Donald Trump has been indicted in Washington on federal charges over his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, the third politically explosive criminal prosecution of the former president as he makes his latest run for the White House.
The charges from Special Counsel John “Jack” Smith’s office can carry penalties of as much as 20 years in prison, but Trump would likely face far less than the maximum penalties if convicted since he doesn’t have a criminal record. Trump, 77, has been instructed to appear in court at 4 p.m. on Aug. 3.
“The attack on our nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021 was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy,” Smith told reporters after the indictment Tuesday. “Described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies. Lies by the defendant.”
He said the Justice Department was asking for a speedy trial and that the investigation of “other individuals” is continuing.
Trump was charged with conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against the right to vote and have that vote counted, according to the indictment filed Tuesday in federal court.
The indictment alleges Trump for months knowingly spread lies about the election being rigged in order to undermine public faith in the vote and remain in power.
“These claims were false, and the defendant knew they were false,” the government said in the indictment. “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.”
Trump announced in mid-July that the Justice Department had notified him that he was a target of the investigation, which also relates to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol by a mob of his supporters following a nationwide effort to overturn Joe Biden’s victory. Trump has denied any wrongdoing related to those events.
Just before the charges were announced Tuesday, Trump said in a Truth Social post he expected Smith to put out a “fake indictment” against him.
His lawyers John Lauro and Todd Blanche met with prosecutors at Smith’s office on July 27. Trump confirmed in a post online that the purpose of the meeting was to argue against any indictment.
The prosecution is likely to fuel Trump’s claim that he’s being targeted for political reasons, given that the case is being brought by the Justice Department under President Joe Biden — Trump’s expected opponent if he wins the Republican nomination. That line of attack has been popular with GOP voters and boosted his campaign fundraising. But Trump won’t be able to ignore the demands of yet another high-stakes prosecution on his already-crowded litigation and political calendar.
In a statement, the Trump campaign accused the Biden administration of politicizing the investigation because Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination. The campaign also questioned why it took more than two years after Jan. 6 to bring the charges.
The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury in Washington, is a 45-page narrative of alleged efforts by Trump and some of his allies to thwart the peaceful transfer of power to a lawfully elected successor.
The document alleges Trump enlisted a series of co-conspirators to help with his plan, including an unidentified attorney “who was willing to spread knowingly false claims” about the election and another unidentified lawyer who attempted to implement a strategy to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to obstruct the certification of Biden’s victory. A third lawyer also conspired to assist Trump despite telling others the plan was “crazy,” according to the indictment.
Robert Mintz on Trump Indictment (Audio)(Correct)
There are moments of high drama in the indictment, including the pressure campaign against Pence.
Trump met with Pence on Jan. 5, telling his vice president that he would have to publicly criticize him. That led Pence’s chief of staff to fear for his safety, and he alerted the head of the vice president’s Secret Service detail, according to the indictment.
Other alleged co-conspirators described include a Justice Department official who allegedly tried to use the agency to open a “sham” investigation into the election to influence state legislatures; an attorney who assisted in devising a plan to use fake slates of presidential electors in states that Biden won; and a political consultant who participated in the plan.
Prosecutors alleged that the former president tried to use the Justice Department “to make knowingly false claims of election fraud to officials” through a formal letter signed by the acting attorney general, giving Trump’s “lies the backing of the federal government.”
Trump also tried to use his crowd of supporters on Jan. 6 to pressure his vice president to “fraudulently alter the election results,” prosecutors alleged.
Smith’s office stopped short of criminally charging Trump with inciting the riot, but blamed him for deceiving many of them and alleged he “exploited the disruption” to try to again try to convince members of Congress to delay certifying the results.
The indictment marks the second set of charges brought by Smith’s team. In June, Trump was charged in Florida with taking sensitive national defense documents with him after leaving office in 2021 and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them from his Mar-a-Lago estate. He’s also accused of directing employees to try to erase video surveillance footage of the storage room where records were kept after prosecutors subpoenaed it.
The former president is also fighting state charges in New York alleging he falsified business records in connection with payments to an adult film star before the 2016 election. And he’s bracing for a fourth possible indictment from a grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, also in connection with the aftermath of the 2020 election.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in the Florida and New York cases. A trial is set for March 2024 in New York. The judge in Florida scheduled a May 20 trial date. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has signaled she will announce if her office is pressing charges by the end of August.
Trump unsuccessfully fought in court to stymie the investigation into his conduct. Avenues explored by prosecutors included efforts to organize slates of false electors in battleground states that Trump lost and to pressure former Vice President Mike Pence to interfere with the certification of the results by Congress. Judges repeatedly rejected his challenges to subpoenas for grand jury appearances by Pence and a slew of other former top administration officials.
Politics and Polls
Despite his legal troubles, Trump continues to dominate the candidate field for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination as primary voters buy into the argument that the prosecution is politically motivated. A Siena College/New York Times poll released Monday showed 54% of likely GOP voters across demographics supporting the former president, compared to 17% for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, his closest competitor.
However, some Republican groups are evincing more concern about his legal woes. A super PAC with close ties to billionaire Charles Koch raised $78 million in the first half of 2023 to try and block Trump from the nomination in favor of another Republican it believes could beat Biden in a general election.
Trump’s political fundraising apparatus shows him burning through money at an unsustainable rate. For now, Trump has enough to compete in the GOP primary with more than $53 million in cash split between his campaign and super-PAC.
But if legal costs continue to pile up, he could face a money crunch in the general election against Biden, who has $77 million in cash. Democrats won’t have to touch that money for months, as opposed to Republicans who are spending millions now gearing up for what is likely to be a long and contentious primary.
The government acknowledged in the indictment that Trump “like every American” had a right to speak publicly about the election and even to claim falsely that there had been rampant voter fraud. Trump was also entitled to challenge the result in court “through lawful and appropriate means,” the US said. But Trump went too far by using illegal methods to change the vote, conspiring to defraud the US and obstruct the peaceful transition of power, according to the indictment.
“Each of these conspiracies — which built on the widespread mistrust the Defendant was creating through pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud — targeted a bedrock function of the United States government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election,” the US said.
Burkina Faso’s Military Junta Foils Attempted Coup Amid Ongoing Instability
Burkina Faso’s military junta announced its successful thwarting of an attempted coup this week, once again highlighting the nation’s precarious stability in the face of an ongoing Islamist insurgency.
The fragile transitional government, led by Colonel Ibrahim Traore, found itself targeted by a group of military officers and their cohorts seeking to plunge the country into chaos.
Government spokesman Jean Emmanuel Ouedraogo released a statement late Wednesday, confirming the arrest of the individuals behind the plot, while asserting that those still at large were actively being pursued.
Traore, who took power a year ago after overthrowing Interim President Henri Paul Sandaogo Damiba, has been on edge due to the persistent specter of coups.
To address security concerns, Traore recently appointed new heads of the security services, including the National Intelligence Agency, following the arrest of several army officers accused of plotting against the state.
Ouedraogo reassured the public that a thorough investigation would be conducted to shed light on this latest attempted coup.
This incident in Burkina Faso underscores the troubling trend of military leaders seizing power in African nations, with Niger and Gabon experiencing similar developments in the past two years.
The West African nation remains at a critical juncture, teetering between democracy and instability as it grapples with internal and external threats.
French Ambassador Departs Niger Amid Escalating Tensions: Macron’s Pledge to Withdraw Troops Looms
Ambassador Sylvain Itte, along with six colleagues, left Niger’s capital, Niamey, on a flight bound for Paris via Chad.
This departure comes three days after French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed the withdrawal of the French envoy and pledged to withdraw approximately 1,500 French troops stationed in Niger by the end of 2023.
The abrupt exit of Ambassador Itte, as reported by Agence France-Presse, occurred at around 4 a.m. on Wednesday and followed the deterioration of relations between Niger’s military leaders and their former colonial power, France.
The strained relations were primarily triggered by the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup on July 26, a coup that led to the severance of military ties between the two nations.
Macron’s initial refusal to adhere to the August 28 deadline set by the junta for Ambassador Itte’s departure only served to heighten the diplomatic standoff.
The junta had cited alleged French “actions contrary to Niger’s interests” as the reason for the ambassador’s expulsion.
In the latest development, the coup leaders formally requested a timeline for the withdrawal of French troops from Niger. Macron had previously confirmed his commitment to completing the withdrawal by the end of 2023, further emphasizing the changing dynamics of the Franco-Nigerien relationship.
On Wednesday, President Macron engaged in talks with Nigerien Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massaoudou, during which he reaffirmed France’s support for President Bazoum and expressed his country’s eagerness to see a return to constitutional order in Niger.
This statement from the Elysee underscores France’s continued involvement in Niger’s internal affairs despite the recent diplomatic tensions.
As both nations navigate these turbulent waters, the future of their diplomatic and military relations remains uncertain.
The departure of Ambassador Itte is just the latest chapter in this evolving saga, and it raises questions about the implications for France’s historical ties to its former colony and its broader strategic interests in the West African region.
G-20 Grants African Union Equal Membership Status to EU
The Group of 20 nations has reached a consensus to confer permanent membership status upon the African Union.
This significant move is aimed at empowering the African continent with a stronger voice in addressing pressing global issues, including climate change and emerging-market debt.
The announcement was made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who served as the host of the G-20 summit held in New Delhi over a two-day period.
During this historic event, President Azali Assoumani of Comoros, who currently holds the presidency of the African Union, was warmly embraced by Prime Minister Modi and offered a seat at the summit table.
This strategic decision, which has been previously reported by Bloomberg News, grants the 55-member African Union the same prestigious status enjoyed by the European Union within the Group of 20.
European Council President Charles Michel expressed his delight regarding this development in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
He expressed eagerness for close cooperation between the African Union and the European Union within the framework of the G-20, solidifying the commitment to address global challenges collectively.
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