WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury in Washington on Tuesday indicted former U.S. President Donald Trump for illegally trying to upend his 2020 election loss to retain power, adding to his legal peril as he campaigns to regain the White House in the 2024 election.
The voluminous four-count indictment was filed by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith after the grand jury heard months of testimony from some of Trump’s closest allies and their recollections of how Trump tried – and failed – to overturn his loss to Democrat Joe Biden, who became the U.S. president in January 2021.
The 45-page indictment alleges that the 77-year-old Trump engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the United States, threaten the rights of others, and obstruct an official proceeding before Congress – the counting of electoral votes certifying Biden’s victory – and obstruction of an official proceeding, the Electoral College vote count by Congress on January 6, 2021, as 2,000 Trump supporters stormed into the U.S. Capitol in a rampaging protest.
It is the first time in the country’s 247-year history that a former president has been accused of illegally trying to stay in office for another four-year term rather than peacefully if reluctantly, turn over power to a successor. He is expected to appear before a judge on Thursday in his first court appearance in the case.
To this day, Trump claims falsely that he was cheated out of reelection by vote fraud and other election irregularities, even after dozens of judges rejected his claims in the weeks after the 2020 election.
The indictment says, “Despite having lost, the Defendant was determined to remain in power. So for more than two months following election day on November 3, 2020, 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 indictment says. But, it said, Trump “repeated and widely disseminated them anyway – to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election.”
The indictment alleges that each of Trump’s conspiracies “targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election.”
The indictment alleges that Trump conspired in various ways with six other people, none of them named in the indictment, to upend the national outcome. Four of them were attorneys advising him, another was a Justice Department official and a sixth was a political consultant who allegedly “helped implement a plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors [favoring Trump] to obstruct the certification proceeding” showing Biden had won.
It is the second time Smith has indicted Trump in the past two months. In an earlier 40-count indictment, the prosecutor accused Trump of illegally retaining 32 highly classified national security documents at his oceanside Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida after he left office rather than turning them over to the National Archives as he was required to do by U.S. law. A trial has been set for May 2024.
In addition, a New York state prosecutor has indicted Trump on allegations that he falsified financial records at his real estate conglomerate, the Trump Organization, to hide a $130,000 hush money payment to an adult film star before his successful 2016 presidential campaign. The goal was to silence her claim of a one-night tryst with Trump a decade earlier. That trial is set for next March.
In the southern state of Georgia, a prosecutor has signaled she also could soon indict Trump for trying to illegally overturn the 2020 election result in that state. There, in early 2021, Trump was recorded on a phone call asking election officials to “find” him 11,780 votes, one more than Biden’s winning margin, so Trump could claim the state’s 16 electoral votes.
Trump has denied all wrongdoing in the various cases, often assailing Smith and the prosecutors in New York and Georgia.
Trump attacked the indictment, contending it was “nothing more than the latest corrupt chapter in the continued pathetic attempt by the Biden Crime Family and their weaponized Justice Department” to interfere in the 2024 election. He claimed the indictment was reminiscent of “Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the former Soviet Union, and other authoritarian, dictatorial regimes.”
National polling shows Trump is the overwhelming favorite among Republican voters for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination. A New York Times poll published Tuesday hours ahead of the latest indictment showed him in a tie with Biden at 43% apiece if the two end up facing each other for a second straight election.