Donald Trump indicted over efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat

Washington: Donald Trump has been indicted by a federal grand jury for his wide-ranging efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, the third time the former US president has been criminally charged as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024.

The 45-page indictment was filed in Washington, DC, by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who has led investigations into the former president on behalf of the US Department of Justice.

The four-count indictment charges the 77-year-old Republican with conspiring to defraud the US, conspiring to disenfranchise voters, and conspiring and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.

The investigation by the Justice Department focused on Trump’s actions in the two-month period between his loss and the riot in Washington DC, where his supporters stormed Congress. The Federal prosecutors said in the indictment that Trump was determined to remain in power after losing the 2020 election.

“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,” the indictment reads.

“These claims were false, and the defendant knew they were false. But the defendant disseminated them anyway – to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election.”

The indictment added that Trump and co-conspirators “exploited” the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by continuing efforts to convince members of Congress to delay the certification of the election that day.  “As violence ensued, the Defendant and co-conspirators exploited the disruption by redoubling efforts to levy false claims of election fraud and convince Members of Congress to further delay the certification based on those claims.”

The former President also deceived the rioters to believe then-Vice President Mike Pence could change the election results to make Trump the victor.  “After it became public on the afternoon of January 6 that the Vice President would not fraudulently alter the election results, a large and angry crowd, including many individuals whom the defendant had deceived into believing the Vice President could and might change the election results violently attacked the Capitol and halted the proceeding,” the indictment says.

“It was fueled by lies. Lies by the defendant, targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the US government — the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election,” special counsel Jack Smith told reporters in a video statement.

Smith added that the Department of Justice will remain committed in ensuring accountability in the case looking into efforts to overturn the 2020 election leading up to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

“In this case, my office will seek a speedy trial so that our evidence can be tested in court and judged by a jury of citizens,” Smith added.

Besides Trump, Smith included six unindicted and unnamed co-conspirators in his indictment. They include four unnamed attorneys who allegedly aided Trump in his effort to subvert the 2020 election results.

Meanwhile, the Trump campaign said in a statement that Tuesday’s indictment amounted to election interference. “The lawlessness of these persecutions of President Trump and his supporters is reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the former Soviet Union, and other authoritarian, dictatorial regimes,” said the campaign. It added: “These un-American witch hunts will fail.”

This is Trump’s third indictment, the others being a 37-count indictment over his unlawful retention of classified government documents after leaving office in 2021 and for falsifying business records to hide hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. Trump pleaded not guilty in both.