The federal indictment of Donald Trump on Tuesday marks the first time that the former president has been formally held accountable for his efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat. And it adds new details to what was already known about his actions, and those of his key allies, in the weeks leading up to the violent Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection.
The newest charges — Trump’s third criminal indictment this year — include conspiracy to defraud the United States government and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, the congressional certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. It describes how Trump repeatedly told supporters and others that he had won the election, despite knowing that was false, and how he tried to persuade state officials, his own vice president and finally Congress to overturn the legitimate results.
Due to the “dishonesty, fraud and deceit” by Trump and some of his closest allies, the indictment says, his supporters “violently attacked the Capitol and halted the proceeding.” In the attack, his supporters beat and injured police officers and broke through windows and doors, sending lawmakers running for their lives.
Some takeaways from Tuesday’s indictment:
As Trump schemed to overturn the 2020 election, many of his aides and allies were under no illusion that Trump — a longtime provocateur — had actually won.
Some aides directly refuted conspiracy theories stirred by Trump and his lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Others told him point blank he had lost.
“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, according to the indictment. Another wrote in an email: “I’ll obviously hustle to help on all fronts, but it’s tough to own any of this when it’s all just conspiracy s— beamed down from the mothership.”
But Trump continued to tell “prolific lies,” the indictment says, about the outcome of the election, even after being warned of his false statements by top government officials — citing thousands of dead voters in Georgia, an overcount in Pennsylvania and tens of thousands of noncitizen voters in Arizona. Those theories had been disputed by state and federal officials and even his own staff.
“These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false,” the indictment states.
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.