Donald Trump gestures to supporters after telling them to march on the US Capitol to “Stop the Steal”, January 6, 2021 (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

Donald Trump has been indicted on four felony charges over his attempts to hold onto power by overturning the 2020 US Presidential election.

Late Tuesday afternoon, Trump was charged in Federal District Court in Washington with:

  • One count of conspiracy to defraud the United States;
  • One count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding;
  • One count of obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding:
  • One count of conspiracy against rights.

Read the Indictment

The indictment is the third filed against Trump by federal prosecutors in less than four months.

In April, he was charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to bolster his candidacy in the 2016 Presidential election, paying $150,000 to the porn star Stormy Daniels for her to stay silent over their sexual encounter.

In June and last week, he was indicted on a total of 40 felony counts over his theft of classified documents from the White House: violations of the Espionage Act, obstructing a Government investigation, and making false statements.

“An Attack on Our Capitol Fueled by Lies”

The 45-page indictment details how Trump and six unnamed co-conspirators tried to undermine Joe Biden’s victory with false allegations of election fraud; how they tried to arrange “fake electors” to replace the Biden’s elected representatives; and how they attempted to block the Congressional certification of the election on January 6 — proceedings that were interrupted with the attack on the US Capitol by Trump supporters, moments after Trump had spoken outside the White House calling on them to stop Biden’s confirmation.

Despite having lost, the defendant was determined to remain in power. 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 actually won. These claims were false and the defendant knew they were false.

But the defendant repeated and widely disseminated them anyway – to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create and intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of elections.

Even before Biden was declared the victor in early November, with 306 electors to Trump’s 232, Trump was proclaiming mass fraud to ensure his opponent’s triumph in key states such as Georgia, Arizona, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

For weeks, Trump and his lawyers — two of whom are among the co-conspirators — publicly spread disinformation to pursue that claim. Trump then tried to use the Justice Department, including one co-conspirator who was a senior official, to open “sham election fraud investigations”.

At the same time, Trump and his allies tried to replace Biden’s elected delegates to the Electoral College with the fake slates. Trump tried — but failed — to press Republican governor and GOP-majority legislatures into throwing out the November 3 outcome and install his electdors.

Facing Biden’s confirmation on January 6, 2023, Trump repeatedly tried to get Vice President Mike Pence — the chair of the Congressional session — to reject Biden’s electoral college votes. Under a plan devised by lawyer John Eastman, Pence would open and count Trump’s “fake electors”. He would send the decision to the House of Representatives, where Republicans had a majority of State delegations.

Pence — who gave evidence to the federal prosecutors — rejected the proposal, saying his role was only to oversee the proceedings. In his January 6 speech, Trump demanded that the Vice President change his mind. Minutes later, invaders were called for Pence to be hanged as they roamed through the Capitol.

Speaking at Justice Department headquarters, Special Counsel Jack
Smith urged all Americans to read the indictment and said his office will seek a speedy trial.

The attack on our nation’s Capitol on January 6, 2021 was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. As described in the indictment, 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.

He indicated that there could be more indictments: “Our investigation of other individuals continues.”

Pence, now campaigning for the Republican nomination for the 2024 Presidential election, said Trump is entitled to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. However, he noted:

Today’s indictment serves as an important reminder: anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States. On January 6, former President Trump demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. I chose the constitution and always will.

Who Are The Co-Conspirators?

The indictment lists Trump’s six co-conpsirators as four of his lawyers, a former Justice Department official, and a “political consultant”.

While they are not named, the evidence in the document effectively identified five of the six.

Co-Conspirator 1 is Trump’s lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The indictment describes his meeting with Arizona’s House Speaker Rusty Bowers to promote Trump’s assertions of electoral fraud. When Bowers asked for evidence, Giuliani replied, “We don’t have the evidence, but we have lots of theories.”

Co-Conspirator 2 is John Eastman, the lawyer who devised the scheme for Vice President Pence to scuttle the Congressional confirmation of the Electoral College vote.

Co-Conspirator 3 is Trump’s lawyer Sidney Powell who, alongside Giuliani, publicly spread false conspiracy theories about electoral fraud. She declared that the plot included Biden, national and state Democrats, Venezuela, Cuba, the billionaire philanthropist George Soros, and voting machine manufacturers.

Co-Conspirator 4 is Jeffrey Clark, the senior Justice Department official who supported Trump’s electoral fraud falsehoods. Trump tried to install Clark as Attorney General in December 2022. He was blocked by his top staff, including White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, and by Justice Department leadership who said they would region.

Co-Conspirator 5 is Trump lawyer Ken Chesebro, who tried to block the confirmation of Biden electors in Wisconsin.