Today, the prayers, hopes, and wishes of millions of Americans longing for accountability and justice in the wake of the January 6th insurrection were answered when a grand jury indicted Donald Trump for perpetrating multiple criminal conspiracies against the United States and U.S. democracy.
The indictment is the result of careful, methodical work by Special Counsel Jack Smith and many hardworking investigators at the Department of Justice, who have labored to ensure that the work done to expose what happened on January 6th didn’t merely pass into history as a report, but led to charges. They built on the indispensable work of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, chaired by Representative Bennie Thompson.
Action is once again being taken to hold Donald Trump accountable for his crimes. That is hugely welcome and reassuring news. This is the third time that Trump has been indicted, and it probably won’t be the last, either, with charges likely coming soon in Georgia as a result of DA Fulton’s investigation there.
This indictment, charged by a grand jury in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, runs forty-five pages, and includes four counts.
The counts consist of 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. These are all violations of 18 U.S.C.
“The Defendant lost the 2020 presidential election,” the indictment notes in its introduction.
“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 had actually won. These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false. But the Defendant repeated and widely disseminated them anyway — to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election.”
The indictment charges that Trump “did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with co-conspirators, known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to defraud the United States by using dishonesty, fraud, and deceit to impair, obstruct, and defeat the lawful federal government function by which the results of the presidential election are collected, counted, and certified by the federal government.” Six co-conspirators are mentioned in count one, but not by name.
The purpose of the conspiracy, as we all know, “was to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by using knowingly false claims of election fraud to obstruct the federal government function by which those results are collected, counted, and certified.” The manner and means included the organization of fraudulent slates of presidential electors in seven states — Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin — which were all states that Trump’s operation had some expectation of winning, but which voted for the Democratic ticket of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
The indictment recounts how Trump tried to coerce Mike Pence into fraudulently altering the election results by acting outside the scope of his constitutionally-prescribed role, and how that led to the January 6th insurrection.
It cites, as part of its body of evidence, Trump’s infamous statement that he “needed to ‘find’ 11,780 votes,” which was made during a phone call with Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, who recorded it.
“What I want to do is this. I just want to find, uh, 11,780 votes, which is one more than [the 11,779 vote margin of defeat] we have, because we won the state,” Trump can be heard saying in the recorded phone call.
The Trump-incited assault on the United States Capitol is repeatedly mentioned throughout the indictment, and is properly characterized as an attack, rather than as a “riot” — the improper term that some mass media outlets such as The Associated Press have been inappropriately using in their January 6th coverage.
The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is thankfully not a Trump appointee. And since it’s being prosecuted in the District Court for the District of Columbia, Trump won’t have a favorable jury pool that he and his lackeys can lean on to increase the odds of an acquittal.
Within days, we will see an arraignment proceeding, and then the Department of Justice and Trump’s legal defense team will begin sparring over procedural matters. That phase of the case might drag on for a while. We can’t say at this juncture when there will be a trial in United States of America v. Donald Trump.
But today, at least, we can say that Donald Trump has finally been charged in connection with the violence of January 6th and his assault on our democracy. This is a crucially important and necessary moment for our republic.
Read the indictment in its entirety:Third indictment of Donald Trump