Tear gas is employed against insurrectionists on January 6th
Tear gas is employed against insurrectionists on January 6th (Photo: Tyler Merbler, reproduced under a Creative Commons license)

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.

Trump falsely claims the election was stolen
Still from a video released by Don­ald Trump’s regime dur­ing the mid­dle of the attack on the Capi­tol, in which he false­ly claimed “the elec­tion was stolen”

“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

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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