Former President Donald Trump was criminally indicted, August 1, on charges relating to the events of January 6, 2021, at the nation’s Capitol. Special Counsel Jack Smith announced the news before reporters on Tuesday evening, including charges of conspiring to defraud the United States, disenfranchise voters, and obstruct an official proceeding. He stated that a DC-based grand jury voted to indict Trump for four criminal counts fueled by lies “targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the US government; the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election.”
The 45-page filing says that Mr. Trump “had a right, like every American, to speak publicly about the election and even to claim, falsely, that there had been outcome-determinative fraud during the election and that he had won.” It then says, however, that Trump engaged in several illegal conspiracies, “discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results.” This includes conspiracy to “corruptly obstruct and impede the January 6th congressional proceeding at which the collected results of the presidential election are counted and certified.”
The charges are:
- Count One: Conspiracy to Defraud the United States 18 USC §371
- Count Two: Conspiracy to Obstruct an Official Proceeding 18 USC §1512(k)
- Count Three: Obstruction of, and Attempt to Obstruct, an Official Proceeding 18 USC §1512(c)(2),2
- Count Four: Conspiracy Against Rights 18 USC §241
The Trump 2024 campaign responded to the indictment in a statement on the former president’s Truth Social platform:
“This is nothing more than the latest corrupt chapter in the continued pathetic attempt by the Biden Crime Family and their weaponized Department of Justice to interfere with the 2024 Presidential Election, in which President Trump is the undisputed frontrunner, and leading by substantial margins.”
The former president’s team was not alone in its strident condemnation of the charges. A number of prominent Republicans voiced their support for him, and displayed their ire at what they claim is a political persecution. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) posted that “Jack Smith is a terrible attorney with a lot of failures in his career. Now, he’s abusing his power, the power of the special counsel, and the power of the Department of Injustice.” She further stated that she would invoke the Holman Rule to cut off further funding, by prohibiting appropriations “for any expenditure not previously authorized by law.”
Media outlets also joined the chorus. National Review editors demanded the indictment not stand, writing, “[T]he Biden Justice Department is attempting to use the criminal process as a do-over for a failed impeachment. In effect, Jack Smith is endeavoring to criminalize protected political speech and flimsy legal theories — when the Supreme Court has repeatedly admonished prosecutors to refrain from creative theories to stretch penal laws to reach misconduct that Congress has not made illegal.”
Indeed, Mr. Smith previously prosecuted former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on similar charges and won convictions. The United States Supreme Court unanimously overturned them on appeal a couple of years later for being massively overbroad.
A Matter of Politics
Sol Wachtler, the former chief judge of New York, famously said prosecutors have so much influence on grand juries that, by and large, the officials could get them to “indict a ham sandwich.” Given some experience and the powers of special counsel for the United States, any attorney of ordinary ability could indict Donald Trump for federal crimes. That President Biden and his attorney general, Merrick Garland, think this is an acceptable prosecution is a political question, not a legal one.
The indictment lists six alleged co-conspirators, at least five of whom are attorneys. Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell are amongst them, as is Jeffrey Clark, a former Justice Department lawyer. None of them were charged in the indictment.
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