Former United States President Donald Trump is due at the Elijah Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse in Washington, DC, on Thursday to answer to four felony charges related to his alleged efforts to remain in power following his loss in the 2020 election.
Here is what you need to know about the upcoming arraignment:
What is expected to happen?
Trump is expected to be processed by law enforcement, to officially be taken into custody and to enter a not-guilty plea in front of a judge before being released, so he can rejoin the campaign trail as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024.
What are the allegations?
An indictment on Tuesday from Special Counsel Jack Smith charged Trump with four felony counts related to his efforts to undo the presidential election results in the run-up to the January 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol as Congress was meeting to certify Joe Biden as the winner. The charges include conspiracy to defraud the US government and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.
The charges could lead to a years-long prison sentence in the event of a conviction.
Trump was the only person charged in the case although prosecutors referenced six co-conspirators – mostly lawyers – whom, they say, he plotted with, including in a scheme to enlist Trump-voting fake electors to submit false certificates to the federal government to change the outcome in seven battleground states won by President Biden.
The indictment chronicles how Trump and his allies, in what 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, saying Trump had won, and pressured his vice president, Mike Pence, and state election officials to take action to help him cling to power.
Who is Jack Smith?
Jack Smith, the special counsel who filed the federal criminal indictment against Trump, was appointed in November by Attorney General Merrick Garland to take over two Department of Justice investigations involving the former president.
In June, Smith filed his first case against Trump, charging him in a federal court in Florida over allegations he mishandled classified documents.
What is the difference between an indictment and an arraignment?
An indictment is a formal written statement charging a person with an offence.
An arraignment is an initial hearing where a defendant often enters a plea in a criminal case and learns more about his or her rights and the charges.
In this case, an indictment against Trump has already been issued, and he will be arraigned on Thursday.
Hasn’t Trump already been arraigned in 2023?
Yes. This is the third criminal case brought against Trump in the past four months.
He was charged in New York at the end of March with falsifying business records in connection with an alleged hush money payment to a pornographic actor during his successful 2016 presidential campaign.
Smith’s office has also charged him with 40 felony counts in Florida, accusing him of illegally retaining classified documents after he left office, keeping them at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago, and refusing government demands to return them.
He has pleaded not guilty in both those cases, which are set for trial next year as the race heats up for the November 2024 presidential election. Trump is the clear frontrunner to once again by the Republican Party’s candidate.
Will he be arrested?
At arraignments, if defendants plead guilty or no contest to the charges made against them, the case usually proceeds to sentencing.
If defendants plead not guilty – which Trump is expected to do – judges set the terms of bail and the dates for pre-trial hearings and the eventual trials.
After both previous arraignments, Trump was released and is not expected to be held in jail in relation to either case ahead of his trials.
Will Trump appear at his latest arraignment in person?
Trump attended his previous two arraignments, but he has the option of appearing for Thursday’s arraignment virtually.
His lawyer John Lauro has said a decision on how Trump will appear has not yet been made and it will depend on “security arrangements”.
What time will Trump be arraigned?
Trump is to appear before the court, virtually or in person, in Washington, DC, at 4pm (20:00 GMT) on Thursday.
Who is the judge for the arraignment?
The arraignment will be 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 Capitol rioters.
She has also ruled against Trump before, refusing in November 2021 to block the release of documents to a House of Representatives committee investigating the January 6 riots. Trump had asserted executive privilege.
Can Trump still run for president in 2024?
The US Constitution allows those convicted of a crime to still run for president. However, the charges in this third indictment may provide a pathway for Trump to be blocked from running as president.
According to the constitution’s 14th Amendment, Americans cannot hold office if they have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” against the US while under oath to the nation.
What is the criticism against Trump’s indictment?
Trump supporters are portraying Tuesday’s indictment as a conspiracy to take down the former president and a continuation of the effort by Democrats, the media and the so-called deep state to interfere with the nation’s elections.
For years, Trump has told his supporters that elections can’t be trusted and that he is a victim of corrupt persecution by the government and media. Trump and his allies, however, have failed to produce any evidence of election interference that disadvantaged Trump.
While many prominent Republicans have defended the former president, several others – including, most notably, Pence – have criticised the former president.