Donald Trump entered a plea of not guilty after the counts of the indictment were read to him by the judge.
The former president was arrested and arraigned on four felony counts outlined in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights.
Here are the main things you need to know about the day’s events.
The special counsel Jack Smith charged Trump with four felony counts.
Conspiracy to defraud the United States.
Conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.
Obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding.
Conspiracy against rights.
Trump pleads not guilty to four charges over efforts to overturn 2020 election
Trump has been defiant in his response to the indictment, but appeared quiet and restrained in the courtroom.
The former president sat at the defense table, folding and unfolding his hands. His plea of not guilty was quiet, almost imperceptible. In his remarks before and after his appearance in court, he was more of his usual self.
“When you look at what’s happening, this is a persecution of a political opponent,” he said at Ronald Reagan airport. “This was never supposed to happen in America.”
Smith this week said he was pursuing a “speedy trial”, and the magistrate judge seemed to follow suit.
Unlike Trump’s other legal cases, where the next court dates were scheduled for months later, the first hearing for this case will happen within the month. Trump’s lawyers challenged the swiftness of the proceedings but the date was not changed.
“All we would ask, Your Honor, is the opportunity to fairly defend our client,” lawyer John Lauro said. “But in order to do that, we’re going to need a little time.”
Trump can still run for president if he is charged and even convicted.
The US constitution does not bar those convicted of a crime from running for president.
There could be a pathway to blocking him, through the 14th amendment to the US constitution. That says someone cannot hold office if they have taken an oath to the United States, as Trump did when he was inaugurated, and then engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the country.
While some have distanced themselves, many of Trump’s allies and inner circle remain close to the former president.
Trump’s co-defendant in the federal case over the former president’s retention of classified documents, Walt Nauta, accompanied him to the courthouse in Washington. Evan Corcoran, a Trump lawyer who was compelled to testify in the classified documents case, was also present.
The presiding judge is no stranger to issues of election subversion.
Tanya Chutkan, appointed by Barack Obama, has handed down strict sentences for January 6 rioters. She once blocked an attempt by Trump to refuse a House January 6 committee request for White House files. That decision released mounds of evidence that shaped the investigation, Politico reported.
– Guardian Staff
Smith, a 54-year-old veteran prosecutor appointed as special counsel by the attorney general, Merrick Garland, in November 2022, has now brought two indictments against Trump, the first one surrounding Trump’s alleged mishandling of classified documents that were discovered at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
“I intend to conduct the assigned investigations, and any prosecutions that may result from them, independently and in the best traditions of the Department of Justice,” Smith said in a statement.
“The pace of the investigations will not pause or flag under my watch. I will exercise independent judgment and will move the investigations forward expeditiously and thoroughly to whatever outcome the facts and the law dictate,” he added.
Before his appointment as special counsel in the Trump investigations, Smith was the specialist prosecutor at The Hague’s Kosovo specialist chambers where he investigated war crimes from 1998 to 2000 during Kosovo’s war for independence from Serbia.
Smith, a registered independent and graduate of Harvard law school, began his three-decade career as a prosecutor in 1994 at the Manhattan district attorney’s office – the same office which filed a 34-count indictment against Trump in April surrounding hush-money payments during the 2016 presidential election.
Meanwhile, a Michigan attorney involved in efforts around the country to overturn the 2020 results has been charged in connection with tampering with voting machines.
Stefanie Lambert was one of several in a scheme to “gain access to voting tabulators.”
Michigan, the state attorney general Dana Nessel’s office said last year. Lawyer Matthew DePerno and former Republican state representative Daire Rendon were also recently arraigned in connection with the scheme.
Here’s more from the AP:
Investigators there say five vote tabulators were illegally taken from three counties and brought to a hotel room, according to documents released last year by Nessel’s office.
The tabulators were then broken into and “tests” were performed on the equipment.
Prosecutors said that Thursday’s announcement “ends the charging decisions in this investigation.”
Investigators named nine individuals in connection with the scheme. Those not charged include Cyber Ninjas founder Doug Logan, Barry County Sheriff Dar Leaf, Ben Cotton, Jeff Lenberg and James Penrose.
Local clerks that turned over the vote tabulators and others who analyzed the equipment “were deceived by some of the charged defendants,” according to a statement from special prosecutor D.J. Hilson.
Hilson convened a grand jury in March to determine whether criminal indictments should be issued, court documents show. The citizen grand jury “carefully listened to the sworn testimony,” and “returned a decision to indict each of the defendants,” Hilson said Thursday.
Judge Tanya Chutkan, who was randomly chosen to preside over this case, is no stranger to election subversion issues – and this won’t be her first time dealing with the ex-president.
Chutkan, who was appointed by Barack Obama, ruled in 2021 that the House January 6 committee could access Trump’s White House files, which helped the committee access call logs, memos and other documents that provided key evidence in their investigation. “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” Chutkan memorably wrote in her ruling back then.
The committee’s findings helped fuel Jack Smith’s investigation, which culminated in this indictment.
Chutkan has also delivered harsh sentences to January 6 rioters, though she has avoided commenting on the role that Trump and his allies played, as some of her colleagues have done. Federal judge Amit Metha, for example, said rioter John Lolos was a “pawn in a game directed and played by people who should know better”.
The next step in this case will be setting a date for the trial.
A first hearing date has been set for 28 August, but in the meantime, the government will file a brief detailing how long it thinks the trial will take and proposing dates, and the Trump defense will have time to respond and address those proposals.
As with the classified documents case, we expect the government will want a speedy trial, so that the issue can be resolved quickly, before the 2024 election, while the Trump team will like want to delay things until after the election.
No cameras were allowed inside the Washington federal courtroom where Donald Trump was arraigned on charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
Courtroom sketch artist Bill Hennessy caught the moment the former president pleaded guilty to four felony counts outlined in special counsel Jack Smith’s indictment.
Twice impeached and now arrested and indicted three times. Donald Trump faces serious criminal charges in New York, Florida and Washington over a hush-money scheme during the 2016 election, his alleged mishandling of classified documents and his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.
As Trump prepares for those cases to go to trial, the former president is simultaneously reeling from a verdict that found him liable for sexual abuse and defamation toward writer E Jean Carroll. A New York jury awarded Carroll, who accused Trump of assaulting her in 1996, $5m in damages.
And more criminal charges could be on the way for Trump in Georgia. Here is where each case against Trump stands:
What happens if Trump goes on trial during the presidential primaries?
A trial in the middle of the presidential primary would be a blockbuster moment in American politics. It would offer an unvarnished look at all of the ways Donald Trump knowingly tried to subvert the results of the 2020 election, with key aides and allies forced to testify under oath. The trial would not be televised, since federal courts do not allow cameras in the courtroom.
Richard Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California, Los Angelos, wrote:
A trial is the best chance to educate the American public, as the January 6 House committee hearings did to some extent, about the actions Trump allegedly took to undermine American democracy and the rule of law.
Constant publicity from the trial would give the American people in the middle of the election season a close look at the actions Trump took for his own personal benefit while putting lives and the country at risk.
Practically, it’s unclear what impact a trial would have on Trump’s campaigning. While it could pull him off the campaign trail, Trump favors large rallies that are typically held in the evening or on weekends.
Trump’s legal schedule for next year remains unclear. He already has criminal trials scheduled in Manhattan in March over hush-money payments and another in May over his handling of classified documents. Jack Smith, the special counsel prosecuting the case, has sought a speedy trial.
Donald Trump’s valet and co-defendant in the federal classified documents case, Walt Nauta, accompanied the former president to Washington, CNN’s Kaitlin Collins writes.
Three police officers who defended the US Capitol against violent rioters on January 6th attended Donald Trump’s hearing in the Washington federal courthouse.
Capitol police officer Harry Dunn, Metropolitan police officer Daniel Hodges, and former Sgt Aquilino Gonell of the US Capitol police all responded to the insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6 2021.
In a statement, Gonell said “not prosecuting is far riskier than having no consequences for the alleged power grab attempts”.
“All I have wanted from day one is accountability,” Dunn said in a statement released by his lawyer.
Donald Trump gave a brief statement to reporters after arriving at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport following his arraignment.
The former president said it was a “sad day for America” and that it was also “very sad” to drive through Washington DC and see “the filth and decay”.
“This is not the place that I left. It’s a very sad thing to see,” Trump said.
When you look at what’s happening, this is a persecution of a political opponent. This was never supposed to happen in America.
He went on to claim that it was “the persecution of the person who is leading by very substantial numbers in the Republican primary and leading Biden by a lot”.
So if you can’t beat him, you persecute him or you prosecute them. We can’t let this happen in America.
Donald Trump is currently on his way back to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Here are the latest images from the newswires:
The Guardian’s Washington bureau chief David Smith is outside the courthouse where Donald Trump was arraigned:
Donald Trump’s motorcade has left the federal courthouse in Washington after his court hearing concluded after just under half an hour.
The former president is expected to speak to reporters when he arrives at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. He will then board his plane to return to him home in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump lawyer John Lauro said the defense team will ask for the exclusion of the Speedy Trial Act in the Trump 2020 election interference case.
All we would ask your honor is the opportunity to fairly defend our client but in order to do that, we’re going to need a little time.
Judge Upadhyaya ordered Lauro to make a written filing in five days, with a DOJ response within five days after that.
Donald Trump’s hearing is now over, and he has left the courtroom.
The former president is expected to speak to reporters before he boards his plane back to Bedminster, New Jersey.