Donald Trump has been indicted for the third time – what happens next?

This is Mr Trump’s third criminal indictment, his second federal indictment, and his first for his alleged conduct while in office as president

Faiza Saqib
Wednesday 02 August 2023 16:17 BST
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Special Counsel Jack Smith announces indictment against Donald Trump in Jan 6 probe

Donald Trump has been indicted on four charges by a grand jury hearing evidence in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

This is Mr Trump’s third criminal indictment, his second federal indictment, and his first for his alleged conduct while in office as president.

The indictment charges Mr Trump with four felony counts, including conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and an attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and conspiracy against rights.

Before the indictment was revealed, Mr Trump took to Truth Social to tell followers he was expecting an indictment at 5pm ET. On his social media platform, he also called the indictment “fake” and said Mr Smith was “deranged.”

A statement, posted from Mr Trump’s campaign called the indictment a “pathetic attempt” and said Mr Trump was accused of “fake charges”.

“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. President Trump has always followed the law and the Constitution with advice from many highly accomplished attorneys,” the statement from Mr Trump’s campaign read.

Mr Trump has also been indicted in a separate federal case on 40 federal charges that accuse him of keeping highly sensitive government documents after leaving office and obstructing government attempts to retrieve them.

When will Donald Trump appear in court?

Mr Trump has been ordered to make an initial appearance on Thursday at the federal courthouse at 4pm ET in Washington.

In an interview with CNN, Mr Trump’s attorney John Lauro suggested that Mr Trump would appear “either virtually or in person” for his first appearance.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan will take over the case as a trial judge.

When will Mr Trump enter a plea?

(AP)

Mr Trump is set to make an initial appearance on Thursday, where he might enter a plea at that time, but this could also happen at a later date.

During a court process, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ), the government may offer the defendant a “plea agreement” to avoid trial and “perhaps avoid a longer sentence. A plea bargain can happen before or after the defendant is indicted.”

The DOJ website states: “A defendant may plead guilty only if they actually committed the crime and admit to doing so in open court before the judge. Through a guilty plea, a defendant admits guilt and consents to be sentenced by the judge presiding over the case without a trial.

“Sometimes the Government will agree, as part of a plea agreement, not to recommend a particular sentence, but it is up to the judge to determine how the defendant will be punished. If a defendant pleads guilty, there is no trial, and the next step is to prepare for a sentencing hearing.”

Before a trial takes place, the judge will lay out a schedule for discovery and pre-trial motions so that the prosecutor can submit evidence, check facts and study the evidence.

The DOJ says a motion is “an application to the court made by the prosecutor or defence attorney, requesting that the court make a decision on a certain issue before the trial begins. The motion can affect the trial, courtroom, defendants, evidence, or testimony.”

In this case, both sides are also likely to file motions which in turn will shape what arguments and evidence can be permitted at trial.

It is unclear when Mr Trump’s trial will take place.

What was Mr Trump charged with this time and what was said in the indictment?

In his latest legal battle, a detailed 45-page federal indictment on 1 August outlines three criminal conspiracies and Mr Trump’s alleged plot to overthrow the 2020 election.

He faces four counts of violating three sections of the federal criminal code as Mr Trump and his allies have been accused of trying to remain in the White House for a second term, despite Joe Biden winning the election. In the indictment, it says “despite having lost, the Defendant was determined to remain in power.”

The indictment states that for more than two months following the election day on 3 November 2020, “the Defendant spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he actually won.”

The indictment further highlighted that these claims were “false” and that Mr Trump knew “they were false,” but still continued to spread lies during the election.

According to the indictment: “the Defendant was notified repeatedly that his claims were untrue – often by the people on whom he relied for candid advice on important matters, and who were best positioned to know the facts – and he deliberately disregarded the truth.”

Mr Trump has been charged with four counts which include:

Count one is conspiracy to defraud the United States by using “dishonesty, fraud, 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.”

Count two is conspiracy to corruptly “obstruct” an official proceeding.

Count three is an obstruction and “attempt to obstruct an Official Proceeding.”

Count four is conspiracy against rights.

Does Mr Trump have any upcoming trials?

Mr Trump’s New York state criminal trial involving a hush money payment to a porn star is due to start on 25 March 2024, and his Florida trial in a federal classified documents case is scheduled to begin on May 20.

How will the indictment affect Mr Trump's 2024 campaign?

According to a Reuters/Ipsos poll, 37 per cent of independents said the criminal cases against Trump made them less likely to vote for him for president, compared to 8 per cent who said they were more likely to do so.

However, strategists have said Trump will most likely use the latest indictment to reinforce his central argument, that he is an outsider trying to protect his supporters. Therefore, the indictment could help Mr Trump solidify support within his base and win Republican nominations.

“They’re not indicting me, they’re indicting you. I just happen to be standing in their way,” Mr Trump said at a campaign rally in Pennsylvania on 29.

"If the past pattern holds, with conservative media and Republicans sort of not going after Trump on it, this isn't going to make a significant difference with the Republican 2024 primary," said Chris Jackson, a public opinion researcher at polling firm Ipsos, which conducts polls for Reuters and other media organisations, according to Reuters.

Additional reporting from agencies

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