Donald Trump To Appear In Court, Accused Of Endangering US Democracy

Donald Trump is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday to face allegations of conspiracy to rig the 2020 election, a case that will leave a dark and destabilizing shadow over the 2024 presidential election, in which he remains the presumed Republican contender.

Metal barricades were placed outside the E. Barret Prettyman federal courthouse in Washington, where the former president’s arrest and arraignment will take place within sight of the US Capitol, which his supporters stormed on January 6, 2021.

Police gathered outside the court early Thursday, while scores of reporters from around the world camped out overnight to get inside.

Trump, 77, is due to make a not guilty plea before magistrate judge Moxila Upadhyaya at 4:00 p.m. (2000 GMT).

The allegations that Trump and six unnamed co-conspirators intended to destabilize the 2020 race are the former president’s third criminal indictment since March, and the most severe of the charges threatening his comeback bid.

‘Knowingly false claims’

On Tuesday, special counsel Jack Smith issued a 45-page indictment charging Trump with conspiring to defraud the United States and attempting to disenfranchise American voters by falsely claiming he won the November 2020 election.

“The purpose of the conspiracy was to overturn the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election by using knowingly false claims of election fraud,” the indictment said.

Smith, a former war crimes prosecutor at the Hague, linked Trump’s actions following his loss to Democrat Joe Biden directly to the attack on the Capitol, which he called an “unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy.”

“It was fueled by lies,” Smith said. “Lies by the defendant 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.”

Trump is already due to stand trial in Florida in May next year on charges that he took top-secret government materials to his Mar-a-Lago home and refused to return them.

The twice-impeached former president is also facing criminal charges in New York for allegedly paying a porn star hush money on election night.

Trump has pleaded not guilty in the hush money and documents investigations, accusing prosecutors of attempting to derail his presidential campaign with “fake” indictments.

He slammed the alleged “unprecedented weaponization” of the Justice Department in a post on his Truth Social platform Thursday, accusing Biden of seeking to charge him with “as many crimes as can be concocted.”

“But soon, in 2024, it will be our turn,” he wrote.

‘Should never be president’

The new conspiracy charges raise the prospect of Trump being further embroiled in legal proceedings at the height of what is expected to be a bitter presidential campaign.

The plot allegedly included attempts to pressure Mike Pence into throwing out Electoral College votes at the January 6 joint session of Congress called to certify Biden’s win, which the vice president eventually refused to do.

“I had no right to overturn the election,” Pence, who is also seeking the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, said Wednesday.

“Anyone who asks someone else to put themselves over the Constitution should never be president of the United States again,” he told reporters.

Although Trump’s arraignment will be before a magistrate judge, the actual case is to be heard by US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan.

Chutkan, 61, has a legal history with Trump — she ruled against him in a November 2021 case.

Trump had filed a lawsuit asserting executive privilege to block documents from being handed over to a congressional committee investigating the attack on the Capitol by his supporters.

He was no longer in the White House at the time, and Chutkan dismissed the suit, saying the former president’s argument “appears to be premised on the notion that his executive power ‘exists in perpetuity.’”

As president, Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives for seeking political dirt on Biden from Ukraine and over the events of January 6, and was acquitted by the Senate both times.

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