On Thursday, former President Donald Trump entered a plea of not guilty to charges linked to his efforts to stay in power after losing the 2020 election.
This marks Trump’s second face-off this year with special counsel Jack Smith, with charges including defrauding the United States and obstructing congressional proceedings. The Justice Department claims these charges stem from a plot by Trump to retain power, which they state was “fueled by lies.”
Arriving at Washington’s federal courthouse, Trump displayed a stony expression that barely altered throughout the brief proceedings. He answered questions pertaining to his identity but remained mostly silent otherwise. The former president confirmed his understanding that his words could be used against him.
Trump’s appearance attracted the attention of numerous federal district court judges who attended the proceedings. U.S. Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya presided, but the trial will be overseen by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, known for meting out strong sentences to defendants involved in the January 6 incident.
With attorneys John Lauro and Todd Blanche, Trump debated with government prosecutors ready to produce “substantial discovery” expeditiously, advocating for a speedy trial. However, his defense opposed this due to the extensive nature of the evidence. The next court appearance for the case is scheduled for August 28.
The former president has voiced concerns over receiving a fair trial in Washington D.C., hinting at a potential attempt to shift the case to West Virginia. Regardless, Upadhyaya reassured Trump of a “fair trial.”
The historic indictment unveiled Tuesday meticulously details the methods Trump allegedly used to stay in power, despite losing the election. These include pressuring the Justice Department to probe his baseless fraud allegations, urging state officials and then-Vice President Mike Pence to reject the results, and submitting false electoral certificates. Each act serves as grounds for charges under conspiracy to defraud the United States, obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.
The indictment also alleges that Trump repeatedly propagated falsehoods about his electoral performance, despite knowing they were untrue. It reads, “These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false… 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.”
Trump argues that these charges form part of a larger effort to hinder his prospects in the 2024 election, stating, “It’s not my fault that my political opponent…has told his Attorney General to charge the leading Republican Nominee & former President of the United States, me, with as many crimes as can be concocted.”
The D.C. arraignment follows charges filed against Trump in New York relating to concealment of hush money payments, as well as another case involving the mismanagement of classified records. Across all three cases, Trump now faces a total of 78 criminal charges and the possibility of jail time if found guilty.