Donald Trump due in court to face election 2020 charges

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Watch: ‘This indictment is staggering’ – a 90-second explainer

By Max Matza & Sarah Smith

BBC News

Former US President Donald Trump will be formally charged at a court hearing later for allegedly plotting to overturn his 2020 election defeat.

Mr Trump, 77, is due to appear at a federal courthouse in Washington DC on Thursday at 16:00 EDT (20:00 GMT).

It is expected that he will attend in person and plead not guilty.

On the eve of the arraignment he slammed the case as proof of the “corruption, scandal, and failure” of the US under Joe Biden’s presidency.

Mr Trump already faces two other criminal cases as he campaigns for the White House next year.

In this latest indictment, Mr Trump faces four counts, including conspiracy to defraud the US, tampering with a witness and conspiracy against the rights of citizens.

The former president has visited Washington DC only once since leaving the White House. A queue was already forming on Wednesday evening outside the courthouse.

A spokesman for the US Marshals Service, a federal law enforcement agency that guards courts, told Reuters news agency that Mr Trump would be fingerprinted and asked to provide basic information, such as his date of birth and Social Security ID number.

Mr Trump will appear before Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya, while another judge, Tanya Chutkan, will handle the criminal trial.

Image source, Reuters

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Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, at the weekend

Security is being ramped up in the city for Thursday’s hearing.

Metal barriers have been put up outside the federal courthouse where the charges against Mr Trump will be formally read.

Similar structures have been erected around the US Capitol buildings, where Trump supporters rioted in January 2021, angry at the election result.

The Secret Service, which provides protection to presidents and ex-presidents, released a statement warning the public of “short-term traffic implications” in central Washington DC.

Protection for judges involved in the case has also reportedly been increased.

That includes District Judge Chutkan, who told an attorney in an unrelated case that she had not slept since being assigned to Mr Trump’s case, to which the lawyer replied: “Please be safe”.

“I’ll try,” Ms Chutkan said before an open court, later joking that she wanted to keep her calendar open “in case I can get out of town, which is increasingly looking like a good idea”.

Image source, Reuters

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News trucks are parked around the courthouse

In an all-capital-letters post on his Truth Social platform on Wednesday, the former president, who was at his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club, thanked his followers and said: “I never had so much support on anything before.”

In other posts he attacked rival Republican presidential hopefuls, including his former Vice-President Mike Pence and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

He repeated his argument that Mr Pence had had the legal authority to stop Congress from certifying Mr Biden’s election victory on 6 January 2021, proceedings that were disrupted as Trump supporters rioted at the US Capitol.

Mr Trump’s lawyers have hinted at their defence strategy.

Attorney John Lauro appeared on NBC’s Today show on Wednesday and said he planned to argue that Mr Trump was protected by the right to free speech enshrined in the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

“[The indictment] is criminalising speech,” Mr Lauro said.

Mr Trump’s legal team are also resisting the prosecutors’ desire for a speedy trial – saying they need time to organise their client’s defence.

Image source, Getty Images

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While his would-be challenger is beset with legal woes, President Biden (centre) is on holiday in Delaware

Several other suspects accused of involvement in the US Capitol riot have had hearings that were scheduled for Thursday postponed.

Mr Trump is currently the clear front-runner in the Republican Party’s contest to pick its next presidential candidate.

Congressional Republicans have been rallying round him, arguing that the latest indictment shows the US has become a “banana republic” and echoing the former president’s claim that the prosecutions amount to election interference.

Mr Pence, who has been struggling to gain traction in the 2024 White House race, maintained on Wednesday during a campaign stop at the Indiana State Fair that he had “done his duty” on January 6 2021.

“Sadly the president was surrounded by a group of crackpot lawyers that kept telling him what his itching ears wanted to hear,” he said. “The president ultimately continued to demand that I choose him over the Constitution.”

The 45-page election-related indictment against Mr Trump is based partly on contemporaneous notes that Mr Pence kept of their conversations in the days leading up to the US Capitol riot.

Mr Trump has already been charged in two other cases: with mishandling classified files and falsifying business records to cover up a hush-money payment to a porn star.

Prosecutors in Georgia may bring a criminal case against Mr Trump this month over alleged efforts to subvert the 2020 election result in that state.

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