Security ramps up as Trump returns to alleged scene of the crime

Metal barricades were seen being erected outside the courthouse on Wednesday night while the Secret Service confirmed that it is working with multiple law enforcement agencies to ‘ensure the highest levels of safety and security’

Rachel Sharp
Thursday 03 August 2023 15:09 BST
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DC prepares for Trump's arraignment

Security has ramped up in Washington DC as Donald Trump prepares to return to the alleged scene of the crime to face charges over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the events leading up to the January 6 Capitol riot.

The former president is scheduled to appear for his arraignment at 4pm ET on Thursday at the E Barrett Prettyman Courthouse in Washington DC – just a few blocks away from the US Capitol where a mob of his supporters staged a violent insurrection to try to overthrow democracy back on 6 January 2021.

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

“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, U.S. Marshals Service, U.S. Park Police, U.S. Capitol Police and the Federal Protective Service to ensure the highest levels of safety and security for the former president, while minimizing 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.

Mr Trump is expected to surrender to authorities at the DC courthouse at 4pm ET where he will be formally arrested on the charges, have his fingerprints taken and be processed.

He will then appear for his arraignment before Magistrate Judge Moxila A Upadhyaya where he is expected to plead not guilty to the charges.

The former president does have the option of appearing virtually – instead of in-person – but is expected to travel to the hearing.

The hearing will see Mr Trump return to the centre of his alleged attempts to upturn American democracy to face criminal charges over the plot.

Metal barricades were seen being erected outside the courthouse on Wednesday night
Metal barricades were seen being erected outside the courthouse on Wednesday night (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Department of Homeland Security workers outside the DC courthouse
Department of Homeland Security workers outside the DC courthouse (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The courthouse is just a stone’s throw from the US Capitol – the scene of one of America’s darkest day 31 months ago when hundreds of Mr Trump supporters stormed the building to try to stop the certification of the election for President Joe Biden.

Since then, hundreds have been charged and convicted over their role that day.

This historic day marks the first time that their leader Mr Trump has been held to account.

Mr Trump and his attorneys are already demanding that his “fake” criminal case be moved out of Washington DC to “unbiased” West Virginia, claiming he cannot get a fair trial in the capital.

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.

A grand jury, which has spent months hearing evidence in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation, returned a federal indictment on Tuesday hitting him with four federal charges: 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.

The US Capitol building looms close to the courthouse
The US Capitol building looms close to the courthouse (AFP/Getty)

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

This included 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”, the indictment states.

Mr Trump and his allies also allegedly plotted to send slates of fake electors to seven “targeted states” of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin which President Joe Biden had won – to get them to falsely certify the election for Mr Trump.

The indictment also alleges Mr Trump tried to use the DOJ 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.

As well as the false claims about the election being stolen from Mr Trump, the scheme also involved pushing false claims that Vice President Mike Pence had the power to alter the results – and pushing Mr Pence to “fraudulently alter the election results”.

Workers put up barricades and secure the area
Workers put up barricades and secure the area (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Federal Courthouse is just a stone’s throw from US Capitol
E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Federal Courthouse is just a stone’s throw from US Capitol (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

When Mr Trump’s supporters stormed the US Capitol in a violent attack that ended with five deaths, Mr Trump and his co-conspirators “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,” the indictment claims.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Mr Smith placed the blame for the January 6 attack on the US Capitol firmly on Mr Trump’s shoulders.

“The attack on our nation’s capitol on January 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy,” he said.

“As described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies. 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.”

The indictment marks Mr Trump’s second federal indictment, his third criminal indictment overall – and potentially his most serious.

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.

The six individuals – four attorneys, one Justice Department official and one political consultant – have not been named in the charging documents because they have not yet been charged with any crimes.

However, based on the details in the indictment and records already known about the events leading up to the Capitol riot, the identities are apparent as Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, John Eastman, Jeffrey Clark, Kenneth Chesebro and Boris Epshteyn.

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