• Thu. Feb 22nd, 2024

Trump indicted in special counsel’s 2020 election interference probe

Trump indicted in special counsel's 2020 election interference probe

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 4, 2023. 
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, March 4, 2023.  Haiyun Jiang/The New York Times/Redux

Special counsel Jack Smith unveiled his case alleging that former President Donald Trump broke several laws in his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, with a grand jury indictment returned Tuesday that illustrated the depth and breadth of the federal criminal investigation.

Prosecutors said in the new charging documents that Trump “was determined to remain in power” after losing the 2020 election, and that he and six unindicted co-conspirators orchestrated a plot to overturn the results on and leading up to January 6, 2021.

Trump, who has derided Smith’s case as a politically motivated “fake indictment,” has been summoned to appear before a magistrate judge on Thursday.

Here are the key takeaways:

Trump accused of knowingly spreading “prolific lies”: Prosecutors detailed the “prolific lies” that Trump made in the wake of the 2020 election, including knowingly pushing false claims of voter fraud and voting machines switching votes, the indictment says, despite state and federal officials telling him the claims were wrong.

Trump “spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won” the indictment states, adding that the “claims were false, and the Defendant knew they were false.”

Allegedly organized fake electors: The indictment alleges that Trump and his co-conspirators effectively tricked individuals from seven targeted states into creating and submitting certificates asserting they were legitimate electors.

The goal was to create a “fake controversy” at the certification proceeding in those states on December 14, 2020, and “position the Vice President – presiding on January 6 as President of the Senate – to supplant legitimate electors” with Trump’s fake ones.

“Exploited” the January 6 attack: The indictment alleges that Trump and co-conspirators “exploited” the “violence” and “chaos” of the Capitol attack – continuing efforts to convince members of Congress to delay the certification of the election that day while rebuffing pleas that he direct the rioters to depart.

In a phone call the evening of the riot, Trump refused a request from his then-White House Counsel Pat Cipollone to withdraw his objections and allow for Congress’ certification of the 2020 election results, prosecutors said in the new indictment.

New details on Pence: Many of the revelations in Tuesday’s indictment appear to be the fruits of aggressive legal battles brought by prosecutors to secure testimony from close presidential aides – including new details about the communications Trump had with Pence in the bid to convince the vice president to disrupt Congress’ certification vote.

More to come: The normally tight-lipped Jack Smith made a rare public statement with the unsealing of the indictment, making clear that his team’s “investigation of individuals continues and emphasizing that the Justice Department was committed to “ensuring accountability for those criminally responsible for what happened that day.”

As the investigation chugs along, and the possibility looms that others will be charged as part of the probe, the criminal proceedings against Trump will unfold in federal court in DC, starting with an appearance he’ll make before a magistrate judge scheduled for Thursday.

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