Donald Trump pleads not guilty in plot to overturn 2020 election
Friday, 4 August 2023 (11:07 IST)
The former President of the United States, Donald Trump, faces charges that he engaged in a conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
Special Counsel Jack Smith has listed four federal charges against Trump, which center around his actions leading up to the January 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol.
Trump appeared in person at the Washington court where he pleaded not guilty.
The indictment is the third in four months for Trump, who is nonetheless the frontrunner in a campaign to become the 2024 Republican nominee for president.
Here's an overview of the events around the hearing:
Could Georgia soon indict and arrest Trump?
After the latest indictment and arrest of Trump in the election 2020 conspiracy case, even more legal woes could be coming his way.
Trump is being investigated in the southern state of Georgia over his alleged efforts to overturn the presidential election results there. That probe is being led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.
Willis has said that charges in that case, which may include election fraud and racketeering, could be filed this month.
The Georgia case is unique, as it is on a state level. This means that if Trump is convicted in the case, he could not be given a presidential pardon for the crimes.
Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat has told local media that if Trump is arrested after being indicted in the probe, a mugshot would be taken of the former president.
Republicans angered over Trump arraignment
Prominent Republicans expressed indignation over Trump's arrest.
Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia said on X that "Trump is being arrested in an attempt to interfere in the 2024 election."
Elise Stefanik, a Republican congresswoman from New York, labeled the arrest "unconstitutional and unprecedented," while claiming that President Joe Biden is weaponizing the Department of Justice against Trump.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, raised concerns about the impartiality of the judge presiding over the case.
"The judge presiding over Trump's newest case — an Obama-appointed jurist — has previously ruled against the former president," Blackburn tweeted. "Do you think she'll judge in a fair and impartial manner?"
Tanya Chutkan, the judge presiding over the case, is known for her tough sentences for January 6 rioters. In 2021, she rebuked a request from Trump that sought to stop the January 6 House panel from receiving documents from his administration pertaining to the insurrection.
How did Democrats react to the arraignment?
Former Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi of California said the January 6 Committee in the previous congress "laid the foundation to this historic moment." The January 6 panel collected findings on the Capitol riot and gave multiple public hearings connecting Trump with the insurrection.
"No one is above the law — not even a former President of the United States," Pelosi said in a social media post.
"The truth about the lies, bullying, distortions, threats and the involvement of Donald Trump in the January 6 insurrection that took place at our US Capitol are now revealed in the recent grand jury indictment," Maxine Walters, a Democratic representative from California said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.
"Next step: his trials must be made public," Waters added. "Our democracy is at stake."
One of the arguments made by Trump's lawyers is that the former president's conduct after the 2020 election is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The First Amendment protects freedom of speech and expression.
Massachusetts Democratic Representative Jim McGovern has rebuked this argument.
"The First Amendment protects lies — and even liars," McGovern said in a post on X. "It certainly doesn't shield Trump from liability for engaging in an illegal conspiracy to throw out the lawful election results just because he didn't like them."
Trump calls arraignment 'a very sad day for America'
Donald Trump said it was "a very sad day for America" as he boarded his plane to leave Washington DC after pleading not guilty on all four federal counts against him.
He repeated some of his talking points about the case, calling it "a persecution of a political opponent."
Trump has claimed without evidence he was charged as part of an attempt to interfere with the 2024 presidential election.
Trump has announced another run for the White House. He claims that the case is an attempt by Joe Biden"s administration to end his candidacy and eliminate a political challenger.
"If you can't beat them, you persecute them, or you prosecute them. We can't let this happen in America," Trump said.
The case is part of escalating legal troubles for the ex-president.
Next court hearing on August 28
Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya has scheduled the next court hearing in the case for August 28.
Prosecutors have not asked for pre-trial detention and Trump would not need to be at court on that date.
It will take place just days after the first debate in the 2024 Republican presidential primary debate.
The hearing will be the first to take place before US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who will oversee the case.
Judge Upadhyaya reminded Trump that he must not violate any laws while waiting for the next hearing, must appear in court when required, and must not talk to any witnesses about the case, except through an attorney.
Trump was expected to give a short statement before boarding his plane at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport before leaving Washington.
Trump pleads not guilty to 4 federal counts
Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to four federal charges in a Washington court after hearing charges against him.
The 77-year-old told Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya, who read out the 45-page indictment and possible maximum prison sentences, that he was "not guilty" — placing an emphasis on the first word.
The charges stem from an investigation into the efforts to overturn the 2020 US presidential election result.
Trump is charged with, conspiracy to defraud the United States, two counts for conspiring to obstruct and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.
The accusations that Trump and six unnamed co-conspirators plotted to have the 2020 election result thrown out constitute the most serious of three criminal cases that hover over his White House comeback attempt.
Police and investigators also spotted in courtroom
Former US President Donald Trump is in court to answer charges that he conspired to overturn his 2020 defeat in the election.
The US Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith, who oversaw the investigtion, was also in the courtroom, according to media reports.
Some of the police officers who defended the US Capitol on January 6 were also attending the arraignment.
Capitol Police officers Harry Dunn, Aquilino Gonell and Washington Metropolitan Police Department officer Daniel Hodges were seen entering the court earlier.
Trump is facing his most serious charges yet
The case in Washington is the third criminal case brought against Donald Trump in less than six months.
It is, however, the first trying to hold him criminally responsible for his efforts to cling to power after his election loss in the run-up to the Capitol riot.
In a 45-page indictment, Special Counsel Jack Smith accused the former president and his allies advanced claims of fraud they knew to be untrue.
The indictment says close advisers, including senior intelligence officials, told Trump repeatedly that the election results were legitimate. Trump's former attorney general, William Barr, said the same in an interview with CNN this week.
He is accused of conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy against the rights of citizens.
Trump says he did nothing wrong and calls the charges politically motivated.