What the Trump indictment really means - GulfToday

What the Trump indictment really means

Ahmed Baba


Ahmed Baba is an entrepreneur and a columnist at The Independent.

Donald Trump

The charges against Trump are serious and go to the heart of the American democratic institutions.

Donald Trump, the first president to execute a plot to overturn American democracy, has just become the first president to be indicted for it. A Washington DC grand jury has voted through an indictment that outlines a sprawling criminal conspiracy encompassing Trump and his allies’ effort to overturn the 2020 election. The charges are serious and go to the heart of our democratic institutions. Trump faces four counts: Conspiracy to Defraud the United States; Conspiracy to Obstruct an Official Proceeding; Obstruction of and Attempt to Obstruct an Official Proceeding; and Conspiracy Against Rights. This is Trump’s third indictment this year and by far the most serious. It also describes, but doesn’t explicitly name, six co-conspirators who participated in Trump’s alleged crimes.

Special Counsel Jack Smith spoke on Tuesday night, briefly stating that a new indictment has been unsealed against Trump. He said that Trump’s “unprecedented attack” on democracy was “fueled by lies.” He praised law enforcement. He didn’t take questions. His statement was short and sweet. Smith let the indictment do the talking, and it sure has a lot to say. Reading through the indictment, we see confirmation of the story told during the January 6 Committee hearings, highlighting how effective a job they did. The committee charted the roadmap for prosecuting Trump, and Smith expanded on it. The indictment reads like a refresher on the plot we’ve already become familiar with, of course with some new details. Let’s go through the charges.

Count one immediately dives in and alleges that Trump conspired with co-conspirators to “defraud the United States by using dishonesty, fraud, and deceit to impair, obstruct, and defeat the lawful federal government function by which the results of the presidential election are collected, counted, and certified by the federal government.” The purpose of the conspiracy was to overturn the 2020 election by knowingly using false election fraud claims to fuel the conspiracy. This is where the six co-conspirators were listed. Co-conspirator 1, is described as an attorney who “spread knowingly false claims and pursued strategies that the Defendant’s 2020 re-election campaign attorneys would not.”

Co-conspirator 2 is described as an attorney who devised the attempted plot to pressure Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the election. Co-conspirator 3 is described as an attorney whose lies Trump’s privately called “crazy,” but pushed anyway. Co-conspirator 4 is described as a DOJ official who attempted to open a “sham” investigation into election crime probes and influence state legislatures. These co-conspirators were not charged, but Smith said in his statement that his investigation of other individuals continues.

Count one breaks down the whole plot. For those who need a refresher, the conspiracy consisted of a plot to use false claims of voter fraud to pressure officials to disregard legitimate electors and submit fake electors. The indictment goes into detail, describing the multi-state plot covering Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. Trump and his co-conspirators then embarked on a pressure campaign to try and get Vice President Mike Pence to misuse his ceremonial role of counting the votes to reject legitimate Biden electors, according to the indictment. After it became clear Pence would not cooperate, Trump exploited the violence at the Capitol to continue efforts to pressure members of Congress to delay the certification.

The indictment also goes to great lengths to establish criminal intent, stating that Trump spread false claims of voter fraud and  that “these claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false.” It outlines numerous examples of Trump being told he lost or acknowledging he lost himself. This showcases how Trump knew there were no legitimate voter fraud claims to litigate. He merely used these lies as a tool to perpetuate his criminal plot. Counts two through four don’t have lengthy sections, but simply re-allege the entire plot outlined in count one. Count four, Conspiracy Against Rights, is particularly powerful and interesting. In the very last sentence of the indictment, Smith claims that Trump and his co-conspirators conspired to “injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate one or more persons in the free exercise and enjoyment of a right and privilege secured to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States — that is, the right to vote, and to have one’s vote counted.”

This civil rights charge is based on a law that was used to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan’s attacks on Black Americans who were acting on their constitutional right to vote. Accurately framing Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election as an effort to disenfranchise voters is really important, particularly because Trump’s plot targeted localities with large Black populations. It’s also fitting given the Confederate flag and noose that was hung at the Capitol on January 6 by pro-Trump rioters. In February 2021, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said Donald Trump was “practically and morally responsible” for the events of January 6 – moments before voting to acquit the former president. McConnell punted to the justice system, memorably declaring: “He didn’t get away with anything yet. We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former Presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.” Two-and-a-half years later, Smith has done what Republican lawmakers were too afraid to do, and he held nothing back.

This lands on top of a series of other legal troubles Trump faces. Trump now faces multiple trials over the next 16 months ahead of the 2024 election. In October 2023, the Trump Organization fraud trial takes place. In January 2024, the second E Jean Carroll defamation trial will take place. In March 2024, the hush money trial will come centre stage. And in May 2024, the classified documents trial is scheduled, which is also prosecuted by Smith. Each trial highlights a different Trump character flaw, which will hopefully remind Americans who Trump is. It’s unclear whether this will help Trump in the primaries, some polling indicates it might, but it’s hard to believe these trials will help Trump in the general election.

We all watched the violent, stunning events of January 6, 2021. Many of us were surprised, but not shocked that Trump would sink to those depths in his desperate attempt to cling on to power. Now, he is facing criminal accountability for it. I believe the evidence is overwhelming, but whether he will be convicted is up to a jury of his peers. Whether or not he should be president, on the other hand, is once again up to us. No rational American reading this indictment can believe that Trump deserves one more moment in power. We’ll see if rationality wins in 2024.

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