Trump’s arraignment over efforts to overturn 2020 election: How historic day unfolded

Ex-president appeared in federal court in Washington, DC, on Thursday afternoon for latest arraignment

Rachel Sharp,Ariana Baio
Friday 04 August 2023 12:07 BST
Trump's attorney claims he won't go to jail following indictment

America had another historic day on Thursday 3 August as former president Donald Trump turned himself in to face charges related to his alleged conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election as part of a desperate bid to defy the will of voters and remain at the head of the US government.

Thirty-one months after a mob of his supporters stormed the US Capitol to try to stop the certification of the 2020 election, Mr Trump sat in the E Barrett Prettyman Courthouse nearby to face criminal charges.

At his arraignment, Mr Trump pleaded not guilty to all four federal charges.

The ex-president was indicted on the federal charges on Tuesday 1 August following an investigation led by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith’s office.

The arraignment marked Mr Trump’s third criminal indictment and second federal indictment as his legal troubles continue to mount at a time when he is pursuing his third run for the White House.

Here’s how the day unfolded.

Trump headed to Washington, DC

Although the ex-president was given the option to appear for his arraignment virtually, he confirmed to followers on Truth Social he would be attending in person.

Mr Trump departed from his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Thursday afternoon and headed to Newark Liberty International Airport, where he boarded a flight to Washington.

The flight, which took roughly an hour-and-a-half, landed at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport around 3.30pm EST.

From there, the former president headed to the E Barrett Prettyman Courthouse for his scheduled arraignment which took place at approximately 4pm EST.

Donald Trump arrives at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Thursday 3 August (AP)

Arrest, fingerprints, mugshot?

Mr Trump surrended to authorities at the DC courthouse shortly before his scheduled arraignment time.

Once there, he was processed and fingerprinted. Like his previous arrests, Mr Trump did not have his mugshot taken nor was he placed in handcuffs.

The ex-president then appeared for his arraignment before magistrate Judge Moxila A Upadhyaya, where he pleaded not guilty to all four charges.

Also present in the courtroom was Mr Smith, who occassionally made eye contact with Mr Trump, according to reports.

Post-arraignment plans

The former president did not announce any post-arraignment media engagments this time around.

Following his first criminal indictment, Mr Trump gave a live primetime address from his Mar-a-Lago estate where he railed against the charges.

After his second criminal indictment, the ex-president gave a speech at his Bedminster golf club.

He did stop and talk to reporters on his way out of DC, however, and said: “When you look at what’s happening this is a persecution of a political opponent.

“This was never supposed to happen in America. This is the persecution of the person that’s leading by very, very substantial numbers in the Republican primary and leading Biden by a lot so if you can’t beat them you persecute them or prosecute ‘em.”

Protests and security concerns

Security ramped up in Washington, DC, ahead of the arraignment.

Metal barricades were erected outside the courthouse on Wednesday evening while the Secret Service confirmed that it was working with multiple law enforcement agencies to “ensure the highest levels of safety and security”.

Workers set up security barricades outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC (AFP/Getty)

“While the Secret Service does not comment on specific protective means or methods, we have the utmost confidence in the dedication and commitment to security shared by all of our law enforcement and government partners,” Anthony Guglielmi, chief of communications for the US Secret Service, said in a statement.

“We are working closely with the Metropolitan Police Department, US Marshals Service, US Park Police, US Capitol Police and the Federal Protective Service to ensure the highest levels of safety and security for the former president, while minimising disruptions to the normal court process.”

The agency warned Washington, DC, residents that they could face “short-term traffic implications” in the centre of the capital on Thursday.

The charges

A grand jury, which has spent months hearing evidence in Mr Smith’s investigation, returned a federal indictment on Tuesday charing him on four federal counts:

  • Conspiracy to defraud the United States
  • Conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding
  • Obstruction of, and attempt, to obstruct an official proceeding
  • Conspiracy against rights

The allegations in the indictment

The former president is accused of conspiring with his allies to overturn the 2020 election, in a bid to sabotage the vote of the American people.

The Department of Justice alleges that Mr Trump and his circle of co-conspirators knew that he lost the 2020 election but launched a multi-prong conspiracy to do everything they could to enable him to cling to power.

This included allegedly spreading: “knowingly false claims of election fraud to get state legislators and election officials to subvert the legitimate election results and change electoral votes for the Defendant’s opponent, Joseph R Biden, Jr, to electoral votes for the Defendant,” according to the indictment.

Mr Trump and his allies also allegedly plotted to send slates of fake electors to seven “targeted states”: Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which President Joe Biden had won.

The plan, allegedly, was to get them to falsely certify the election for Mr Trump.

Security ramps up Wednesday night ahead of arraignment (AP)

The indictment also alleges Mr Trump tried to use the Department of Justice to “conduct sham election crime investigations”, sending letters to the seven states claiming that “significant concerns” had been found in the elections in those states.

The scheme also allegedly involved pushing false claims that Vice President Mike Pence had the power to alter the results and push Mr Pence to “fraudulently alter the election results”.

When Mr Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in a violent attack that ended with five deaths, Mr Trump and his co-conspirators allegedly “exploited” the incident by “redoubling efforts to levy false claims of election fraud and convince Members of Congress to further delay the certification based on those claims.”

While the former president is the only person charged in the case, the indictment also refers to six co-conspirators who worked with him to try to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

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