Technology

Trump indictment: How strong are the criminal charges against Trump in the Jan. 6 case?


Well, it finally happened. After being indicted twice on relatively minor charges — an alleged scheme to cover up an extramarital affair in New York, and unlawful retention of classified documents in a Florida federal court — former President Donald Trump will face trial for one of the most monumental crimes ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice: an alleged scheme to steal the presidency itself.

The actual charges against Trump under this, the third indictment facing the former president, arise under four federal statutes. Trump is accused of defrauding the federal government, of obstructing an official government proceeding (the Congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory over Trump), of engaging in a conspiracy to obstruct that proceeding, and of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to “conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person” in the “free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

This later statute has been used in the past to prosecute ballot stuffing schemes, and similar efforts to rig elections by changing the vote count. As the Supreme Court held in Anderson v. United States (1974), every voter in a federal election “has a right under the Constitution to have his vote fairly counted, without its being distorted by fraudulently cast votes.”

The new indictment lays out many facts that will be familiar to anyone who followed the congressional hearings on the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, or who has closely followed news reports about Trump’s failed efforts to overturn the 2020 election.