Former President Donald Trump has been indicted for a third time.
The latest set of charges, announced Tuesday evening by special prosecutor Jack Smith, are related to Trump’s conduct in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, including the attempt on January 6, 2021, to disrupt the certification of the election by Congress.
Specifically, Trump has been charged with four counts related to three criminal conspiracies. Prosecutors say Trump attempted to “defraud the United States” by trying to prevent the lawful process of counting and certifying the results of the presidential election. He’s also charged with trying to “obstruct and impede” the vote-certification process in Congress—which includes two separate charges for the obstruction itself and the related conspiracy to obstruct. Finally, he’s also charged with “a conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted.”
You might think about the three parts of the indictment as a helpful breakdown of the three ways in which Trump and his allies—there are six unnamed and so far uncharged co-conspirators mentioned in the indictment—attempted to subvert the presidential election process.
The first charge is focused on the attempt, allegedly organized within the White House, to have Trump-friendly state lawmakers appoint alternate slates of electors to the Electoral College as part of a scheme that would see Trump named as the winner of states where President Joe Biden received more votes.
The second and third charges are aimed at Trump’s (and his allies’) behavior on and near January 6, 2021, when Congress was scheduled to certify the election results. That includes the pressure allegedly applied to Vice President Mike Pence, who refused to go along with the Trump-backed plot to discard the electoral votes from some states.
Finally, the third alleged conspiracy includes a civil rights charge that strikes at how Trump’s machinations aimed to rob Americans of their right to choose the president.
“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 federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election,” prosecutors argue in the indictment.
Taken together, then, Smith’s indictment outlines how the plot to overturn the 2020 presidential election harmed voters, the state-level vote-counting process, and the country’s democratic process at a high level.
In a statement posted to the Truth Social social media platform, Trump said the charges were “nothing more than the latest corrupt chapter in the continued pathetic attempt” by the Biden administration to “interfere in the 2024 presidential election.” He predicted that those “un-American witch hunts will fail.”
Smith was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland but is operating independently of the Biden administration. Smith’s January 6th investigation included dozens of subpoenas issued to just about everyone in Trump’s inner circle on that day, including Vice President Mike Pence, who was a target of the rioters’ ire.
The 45-page indictment goes into significant detail about how Trump knew his claims about the presidential election were false. Trump “widely disseminated his false claims of election fraud for months, despite the fact that he knew, and in many cases had been informed directly, that they were not true,” the indictment claims, before listing seven examples of times when other officials and aids told Trump he was making false claims.
Tuesday’s indictment comes after he was charged in April with 34 counts of business fraud by prosecutors in New York. Those alleged crimes, to which Trump has pleaded not guilty, are related to payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels as part of a nondisclosure agreement.
That was followed in June by a federal indictment for mishandling classified documents. Smith, who is also leading that investigation, brought 37 federal felony charges against the former president, including conspiracy to obstruct justice, willful retention of national defense information (in violation of the Espionage Act), and concealing documents from investigators and a grand jury. In an updated indictment filed this week, Smith tacked on new charges of obstruction of justice relating to Trump allegedly telling a staffer to cover up the attempt to hide boxes of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, the Floridian resort where the former president has resided since leaving office. Trump has pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.
And yet another set of charges—perhaps the most serious of the bunch—may be waiting. In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is investigating Trump’s alleged attempts to strong-arm Georgia officials into overturning the results of that state’s 2020 presidential vote. Witnesses interviewed by the grand jury included former Trump confidant Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.).
In letters to local law enforcement released in April, Willis said possible criminal charges against Trump and his allies would be announced before September 1.
Trump was already the first president or former president in American history to be charged with a crime. He’s now the first to face criminal charges on three different fronts at the same time.