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From January 6th to the Third Indictment: The History of Trump's Latest Legal Troubles. Is it Third Times the Charm?
Three time loser (2018, 2020, 2022) Donald Trump's third indictment is the Mother of All Indictments - What is it, How'd it come to this and Why now? Read our deep dive.
The 6th of January after a US Presidential Election has always been a day of mind boggling bureaucracy. Intended to be the ceremonial final presentation of the electoral vote, everyone dresses up, takes pictures and gets to use their trussed up vote boxes and gavels. Required to be held that day by the electoral act it was a tried and tested spectacle of good ‘ol thigh-slapping plain procedure. Jan. 6, 2021 should have been no different. But this time you had a President who for the first time in US history had been publicly denying the legitimacy of the election. So a bit of grandstanding was expected.
Many Republican legislators were planning to challenge the results of the 2020 election by refusing to vote to certify. Nevertheless, with nowhere near the number opposing needed to effect anything, no one expected any delays or overturning of the count and certification that was taking place that day. Most of all, nobody expected a violent challenge to the American government, becoming the greatest single news event in the United States since 9/11. Even more than Serena Williams latest offspring or Taylor Swift’s most recent earthquake-inducing concert.
Away from the day’s slightly dull procedure (not the Taylor Swift one), the hottest new gig, that of refusing-to-exit-President-Donald-Trump was taking place. A rally of thousands of his supporters listened to him and his team deliver incendiary language, seemingly aimed at inciting action against the processes taking place in Congress. Trump instructed followers to “fight like hell”, while simultaneously requesting they “peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard” while the crowd “march[ed] over to the Capitol”. Meanwhile, prior to his speech, his attorney, and former New York Mayor known for “a noun, a verb and 9/11”, Rudy Giuliani called on the crowd to “have a trial by combat”. Making even Aleksandr Lukashenko sound a little pedestrian.
Following the speeches (that presumably Trump would describe as “perfect”-like-his-phone calls) thousands of people (some armed), belying Trump and Co’s later claim to ‘a peaceful and patriotic environment’, marched on the Capitol building as requested and began an insurrection against the nation. The rest, mostly insurrection and mayhem we all know. Unless you’ve been in the Australian outback without a TV, phone, bar, conversation, Murdoch family member or contact with people.
It is difficult to know the number of insurrectionists who broke through the barriers that day, but as of July 2023, the US justice department has charged 561 defendants, with 335 being sentenced to prison for their involvement. Less than your average civil war and more than a day out at a British football match.
Following their seizure of the Capitol building, and their forcing of almost all Congress members into secret, secured tunnels the insurrectionists were alleged to cause the death of a Capitol police officer, while four of their own were killed on the day. Another 2 Capitol officers involved would die of suicide just days later. After they had stormed the capitol, the US gained control gradually a few hours later, when the Governors of bordering Virginia and Maryland sent their national guard forces to seize control of the situation. Trump sent no one to help - apparently too busy watching the action on TV.
In the end the tragic and deadly insurrection failed to overturn the election results, in fact, it merely delayed the proceedings by around 5 hours. Which is about the length of a Taylor Swift concert. The results were certified, and two weeks later Joe Biden was sworn in as 46th President of the United States and a truculent Trump shimmied off with a couple too many boxes (but that’s a different indictment) without attending the inauguration.
Even before the swearing in the first of the repercussions for the storming of the Capitol were being felt. Disturbed by his “extremely calming” January 6th speech, Democratic ‘snowflakes’ made Donald Trump the very first President to be impeached twice, and to be impeached while in his lame duck period. The impeachment proceedings focused on the nature of that January 6th speech, with Democrats condemning Trump for inciting the riots with his words. Trump defended himself by suggesting that he had consistently called for calm and peace. Like the Dalai Lama.
In the end, the Republican controlled Senate was able to prevent his conviction, as it had done in the first impeachment of Trump. But, as that Congress wound down, a new, Democratic, trifecta was entering Government, and they would do two things that proved significant in the narrative around Trump and January 6th. First, the House Democrats set up the January 6th Committee, charged with investigating the events of that day, and beginning the process of punishing those responsible for planning and carrying it out. Next, Democratic President Joe Biden appointed Merrick Garland as Attorney General. It was a triumphant day for Merrick, with 20 Republican Senators now deciding he was good enough to have a key legal position in the United States. Surely they never had an issue with him before!
Merrick would prove a slight own-goal for the Democrats, at least as far as charging Trump for the insurrection. In his first 19 months on the job he refused to suggest that Trump would be directly investigated or charged for his involvement, seemingly leaving Trump to his own devices ( a tried and tested Democratic approach brushing stuff under the rug and hoping it disappears on its own - like QAnon ideology, or following through on certain manifesto promises). However, in November 2022, after Trump announced his candidacy, he recused himself from the on-going investigations (suspiciously soon after a mid-term election that affirmed the winning potential of Trump referendums for the Democrats), and appointed Jack Smith as special counsel to handle any Trump related cases. Jack hit the road (Jack) hard, targeting the unprecedented former President in an unprecedented way.
The first sign of trouble for Trump came in January 2023, when the January 6th Select Committee released its final report. In it the report recommended, among other actions, to “refer former President Donald Trump for criminal prosecution”. Its investigation resulted in 12 accusations of misconduct and insurrection by President Trump. Among them, it suggested that he had “corruptly pressured” Vice-President Mike Pence, pressured state officials, particularly those in Georgia to change election results (that’s yet another indictment - but who’s counting), and most significantly that he had taken part in a fraudulent conspiracy to create and submit false electoral certificates to Congress. So not in deep sh*t after all.
President Trump insisted that he had done “everything right”. And yet, on June 9th 2023, “They indicted [him]”. While unrelated to the events of January 6th, Donald Trump continued his streak of firsts for Presidents of the United States, becoming the first to receive a federal indictment for his mishandling of classified documents. Trump was quick to condemn this as a corrupt, partisan attack on a political rival, but he wwas about to see just how apparently “corrupt and partisan” the special counsel was prepared to be.
On 1st August, 2023 Trump was indicted by a Grand Jury of the Federal Government, breaking his own record of indictments for a former President, on 4 criminal counts, 1 of conspiracy to defraud the US, another 2 related to attempting to obstruct the certification of electoral votes, and a final count of conspiracy to violate civil rights. The indictment was horrifying for Trump, who was seemingly skirting around the previous indictment under the Judgeship of one of his own (team members) appointees, who favoured his requests, as well as being in his new home state. In this new indictment, Trump was assigned an Obama appointee, a woman known for being tough on January 6th insurrectionists before, and who was quick to assert her authority in the courtroom, reminding Trump he was “Not a King”. Not?
That brings us to today. A mess of events beginning with Trump’s attempts to prevent supposed electoral fraud could bring us the first major US Presidential candidate to campaign from jail. During that period though these ‘events’ have engineered the deaths of 7 people, 300+ arrests, and a political saga bigger than the scandal to define all modern political scandals: We’re not even calling this Indictment-gate. Its stand alone nature needs a stand alone name. Trump must really be in trouble. And yet this is (only) his 3rd indictment this year - with a 4th, from Georgia apparently just a couple of days away… And we thought British politics was bad.
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