The federal indictment handed down against former U.S. president Donald Trump on Tuesday over his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss and remain in power includes remarkable allegations about the lengths Trump and his allies went, and how he belittled those who stood in his way.
Those he raged against included Mike Pence, his otherwise loyal vice-president who Trump, according to the indictment, accusing of being “too honest” for not going along with a scheme to obstruct the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory on Jan. 6, 2021 — a scheme Trump’s own co-conspirators admitted was not lawful, the indictment alleges.
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Prosecutors working for special counsel Jack Smith detailed several other allegations against not just Trump but also six unnamed co-conspirators, who are quoted at length allegedly shrugging off suggestions their actions will lead to violent protests and doubling down on false claims of election fraud, despite not having evidence to back them up.
Most of all, the indictment alleges repeatedly that Trump knew he had lost the election, even admitting so at times, but sowed discontent against the election anyways.
Here are some of the takeaways from the indictment.
At various points in the indictment, prosecutors break down the multiple ways Trump was informed by his aides, White House lawyers, campaign staff and state and local officials that his claims of fraud were false and had been debunked.
On Nov. 7, 2020, the indictment says — four days after the election but a day before Biden was declared the presumptive winner — Trump’s senior campaign staff told Trump he only had a five to 10 per cent chance of winning, which was contingent on the campaign’s lawsuits being successful. None of them were.
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By January, the warnings to Trump had become more stark.
“There is no world, there is no option in which you do not leave the White House (o)n January 20th,” a unnamed deputy White House counsel told Trump on Jan. 3, according to the indictment.
Trump’s attorney general and acting attorney general, top campaign directors and other senior officials directly told him specific claims were false, the indictment alleges, including that thousands of dead people had voted in Georgia and that voting machines had switched votes for Trump to Biden.
In a section detailing the efforts of Trump and his allies in Georgia, the indictment alleges Trump privately admitted some of the claims of voter fraud were “crazy,” but promoted a lawsuit based on those false allegations anyways.
Later, another co-conspirator allegedly acknowledged in an email that Trump had “‘been made aware that some of the allegations … (were) inaccurate’ and that signing a new affirmation ‘with that knowledge … would not be accurate’” — only for Trump to sign that new affirmation anyway.
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At the same time, Trump privately acknowledged his loss. After the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff urged Trump to not take action on a national security issue, Trump agreed, according to the indictment.
“Yeah, you’re right, it’s too late for us,” Trump said during a Jan. 3 meeting. “We’re going to give that to the next guy.”
All the while, he repeatedly tweeted and encouraged his supporters to come to Washington on Jan. 6.
The indictment includes new information supplied by Pence, citing the vice-president’s “contemporaneous notes” taken during interactions with Trump in the aftermath of the election.
According to the indictment, Trump, his allies and some of his co-conspirators were pushing Pence to act on their behalf at the Jan. 6, 2021, certification of the Electoral College results in Congress — either by counting slates of “fake electors” submitted by Republican operatives in battleground states won by Biden, or rejecting those states’ votes outright.
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Pence disagreed with a legal theory authored by a co-conspirator identified as an attorney and legal adviser to Trump during this time, repeatedly stating he had no authority as president of the Senate to do anything other than oversee Congress’ certification.
On Dec, 25, Pence called Trump to wish him a Merry Christmas, prosecutors said. But Trump “quickly turned the conversation to January 6 and his request that the Vice President reject electoral votes that day.” Pence pushed back, telling Trump he didn’t have the authority.
In another of the calls, on Jan. 1, after Pence once again said it was improper to reject the electoral votes, Trump told Pence, “You’re too honest,” according to the indictment.
The indictment includes instances in which Trump’s co-conspirators appear to dismiss concerns raised by officials about public resistance to Trump’s efforts to remain in power — even the prospect of violence.
During a Jan. 3 conversation, prosecutors say, when a deputy White House counsel told a co-conspirator there would be “riots in every major city in the United States” if Trump remained in power despite his loss, the co-conspirator allegedly responded, “Well (Deputy White House Counsel), that’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.”
The Insurrection Act allows the president to deploy the military and other federal law enforcement to suppress civil unrest, insurrection or rebellion against the government.
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The next day, Jan. 4, the indictment says a senior adviser to Trump warned a different co-conspirator their actions were “going to cause riots in the streets.” That co-conspirator allegedly “responded that there had previously been points in the nation’s history where violence was necessary to protect the republic,” prosecutors said.
During the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, the indictment alleges, Trump repeatedly refused to issue or approve messages calling on the rioters to leave, even when urged by his most senior aides and advisers.
As he watched the events unfold on television in the outer Oval Office, according to prosecutors, Trump allegedly told those with him, “See, this is what happens when they try to steal an election. These people are angry. These people are really angry about it. This is what happens.”
Trump finally issued a call to his supporters to leave the Capitol about three hours after the attack began.
Who are the co-conspirators?
The indictment alleges Trump enlisted six people to help him try to overturn the 2020 election. The six people are not explicitly named, but the indictment includes details that make it possible to identify some of them.
As “Co-Conspirator 1” and “Co-Conspirator 2,” lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman are quoted from their remarks at the “Stop the Steal” rally prior to the riot urging Pence to throw out the votes of valid electors.
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A third lawyer, Sidney Powell, named as “Co-Conspirator 3,” filed a lawsuit in Georgia that amplified false or unsupported claims of election fraud. The indictment quotes Trump as privately conceding Powell’s claims sounded “crazy.”
Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who championed Trump’s false claims of election fraud, is described as “Co-Conspirator 4.”
There are no known charges against the listed co-conspirators. Smith, the special counsel, said Tuesday his office’s investigation remains ongoing.
Giuliani aide Ted Goodman said in a statement to the Associated Press that “every fact” the former New York City mayor had “establishes the good faith basis President Donald Trump had for the actions he took during the two-month period charged in the indictment.”
— with files from the Associated Press