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Trump indicted in Washington over Jan. 6 attack on Capitol

Indictment is the third and possibly most politically explosive against the 2024 GOP front-runner

Special Counsel John L. “Jack” Smith speaks at the Justice Department headquarters about a four-count indictment alleging former President Donald Trump tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost.
Special Counsel John L. “Jack” Smith speaks at the Justice Department headquarters about a four-count indictment alleging former President Donald Trump tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election, which he lost. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

A grand jury indicted former President Donald Trump on four federal charges Tuesday tied to his effort to overturn his loss in the 2020 election, marking the third and possibly most politically explosive criminal case against the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.

The case shepherded by special counsel John L. “Jack” Smith follows a more than two-year probe into the effort to overturn President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory that culminated in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

The 45-page indictment details some of what happened leading up to the attack and includes charges of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The indictment also mentions six co-conspirators but does not name them, and details some of their actions around Jan. 6.

The indictment alleges Trump and his allies organized their own false slates of electors in 2020 battleground states that Biden won, and sought to impede the congressional proceeding to count and certify the presidential election.

Further, the indictment alleges Trump sought to enlist the Justice Department in his effort to overturn the election, urging officials to “just say the election was corrupt” and allow Republicans in Congress to try to overturn the result.

“Despite having lost, the Defendant was determined to remain in power. So for more than two months following election day on November 3, 2020, the Defendant spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won. These claims were false,” the indictment said.

The indictment alleges that Trump pursued his false claims of election fraud for months after being told by Justice Department officials, state officials, Vice President Mike Pence and numerous courts that there was no evidence of fraud. Instead, the indictment alleges Trump relied on half a dozen co-conspirators — attorneys, political consultants and a senior Justice Department official — to further his illegal attempts to remain in power.

“These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false. In fact, the Defendant was notified repeatedly that his claims were untrue—often by the people on whom he relied for candid advice on important matters, and who were best positioned to know the facts—and he deliberately disregarded the truth,” the indictment states.

The indictment, handed up in Washington, D.C., deepens Trump’s legal exposure and sets the stage for one of the most politically sensitive prosecutions in the history of the Justice Department, one that is sure to roil Trump allies on Capitol Hill and once again test the Republican Party’s support for the former president.

Trump has accused the Biden administration of using the DOJ to take out a political rival and rolled the rhetoric into his campaign for presidency. In a post on his social media website Truth Social Tuesday, Trump claimed the indictment was meant to interfere with his candidacy for president.

“Why didn’t they do this 2.5 years ago? Why did they wait so long? Because they wanted to put it right in the middle of my campaign. Prosecutorial Misconduct!” Trump posted.

Trump sent out a series of mass emails, including a statement responding to the charges and a fundraising solicitation that ended with: “Please make a contribution to show that you will NEVER SURRENDER our country to tyranny as the Deep State thugs try to JAIL me for life.”

As news of the indictment broke, Biden and first lady Jill Biden were dining out at Matt’s Fish Camp in Lewes, Del., according to the White House pool.

Smith made a brief statement Tuesday evening and called the Jan. 6 attack “an unprecedented assault on the seat of American 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,” Smith said.

Smith did not answer press questions following the statement.

Congress connection

The indictment does not mention members of Congress who bolstered Trump’s false claims of election fraud following the election but does mention several contacts between the former president and members of Congress while the Capitol was besieged by Trump supporters. That included mention of a call between Trump and then-Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., where Trump told McCarthy that “the crowd was more upset about the election than the Minority Leader was.”

The indictment also alleges that Trump and a co-conspirator “attempted to exploit” the violence at the Capitol by calling lawmakers to attempt to delay certification of the election. Those calls occurred while other White House officials were attempting to convince Trump to call off his supporters.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, both D-N.Y., said in a joint statement the indictment “illustrates in shocking detail that the violence of that day was the culmination of a months-long criminal plot led by the former president to defy democracy and overturn the will of the American people.

“This indictment is the most serious and most consequential thus far and will stand as a stark reminder to generations of Americans that no one, including a president of the United States, is above the law,” Schumer and Jeffries said.

Some Republicans on the Hill have defended Trump, including allies like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., who proposed defunding the office of Smith, the special counsel investigating Trump, in a bill announced last month.

Additionally, the House Judiciary Committee has requested DOJ and FBI information about the probe and Republican appropriators advanced a DOJ funding bill that would put “nonpartisan career staff” in charge of “politically sensitive” investigations, including those of presidential candidates.

The House select panel that investigated the attack faulted Trump in its final report last year and referred him to the Justice Department for charges that he violated four federal statutes, including obstructing an official proceeding, conspiracy and defrauding the United States.