POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Trump arrives at DC courthouse to face charges he tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election

Aug 3, 2023, 1:47 PM | Updated: 1:48 pm

The E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Federal Courthouse is seen behind barricades, before the arrival of f...

The E. Barrett Prettyman U.S. Federal Courthouse is seen behind barricades, before the arrival of former President Donald Trump, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump arrived Thursday at the federal courthouse in Washington to surrender on charges that he plotted to overturn his 2020 defeat in the election, with the former president set to face a judge mere blocks from the U.S. Capitol building that his supporters stormed to try to block the transfer of power.

In what’s become a familiar but nonetheless stunning ritual, the early front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination will be processed by law enforcement and enter a not guilty plea before a federal magistrate. He’s expected to then be released as the case proceeds, enabling him to rejoin the campaign trail as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024.

It’s the third criminal case filed against Trump this year, but the first to try to hold him criminally responsible for his efforts to cling to power in the weeks between his election loss and the Capitol attack that stunned the world as it unfolded live on TV. Trump has said he did nothing wrong and has accused special counsel Jack Smith of trying to thwart his chances of returning to the White House in 2024.

Trump arrived in Washington around 3 p.m. after flying in from New Jersey by private plane. His motorcade made its way through D.C.’s crowded streets, using lights and sirens — a journey documented in wall-to-wall cable coverage once again.

An indictment Tuesday from Smith charges Trump with four felony counts related to his efforts to undo his presidential election loss in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. The charges could lead to a yearslong prison sentence in the event of a conviction.

The Republican former president was the only person charged in the case, though prosecutors referenced six unnamed co-conspirators, mostly lawyers, they say he plotted with, including in a scheme to enlist fake electors in seven battleground states won by Democrat Joe Biden to submit false certificates to the federal government.

The indictment chronicles how Trump and his Republican allies, in what Smith described as an attack on a “bedrock function of the U.S. government,” repeatedly lied about the results in the two months after he lost the election and pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, and state election officials to take action to help him cling to power.

This is the third criminal case brought against Trump in less than six months.

He was charged in New York with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment to a porn actor during the 2016 presidential campaign. Smith’s office also has charged him with 40 felony counts in Florida, accusing him of illegally retaining classified documents at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago, and refusing government demands to give them back. He has pleaded not guilty in both those cases, which are set for trial next year.

And prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, are expected in coming weeks to announce charging decisions in an investigation into efforts to subvert election results in that state.

Trump’s lawyer John Lauro has asserted in television interviews that Trump’s actions were protected by the First Amendment right to free speech and that he relied on the advice of lawyers. Trump has claimed without evidence that Smith’s team is trying to interfere with the 2024 presidential election.

Smith said in a rare public statement this week that he was seeking a speedy trial, though Lauro has said he intends to slow the case down so that the defense team can conduct its own investigation.

The arraignment will be handled before U.S. Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadyaha, who joined the bench last year. But going forward, the case will be presided over by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, an appointee of President Barack Obama who has stood out as one of the toughest punishers of the Capitol rioters.
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AP writers Lindsay Whitehurst, Ellen Knickmeyer, Ashraf Khalil, Rebecca Santana, Stephen Groves, Serkan Gurbuz, Rick Gentilo, Alex Brandon, Yihan Deng, Kara Brown, Nathan Posner and Alanna Durkin Richer contributed to this report.
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Follow the AP’s coverage of Donald Trump at https://apnews.com/hub/donald-trump and of the U.S. Capitol insurrection at https://apnews.com/hub/capitol-siege.

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Trump arrives at DC courthouse to face charges he tried to overturn the 2020 presidential election