Digging Out The Damning Details From Defendant Trump's Third Indictment
We’re running out of unprecedenteds. I know that’s not a word, but now it’s necessary to go ahead and coin one to describe the gravity of what just happened. The grand jury in Washington D.C. last night handed up an indictment of the former president of the United States, Donald J. Trump, referred to throughout its 47 pages as “the Defendant.” He hasn’t been president for more than two years now, despite repeated references to him as “President Trump” on Fox News and elsewhere. And now, today, on August 1, 2023, he is and will be forevermore known as the Defendant.
In its 45 pages, the indictment covers the crimes of the Defendant from the days immediately after he lost the election in November of 2020, when he was being told by White House aides, his senior campaign staff, and even his own daughter and her husband that he had lost the election, all the way to Inauguration Day, January 20, 2021, including the commission of a crime at 11:44 p.m. on January 6, 2021, nine minutes after the House and the Senate had finished gaveling themselves back into session after the insurrection that had occurred within the Capitol, and in the case of the Senate, within its chambers, earlier that day.
Having acknowledged that “The Defendant had a right, like every American, to speak publicly about the election and even to claim, falsely, that there had been outcome-determinative fraud during the election and that he had won,” the indictment charges him with breaking three federal laws, the violation of which carries years in prison as punishment if found guilty:
“Shortly after election day, the Defendant also pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results. In so doing, the Defendant perpetrated three criminal conspiracies:
a. A conspiracy to defraud the United States by using dishonesty, fraud, and 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, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371;
b. A conspiracy to corruptly obstruct and impede the January 6 congressional proceeding at which the collected results of the presidential election are counted and certified (“the certification proceeding”), in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(k); and
c. A conspiracy against the right to vote and to have one’s vote counted, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 241.
Each of these conspiracies—which built on the widespread mistrust the Defendant was creating through pervasive and destabilizing lies about election fraud—targeted a bedrock function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election (“the federal government function”).”
So there it is, spelled out in plain English so that anyone, even his most ardent supporters, can read and understand it. Fox News tonight has been leading them under, over, and around those words, of course, running a chryon all night saying “Free speech has been indicted.”
Boy, if that’s going to be the Defendant’s defense, is he ever in trouble.
But I digress.
It’s three laws, but four counts of law breaking itemized and talked-through in this indictment which more than one legal expert on MSNBC has called, “a masterpiece.” Count One alleges that the Defendant conspired with six co-conspirators who are unnamed but described in such a way that names can be put to five of them, all of whom are lawyers who worked alongside the Defendant to overthrow the election results.
Co-conspirator One is Rudy Giuliani, who spread lies and attempted to “pursue strategies that the Defendant’s 2020 re-election campaign attorneys would not.”
Number two is John Eastman, who “devised and attempted to implement a strategy to leverage the Vice President’s ceremonial role overseeing the certification proceeding to obstruct the certification of the presidential election.”
Number three is Sidney Powell, “whose unfounded claims of election fraud the Defendant privately acknowledged to others sounded ‘crazy,’ but which he “embraced and publicly amplified.”
Number four is Jeffrey Clark, an official of the Department of Justice who, “with the Defendant, attempted to use the Justice Department to open sham election crime investigations and influence state legislatures with knowingly false claims of election fraud.”
Number five is Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer “who assisted in devising and attempting to implement a plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding.”
Number six, who has not been identified by name, is “a political consultant who helped implement a plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding.” I think this will turn out to be a young political aide who was given the task of transmitting slates of fake electors to Vice President Pence in an attempt to force him to delay or otherwise prevent the proper counting and certification of electoral ballots on January 6.
Count One spells out in excruciating detail how the Defendant was informed again and again that he had lost the election legitimately and that his claims of election fraud were lies. For example, four days before the Defendant had asserted that more than 10,000 dead people had voted in Georgia, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had explained to him on the phone that his allegation was false. The Defendant claimed that there had been 205,000 more votes than voters in Pennsylvania even after two senior DOJ officials personally told him this was false. The Defendant claimed there had been “dumps” of suspicious ballots in Michigan even after Attorney General Bill Barr had told him the claim was false, and his own allies in the state legislature had confirmed the allegation’s falsehood.
I could go on…we’re only on page 9 of the indictment – but you can see where it’s going and how detailed it is. The indictment spends several pages on Arizona alone, recounting the story of how only eight days after Arizona had certified its election result that Joe Biden won the state’s slate of electors, the Defendant and Giuliani had called the Arizona Speaker of the House, Rusty Bowers, attempting to enlist him in their scheme of overturning the Arizona results. They tried again on December 4, and again on January 4, making calls to officials in Arizona attempting to have them decertify the state’s slate of legitimate electors for Joe Biden. It’s clear from the indictment that Bowers, a Republican, will be a witness in the trial of the Defendant, as he was before the January 6 House Select Committee hearings, to testify about the conversations he had with both the Defendant and Giuliani. In other words, they’ve got him on the Arizona conspiracy.
The Georgia conspiracy takes up the next four pages, including the false allegations that destroyed the lives of the two female election workers and the call to Raffensperger and claims that 5,000 dead people had voted along with thousands of people from out of state – all false. And it cites the wonderful scene where co-conspirator two, Eastman, acknowledges that he and the Defendant “had been made aware” that they made false allegations in a lawsuit against the Georgia governor to get him to reverse the election’s results. Knowing the allegations the Defendant was making were false, “The Defendant and Co-Conspirator 2 caused the Defendant’s signed verification to be filed nonetheless.”
The indictment tells the Michigan story of false claims of fraud in Detroit and attempts made by the Defendant in the Oval Office, to get the Michigan Speaker of the House and Majority Leader of the state Senate, both Republicans, to sign on to his false claims. They refused. The Defendant raised the same false claims with Attorney General Barr, who told him they were false.
On the indictment goes, through Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, spelling out in detail the Defendant’s false claims. In Pennsylvania, the Defendant alleged falsely that the state had sent out 1.8 million mail-in ballots and received 2.5 million in return. In Wisconsin, the Defendant made false claims that there had been more votes than voters in the state, claims that were shot down by the state Supreme Court and rejected by the state’s governor, who certified the state’s electors for Joe Biden. The Defendant repeated his false claims all the way up to January 6, when he doubled down in his speech before sending his followers to the Capitol.
The indictment takes eight pages to lay out the details of the fake elector scheme, all the way from its invention and execution, through the lies told by the Defendant to his own allies in battleground states – some of whom are themselves under state indictments in the scheme -- to get them to sign on as fake electors, right on through attempts to get the Department of Justice involved in the scheme. This section includes long descriptions of the battle fought by Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen and Acting Deputy Attorney General William Donoghue to kill schemes to misuse the DOJ, including the infamous Saturday Night Massacre-style Oval Office meeting when the Defendant’s own White House counsel and the DOJ officials present all swore that they and “dozens” of DOJ officials would resign if the Defendant appointed Jeffrey Clark – co-conspirator four, remember – as acting attorney general. Such a move would be a “suicide pact,” Donoghue told the Defendant.
The indictment takes six pages to spell out the details of the Defendant’s attempts to get Vice President Pence to overturn the election in his role overseeing the certification of electoral ballots on January 6. The conspiracy went on for days through December into January, following plans in a memo written by John Eastman, co-conspirator two, to have Pence “unlawfully declare the Defendant the certified winner of the presidential election.” The Defendant, struggling to convince Pence to go along with the conspiracy, complained, “you’re too honest,” speaking directly to his own Vice President in the Oval Office. The indictment contains new revelations about meetings that took place when they were trying to muscle Pence into going along. On January 4, in a meeting in the Oval Office, “according to the Vice President’s contemporaneous notes, the Defendant made knowingly false claims of election fraud, including, ‘Bottom line—won every state by 100,000s of votes’ and ‘we won every state,’ and asked—regarding a claim his senior Justice Department officials previously had told him was false, including as recently as the night before—'What about 205,000 votes more in PA than voters?’”
For the first time, we learn these astonishing details. At the Oval Office meeting, when Eastman acknowledged that no court would uphold the plan to have Pence refuse to certify the electoral ballots, Pence’s senior advisor told him, “‘You’re going to cause riots in the streets.’ Co-Conspirator 2 responded that there had previously been points in the nation’s history where violence was necessary to protect the republic. After that conversation, the senior advisor notified the Defendant that Co-Conspirator 2 had conceded that his plan was ‘not going to work.’”
So there they were, on January 4, and again on January 5, attempting to get Pence to go along with a scheme they knew the Supreme Court would overturn unanimously, but defending the scheme with a casual remark that, essentially, blood had been spilled before in the nation’s history. True, but the Civil War was not fought to “protect the Republic” but to render it asunder.
On January 5, in a series of tweets, on the heels of “violence” and “riots in the streets” described in his presence, “the Defendant encouraged supporters to travel to Washington on January 6, and he set the false expectation that the Vice President had the authority to and might use his ceremonial role at the certification proceeding to reverse the election outcome in the Defendant’s favor.”
If those two scenes were all that the indictment alleged as crimes, it would be enough to convict the Defendant, because what they describe is an attempt to prevent the peaceful transition of power by knowingly risking the incitement of violence. As Chris Hayes pointed out last night on MSNBC, the last time there was not a peaceful transition of power in this country was the Civil War.
The indictment takes three more pages to recount the attempts to pressure Pence on January 5 and 6, citing this heretofore unknown fact: “On the morning of January 6, an agent of the Defendant contacted a United States Senator to ask him to hand-deliver documents to the Vice President. The agent then facilitated the receipt by the Senator’s staff of the fraudulent certificates signed by the Defendant’s fraudulent electors in Michigan and Wisconsin, which were believed not to have been delivered to the Vice President or Archivist by mail.” Pence’s “staffer” rejected the delivery. All of the individuals mentioned in this section will doubtlessly be witnesses at the trial.
But they didn’t stop there. The conspiracy went on, even past the insurrection at the Capitol. In a section called, “The Defendant’s Exploitation of the Violence and Chaos at the Capitol,” the indictment describes phone calls made after the Defendant had been prevailed upon to call off the attack on the Capitol on the afternoon of January 6. The Defendant and Giuliani called or attempted to call multiple Senators and Congressmen “to convince them, based on knowingly false claims of election fraud, to delay the certification.” Those calls went on through the evening.
Finally, at 11:44 p.m., the last criminal act alleged in the indictment occurred at the behest of the Defendant. Co-conspirator two, lawyer John Eastman “emailed the Vice President’s Counsel advocating that the Vice President violate the law and seek further delay of the certification." Co-Conspirator 2 wrote, “I implore you to consider one more relatively minor violation [of the ECA] and adjourn for 10 days to allow the legislatures to finish their investigations, as well as to allow a full forensic audit of the massive amount of illegal activity that has occurred here.”
The indictment concludes its array of crimes committed in Count One this way: “At 3:41 a.m. on January 7, as President of the Senate, the Vice President announced the certified results of the 2020 presidential election in favor of Biden.”
Counts Two and Three follow, alleging conspiracies to obstruct an official proceeding, and obstruction of an official in the carrying out of his official duties – that would be Pence.
Count Four finally alleges that in committing all of the acts in the conspiracy alleged in Count One, the Defendant also “did knowingly combine, conspire, confederate, and agree with co-conspirators, known and unknown to the Grand Jury, to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate one or more persons in the free exercise and enjoyment of a right and privilege secured to them by the Constitution and laws of the United States—that is, the right to vote, and to have one’s vote counted.”
You won’t find the word “coup” in the indictment, but what you will find is a concerted conspiracy led by the man who was then President of the United States to cause our nation to secede from itself. Everything in this indictment can accurately be described as anti-democratic. They tried to take away the right of the American people to elect a president of their choosing to lead their government. That’s what the South did to its citizens in the Civil War. They tried to take away the right of their citizens to live in the United States they were born in, and that their leaders had sworn allegiance to.
The Defendant is not alleged to have broken his oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, but this indictment spells out as nothing in our history ever has before, that is exactly what he did with practically every breath he drew.
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV.
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