Donald Trump was indicted on Tuesday over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election – the most serious legal threat yet to the former president as he campaigns to return to the White House.
It is the third criminal indictment of the 77-year-old Trump since March and charges him with three counts of conspiracy and one count of obstruction.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is already scheduled to go on trial in Florida in May of next year for allegedly mishandling top secret government documents.
The new charges raise the prospect of Trump being embroiled in more legal proceedings at the height of what is expected to be a bitter and divisive presidential campaign.
The indictment brought by special counsel Jack Smith accuses Trump of conspiracy to defraud the United States and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding – the January 6, 2021 joint session of Congress held to certify Democrat Joe Biden's election victory.
Trump is also accused in the 45-page indictment handed down by a grand jury in Washington of seeking to disenfranchise American voters with his false claims that he won the November 2020 presidential election.
"Shortly after election day – which fell on November 3, 2020 – the Defendant launched his criminal scheme," the indictment said. "The purpose of the conspiracy was to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by using knowingly false claims of election fraud," it said.
Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor at the Hague, said the January 6 attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters was "an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy." "It was fueled by lies," Smith told reporters in brief remarks. "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."
No comment from the White House
The White House maintained silence on the historic indictment of Trump. Biden, who is seeking reelection next year and has previously called Trump a "threat" to the nation, continued his beach vacation in Delaware and went to dinner with First Lady Jill Biden before going to watch "Oppenheimer."
The indictment mentions six co-conspirators but none are identified and Trump is the only named defendant.
"The Defendant and co-conspirators used knowingly false claims of election fraud to get state legislators and election officials to subvert the legitimate election results," the indictment said.
Trump is to be arraigned in court on August 3 and Smith said he would seek a "speedy trial." The case is expected to be heard by US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, an appointee of former Democratic president Barack Obama. The indictment said that Trump, despite having lost the election, 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 had actually won," it said. "These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false."
Trump calls it a witch hunt
Trump lashed out at Smith, calling him "deranged" and accusing him of issuing "yet another Fake Indictment" to "interfere with the presidential election."
"Why didn't they do this 2.5 years ago?" Trump said in a post on his Truth Social platform. "Why did they wait so long? "Because they wanted to put it right in the middle of my campaign," he said. "Prosecutorial misconduct!"
Trump has repeatedly attacked the investigation as a political "witch hunt" by the Department of Justice.
Besides the classified documents charges, the former president also faces a trial in New York for allegedly paying election-eve hush money to a porn star.
Georgia prosecutors are also looking into whether Trump illegally attempted to overturn the 2020 election outcome in the southern state.
The probe was sparked by Trump's January 2, 2021 phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, when he pressured the election official to "find" 11,780 votes that would reverse his defeat to Biden in the state.
As president, Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives for seeking political dirt on Biden from Ukraine and over the events of January 6 but he was acquitted by the Republican-majority Senate both times.
source: France 24