidence in the case to Trump’s defence - a process known as discovery - how long to pause the federal 70-day speedy trial requirement while both sides prepare any pretrial motions, and when to set a trial date in the coming days and weeks.
Will he be held in jail?
No, and federal prosecutors in the classified documents case did not request it, according to Washington Post. A judge considers a defendant’s flight risk, threat to the community, and violent criminal record when deciding whether to detain someone until trial, none of which are factors here.
Yes. While no major party candidate has ever attempted it, Trump is permitted to run for president while under investigation – or even if convicted of a crime.