Efforts to hold Donald Trump criminally responsible for attempting to overturn the 2020 election were gaining steam, as the former U.S. president prepared to face federal charges in a Washington courtroom on Thursday while Georgia state prosecutors looked poised to issue their own charges in the coming weeks.
Trump – the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination – was indicted on Tuesday on four counts, including conspiring to defraud the U.S., obstructing an official proceeding and conspiring to deprive voters of their right to fair elections.
In the 45-page indictment filed by Special Counsel Jack Smith, prosecutors described a sprawling, multistate conspiracy built upon Trump’s repeated false claims that Democrat Joe Biden’s victory had been marred by widespread fraud.
According to the indictment, Trump ignored advisers who told him the election was not fraudulent and helped organize fake slates of electors to try to capture electoral votes in states he had lost.
Trump and his allies knowingly pushed those lies as part of a pressure campaign to try to convince state and federal officials to throw out the election results, prosecutors said, culminating in a mob of Trump supporters storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to block Congress from certifying Biden’s victory.
“Despite having lost, the defendant was determined to remain in power,” the indictment said.
The Trump campaign issued a statement accusing the Biden administration of targeting him for political gain.
“The lawlessness of these persecutions of President Trump and his supporters is reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the former Soviet Union, and other authoritarian, dictatorial regimes,” the campaign said.
Smith, the former chief prosecutor for the special court in The Hague, was appointed as special counsel by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. Special counsels are sometimes named to handle politically sensitive investigations to insulate the Justice Department from allegations of bias.
Trump, 77, the first former U.S. president to face criminal charges, has been indicted on three separate occasions this year. In June, Smith’s office charged him in a separate case with illegally retaining classified documents after leaving the White House and obstructing efforts to retrieve them.
Earlier this year, the Manhattan district attorney’s office brought charges that he falsified business records to hide hush money payments to a porn star who claimed to have had an affair with Trump years ago.
Trump has pleaded not guilty in both cases and has portrayed those investigations, as well as the election probes, as part of a coordinated “witch hunt.”
In Georgia, the district attorney in Atlanta, Fani Willis, has been investigating whether Trump and his associates illegally interfered with that state’s election for more than two years. Willis, an elected Democrat, has signaled she intends to bring charges in that probe within the next three weeks.
Despite the steady drumbeat of scandal, Trump has continued to hold a wide lead over a field of Republican rivals in the 2024 presidential race, according to public polls.
Strategists said that while the indictments could help Trump solidify support among Republican voters, who view the charges as bogus, they could prove more damaging among independent voters in the general election against Biden.
Many Republican officials, unwilling to anger Trump’s substantial base of supporters, attacked Biden instead, claiming that the latest charges were politically motivated.
Trump’s chief rival for the Republican nomination, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, declined to address the specifics in the indictment but vowed to end “the weaponization of the federal government.”