Updated: August 29, 2023
The third indictment against former President Donald Trump followed the Justice Department's investigation into the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol. Shortly after this federal indictment came down, a Georgia jury indicted Trump, bringing the total number of charges against the former president to 91. He is a criminal defendant in a New York state case, a Georgia state case, and two federal cases.
While tied to the January 6th investigation, the four felonies charged in the most recent federal indictment have less to do with the actual riots and more to do with Trump's activities in the months leading up to, and culminating with, the disruption of the January 6th Congressional hearing to certify the winner of the 2020 presidential election. The government accuses the former president of conspiring to overturn the 2020 election results. The indictment focuses on Trump and his co-conspirators' alleged plans and dealings to obstruct free and fair elections and, ultimately, the peaceful transfer of presidential power. Only Trump is charged in the case (so far).
This article breaks down what's happening in the January 6th case against Trump and will be updated as the case progresses.
Federal prosecutors from the Department of Justice (DOJ), led by Special Counsel Jack Smith, allege that Trump and six (unnamed) co-conspirators attempted to overturn the 2020 election results so the former president could remain in power. Trump claims he won the 2020 election and that the indictment is politically motivated and timed to interfere with his 2024 presidential campaign.
The indictment outlines an alleged conspiracy in which Trump and others engaged in a months-long campaign of lies and fraudulent efforts designed to undermine the legitimacy of the U.S. presidential election.
Here's a rundown of the allegations that start with actions taken after the November 3, 2020 election and culminate with the U.S. Capitol riots on January 6, 2021.
The indictment claims that Trump and his enlisted co-conspirators committed federal crimes by:
Trump's claims of election and voter fraud in the 2020 election include (among others) that:
After the indictment was handed down, he continued to stand by these claims. Trump told a crowd in New Hampshire that "[t]here was never a second of any day that I didn't believe that it was a rigged election. It was a rigged election, and it was a stolen disgusting election."
The former president faces four felony counts relating to his alleged participation in conspiracies that aimed to reverse the 2020 election results and keep him in power. These charges carry potential sentences of up to 5, 10, and 20 years in federal prison.
Count 1 charges Trump with conspiracy to defraud the United States. This law makes it a crime for a person to conspire with another in an attempt to obstruct a lawful "government function" through deceit or dishonesty. As referenced in the indictment, the government function at issue is the accurate collecting, counting, and certifying of electoral votes.
This count relates to allegations that the former president engaged in repeated and widespread efforts to spread false claims of election and voter fraud—knowing the claims were false—with the goal of changing the result of the 2020 presidential election.
(18 U.S.C. § 371; Hammerschmidt v. U.S., 44 S.Ct. 511 (1924).)
Count 2 charges Trump with conspiring to corruptly obstruct the January 6th Congressional proceeding. This count alleges that Trump conspired with others to devise and implement several plans to delay or obstruct the certification of legitimate electoral votes.
(18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c)(2), (k).)
Count 3 alleges that the former president and his co-conspirators attempted to, and did, obstruct the January 6th Congressional proceeding through actions that delayed the counting and certifying of electoral votes.
(18 U.S.C. § 1512 (c)(2).)
The final count charges Trump with conspiring to take away the people's constitutional right to vote and have their vote counted. The indictment claims that the former president and others lied to state officials and pressured them to reject voter ballots, ignore the results of the popular vote, and use false slates of electors.
(18 U.S.C. § 241.)
Trump was arraigned on August 3, 2023, at a federal courthouse in Washington, D.C., where he pleaded not guilty to all four charges. The magistrate judge released Trump without bail but set conditions of release, including that the former president not retaliate against or talk to potential witnesses without their lawyers present.
The judge set a trial date of March 4, 2024, over the objections of Trump's defense lawyers who asked for an April 2026 date. Between now and 2024, the government and defense lawyers will engage in discovery (sharing of evidence) and file pretrial motions that will set the stage for trial. In pretrial motions, the defense might ask the judge to dismiss the case or certain charges, suppress certain evidence, or move the location of the trial, among other motions.
Already, the prosecutors asked the judge for a protective order to limit what Trump could disclose regarding the evidence in the case. The judge agreed to issue the protective order but took a more limited approach than what the government requested. Ultimately, the judge issued a protective order that applies only to sensitive materials in the case and allows Trump to view this information without his attorneys present. However, Trump's lawyers must make sure Trump doesn't have a smartphone while viewing sensitive materials or access to any recording or copying device.