FOR THE WEEK OF AUG. 07, 2023
Donald Trump faces a third criminal trial, his most serious, while running for president again
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In a historic court appearance that made news worldwide, Donald Trump last Thursday stood in front of a federal magistrate in Washington, D.C., and pleaded not guilty to four felonies stemming from his extensive efforts to challenge the 2020 presidential election outcome. It's the first time in 236 years that an ex-president is "accused of plotting to hold onto power in an elaborate scheme of deception and intimidation that would lead to violence in the halls of Congress," a New York Times analysis says. The ex-president is accused of making knowingly false statements that were "integral to his criminal plans" to block certification of Democrat Joe Biden's election win and block vote counts in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Nevada and Arizona. The former president was told at his arraignment that he faces up to 55 years in prison if convicted of all charges. "This is a very sad day for America," he said before boarding a plane for New Jersey. "This was never supposed to happen in America."
A 45-page indictment from a grand jury of 23 ordinary citizens lists four alleged felonies: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights. "Essentially, the indictment alleges that Trump orchestrated a subversion of democracy," writes Amber Phillips of The Washington Post. Special Counsel Jack Smith of the Justice Department, who investigated Trump's efforts to stay in power, said last week that the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol was fueled by "lies" from Trump aimed at "obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. government -- the nation's process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election."
Trump, who seeks the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, blasted what his campaign calls "election interference" designed to help Biden win a second term. "These un-American witch hunts will fail” a campaign statement said last week. Trump added on his TruthSocial channel: "Why didn't they bring this ridiculous case 2.5 years ago? They wanted it right in the middle of my campaign, that's why!"
It's the third major criminal case filed this year against Trump, who was accused five months ago in New York of hush money payments and who faces 40 federal counts of mishandling classified documents. His popularity among Republicans rose in polls after each past indictment. Never before has a candidate for U.S. president faced federal and state criminal trials while campaigning.
Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan, appointed in 2014 by Barack Obama, is handling the new case and set an Aug. 28 hearing as the next step. She has imposed prison sentences on more than three dozen people convicted of Capitol riot-related crimes, and last November refused Trump's request to block the release of documents to a U.S. House committee by asserting executive privilege even after Biden cleared the way for the National Archives to turn the papers over. She wrote that Trump could not claim his privilege "exists in perpetuity," adding colorfully: "Presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president."
To read the full indictment, click here.
Ex-vice president says: "Today's indictment serves as an important reminder: Anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States." – Mike Pence, who served under Trump and is running against him for their party’s 2024 nomination
Special prosecutor says: "The attack on our nation's capital on Jan. 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. The men and women of law enforcement who defended the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 are heroes. . . . They put their lives on the line to defend who we are as a country and as a people. They defended the very institutions and principles that define the United States." – Jack Smith, announcing the charges Aug. 1
Author says: "Political manipulations won't stop the legal process now." – Steven Beschloss, Substack blogger
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