Donald Trump for years has promoted baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. In truth, Trump was the one who tried to steal the election, federal prosecutors said Tuesday in a sprawling indictment that paints the former president as desperate to cling to power he knew had been stripped away by voters.
The Justice Department indictment accuses Trump of brazenly conspiring with allies to spread falsehoods and concoct schemes intended to overturn his election loss to President Joe Biden as legal challenges floundered in court.
The felony charges brought by special counsel Jack Smith are built around the words of White House lawyers and others in his inner circle who repeatedly told Trump there was no fraud.
It’s the third time this year the early front-runner in the 2024 Republican presidential primary has been charged in a criminal case. But it’s the first case to try to hold Trump responsible for his efforts to remain in power during the chaotic weeks between his election loss and the attack by his supporters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Trump has said he did nothing wrong, and has accused Smith and the Justice Department of trying to harm his 2024 campaign.
Here’s a look at the charges Trump faces and other key issues in the indictment:
What is Trump charged with?
Trump is charged with four counts: obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and conspiracy to prevent others from carrying out their constitutional rights.
In the obstruction charge — which carries penalties of up to 20 years in prison — the official proceeding refers to the Jan. 6, 2021 joint session of Congress at which electoral votes were to be counted in order to certify Biden as the official winner. Conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding also carries a maximum of 20 years in prison
That obstruction charge has been brought against hundreds of the more than 1,000 people charged in the Jan. 6 riot, including members of the far-right Oath Keepers and Proud Boys extremist groups. More than 100 people have been convicted at trial or pleaded guilty to the offense.
Conspiracy to defraud the U.S., which is punishable by up to five years in prison, makes it a crime to conspire with another person else to carry out fraud against the government. The indictment alleges that Trump used “dishonesty, fraud and deceit to impair, obstruct and defeat” the counting and certifying of the election results.