Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6

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Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6
Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6

Donald Trump has pleaded not guilty to his charges of attempting to overturn the 2020 presidential election as he appeared before a judge in a Washington, DC, courthouse.

He was processed as a criminal defendant and was fingerprinted - but not photographed or handcuffed - in a federal courthouse mere blocks from the US Capitol building that his supporters stormed to try to block the peaceful transfer of power on January 6, 2021.

The indictment issued Tuesday from Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith charges Trump with four felony counts related to his efforts to undo his presidential election loss in the run-up to the January 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, including conspiracy to defraud the US government and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding. The charges, which are the most serious criminal charges he has faced yet, could see him jailed for 35 years if found guilty.

The first hearing before US District Judge Tanya Chutkan has been scheduled for August 28 at 10am. Trump was told conspiracy to defraud the United States carries a maximum of five years in prison, that corrupt obstruction of a proceeding and conspiracy up to 20 years and conspiracy against rights has a maximum term of up to 10 years.

Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6 eideziqkeiqhhinvPolice gathered outside the E. Barrett Prettyman US Courthouse (AFP via Getty Images)

As he arrived back at the Ronald Reagan Airport in Washington, DC, Trump made a statement telling the press: "It's a very sad day for America. It was also very sad driving through Washington DC and seeing the filth and decay and all of the broken buildings, walls and graffiti. This is not the place that I left. It is a very sad thing to see it. When you look at what's happening, this is a persecution of a political opponent."

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Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6As he was leaving, Donald Trump made a statement at the Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC (AP)

And continued: "This was never supposed to happen in America. This is the persecution of the person that is leading by very, very substantial numbers in the Republican primary and leading Biden by a lot. So, if you can't beat him you persecute or you prosecute him. We can't let this happen in America... thank you very much."

Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6The motorcade of former US President and 2024 hopeful Donald Trump leaves the courthouse (AFP via Getty Images)

Of the three criminal cases against him so far - a fourth is expected soon - yesterday's conspiracy charges expose the millionaire to the longest time behind bars with up to 35 years. However, if he was convicted on all 78 counts currently against him and given the maximum statutory penalty for each one, he would face a whopping 641 years in prison.

Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6Donald Trump made a statement at the Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC (Getty Images)

There was a 16-minute delay to the proceedings of the arraignment which began at 3.51pm local time, around 20 minutes after Trump arrived at the courthouse. At one point, he appeared to stare at lead prosecutor Jack Smith for several moments before leaning forward and glaring at the other prosecutors and FBI Special Agent Garner sitting across from him. Judge Moxila Upadhyaya entered the courtroom and addressed the former president saying "Good afternoon Mr Trump," as he was sworn in.

Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6A demonstrator holds a sign while waiting for the arrival of Trump at the courthouse (Getty Images)

It was reported that when he was asked to state his name, Trump stood up and walked towards the judge, to which the judge said that was unnecessary. Judge Upadhyaya then read out the four charges against the former president, before asking the defendant his age. "Seven-seven," the 45th president replied. Trump confirmed he has not taken any medication that would impair his answers in the previous 24 hours.

The prosecution in the case has confirmed it will not seek the detention of Donald Trump. Conditions of release include Trump being prevented from discussing the facts of the case with anyone known to be a witness unless this is through counsel. Moreover, Trump has also been told to not speak to potential witnesses in the trial which could raise issues for any Republican debate with Mike Pence, who could be a star witness. An appearance bond was also confirmed, but it is not clear what this amounts to.

Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6Trump leaving the courthouse (AFP via Getty Images)

Also in the court were three officers who defended the Capitol building on January 6, 2021. Daniel Hodges and Aquilino Gonnell were injured, and Harry Dunn was chased by violent protesters. Mr Hodges was a District of Columbia police officer, and Mr Dunn and Mr Gonnell worked for the US Capitol police, tasked with protecting the Capitol and the lawmakers inside. "All I have wanted from day one is accountability," Mr Dunn said in a statement released by his lawyer after he went into the federal court in Washington, DC.

Aquilino Gonnell stated later: "This indictment means a lot to us. It is the beginning of a long process. We already knew who directed the attack so I don't see why we should wait a long time to decide whether we should [initiate] the process. We all know who directed the attack on that day and who could have done something to stop it."

Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6A protester shouts anti Trump slogans outside the E. Barrett Prettyman US Court House (Getty Images)

Earlier, Trump departed from his New Jersey golf club, boarded his private plane by himself and flew to Washington, DC, where he was taken to the courthouse in a motorcade. After entering the not-guilty plea, he was released to rejoin the campaign trail as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024.

The Republican former president was the only person charged in the case, though prosecutors referenced six unnamed co-conspirators, mostly lawyers, they say he plotted with, including in a scheme to enlist fake electors in seven battleground states won by Democrat Joe Biden to submit false certificates to the federal government.

Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, an appointee of Barack Obama will preside over the case (AP)
Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6Donald Trump made a statement at the Ronald Reagan International Airport in Washington, DC (AFP via Getty Images)

The indictment chronicles how Trump and his Republican allies, in what Mr Smith described as an attack on a "bedrock function of the US government," repeatedly lied about the results in the two months after he lost the election and pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, and state election officials to take action to help him cling to power.

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This is the third criminal case brought against Trump in less than six months. He was charged in New York with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment to a porn actor during the 2016 presidential campaign. Mr Smith's office also has charged him with 40 felony counts in Florida, accusing him of illegally retaining classified documents at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago, and refusing government demands to give them back. He has pleaded not guilty in both those cases, which are set for trial next year.

Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6Trump waved as he was on his way to the Washington, DC courthouse (AFP via Getty Images)

And prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, are expected in the coming weeks to announce charging decisions in an investigation into efforts to subvert election results in that state. Trump's lawyer John Lauro has asserted in television interviews that Trump's actions were protected by the First Amendment right to free speech and that he relied on the advice of lawyers.

Trump has claimed without evidence that Mr Smith's team is trying to interfere with the 2024 presidential election, in which Trump is the early front-runner to claim the Republican nomination. Mr Smith said in a rare public statement this week that he was seeking a speedy trial, though Lauro has said he intends to slow the case down so that the defence team can conduct its own investigation.

Trump pleads not guilty to trying to overturn 2020 election before Jan 6People gathered outside the courtroom in Washington, DC (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The arraignment was handled before US Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadyaha, who joined the bench last year. But going forward, the case will be presided over by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, an appointee of President Barack Obama who has stood out as one of the toughest punishers of the Capitol rioters. Judge Chutkan has also ruled against Trump before, refusing in November 2021 to block the release of documents to the US House’s Jan. 6 committee by asserting executive privilege.

Vassia Barba

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