Donald Trump Pleads Not Guilty to Trying to Overturn the Election, Despite Us All Witnessing Him Trying to Overturn the Election
Donald Trump was arraigned on Thursday and pleaded not guilty to a whole bunch of crimes. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the third time he’s done it since April, on account of having engaged in all kinds of alleged criminal activity, including hush money payments to a porn star and willful retention of classified documents, with some possible conspiracy to obstruct justice on the side. In this case, today’s not guilty plea was in response to the Justice Department indicting him for attempting to overturn the 2020 election, and accusing him of conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.
The four charges alone, should Trump be convicted, could result in decades in prison; the sentence for obstructing an official proceeding carries a penalty of up to 20 years behind bars. The judge randomly assigned to the election case, Tanya Chutkan, has handed down some of the toughest sentences of all her colleagues when it comes to January 6 defendants. At one sentencing last year, she declared: “It is not patriotism, it is not standing up for America to stand up for one man—who knows full well that he lost—instead of the Constitution he was trying to subvert.” In 2021, she ruled that the January 6 committee could access documents from Trump’s time in the White House—a decision that was affirmed by an appeals court—saying, “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”
Trump has naturally spent the days since he was indicted ranting on Truth Social about how he’s being unfairly persecuted and claiming “Election Interference.” He’s also baselessly suggested that Joe Biden directed Attorney General Merrick Garland to charge him “with as many crimes as can be concocted” as retribution for doing well in the polls. (As an aside, he also appeared to suggest he’ll use the Justice Department to go after his enemies should he win a second term, writing “SOON, IN 2024, IT WILL BE OUR TURN.”) Prior to his arraignment, he wrote on Truth Social, the social media network he founded after being kicked off of Twitter following the insurrection: “I AM NOW GOING TO WASHINGTON, D.C., TO BE ARRESTED FOR HAVING CHALLENGED A CORRUPT, RIGGED, & STOLEN ELECTION. IT IS A GREAT HONOR, BECAUSE I AM BEING ARRESTED FOR YOU. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!!!” (Throughout his indictments and the criminal investigations that preceded them, Trump has attempted to convince his followers that they are also at risk of being prosecuted for the various crimes he’s been accused of committing.)
It’s unclear at this time when Trump will actually go to trial for attempting to overturn the election. Special counsel Jack Smith has said it should be a “speedy trial,” while an attorney for Trump told Today’s Savannah Guthrie on Wednesday that Trump should be given “years” to ready his defense. In the classified-documents case, the ex-president’s legal team had asked a judge to put the trial off until after the election, which she denied (the trial is scheduled for May 2024.) The hush money trial is scheduled for March of next year.
Of course, these are, somehow, not the only legal matters the former guy is facing. There’s also the strong possibility that he will soon be criminally charged by the Fulton County district attorney’s office for trying to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. On Tuesday, Fulton County sheriff Pat Labat said that should Trump be indicted, his arraignment will include one aspect that the three previous ones have not: a mug shot. “Unless somebody tells me differently, we are following our normal practices, and so it doesn’t matter your status, we’ll have a mug shot ready for you,” Labat said.