Former President Donald Trump has been charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, obstructing a congressional proceeding, and conspiracy against rights in connection with what prosecutors allege was an illegal scheme to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.
The third indictment against the former president was released Tuesday and contained criminal charges for his efforts after the election that incited the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
The former president is expected to appear, either in person or virtually, before a Washington federal court Thursday for his arraignment.
The four-count, 45-page indictment accuses Trump, who is again running for president, of conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, attempting to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiring against people’s civil right to have their vote counted.
The maximum potential sentence on the most serious charge is 20 years in prison. Trump’s growing legal troubles do not bar him from running for president.
Even a conviction would not disqualify him from contesting the election but two civil rights organizations are launching a campaign to pressure state governments to disqualify Trump from appearing on ballots in 2024. The groups, Mi Familia Vota and Free Speech for People, say secretaries of state are empowered by the 14th Amendment to bar Trump from running for office because of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection.
“The attack on our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy,” said Special Counsel Jack Smith. “It was fueled by lies, lies by the defendant.”
The indictment details the full charges, including conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding, obstructing a congressional proceeding and conspiracy against rights.
The latest charges are the third indictment of the former president filed since March — setting the stage for one of the stranger presidential contests in history, in which a major-party front-runner may have to alternate between campaign stops and courtroom hearings over the next year and a half.
A federal grand jury in Miami indicted Trump last month on charges of mishandling classified documents after leaving the White House and obstructing government efforts to get them back.
A state grand jury in New York has charged him with falsifying business records in connection with hush money payments during the 2016 campaign.
A state grand jury in Georgia is expected to charge Trump for his efforts to tamper with the 2020 election results there. In a phone call on Jan. 2, 2021, Trump insisted he won the state and threatened Georgia election officials, including Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, with vague legal consequences.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis took the unusual step of publicly telegraphing that she plans to announce a charging decision in the Georgia case during the first three weeks of August.
The Fulton County Courthouse sits directly across the street from the Georgia Capitol building, where hundreds of Trump supporters, some armed, gathered in anger in the aftermath of his defeat in the 2020 election. Atlanta City Hall sits adjacent to both buildings, while the Richard B. Russell Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse is located a few blocks away.
“The federal indictment just handed down by special counsel Jack Smith is not only the most important indictment by far of former President Donald Trump,” said Richard L. Hasen, a professor of law and political science at UC Irvine. “It is perhaps the most important indictment ever handed down to safeguard American democracy and the rule of law in any U.S. court against anyone.
“For those who have been closely following Trump’s attempt to subvert the results of the 2020 election, there was little new information contained in the indictment,” said Hasen. “In straightforward language with mountains of evidence, the 45-page document explains how Trump, acting with six (so-far unnamed, but easily recognizable) co-conspirators, engaged in a scheme to repeatedly make false claims that the 2020 election was stolen or rigged, and to use those false claims as a predicate to try to steal the election. The means of election theft were national, not just confined to one state, as in the expected Georgia prosecution.”