The indictment of Donald Trump in special counsel Jack Smith's 2020 election interference probe is 45 pages of vivid allegations that read like a compelling novel. But the shocking descriptions within it appear to be not fiction but reality, and the events are now a dark stain on American history.
Let’s first talk about what this indictment isn't. It is not an attack on the First Amendment or the former president's right to free speech and to share his opinion about whether the 2020 election was stolen from him. This indictment also is not a cautionary tale of woe about a man who simply heeded the advice of his lawyers only to be left holding the bag in the end like some unsuspecting patsy.
Scroll down to read an annotated version of the indictment.
This indictment is a detailed account of a scheme to defraud the American people, to steal their votes, and to cheat them out of their lawfully elected president, Joe Biden. It alleges this nefarious plot sprang from the mind of Trump, assisted by rabidly loyal acolytes suggesting legal machinations and theories that required violations of law, precedent and history. Throughout it all, prosecutors said, Trump was an active participant who knew that the election had not been stolen and who was confronted with the truth time and time again, but he consciously chose to ignore it.
The indictment alleges a clear timeline: Trump’s pressure campaign first on state officials and other legislative figures, many of whom remarkably were Republican. When that didn’t work, he moved on to targeting specific states to implement fake slates of electors to fraudulently cast votes for Trump. All the while, Trump threatened leadership at his own Department of Justice to attempt to cow them into submission. But when that failed and things looked bleak for his scheme, he turned to pressuring his own vice president to break the law. However, Mike Pence stood his ground.
Trump’s plans culminated on Jan. 6, 2021, a violent day that has spawned more than 1,000 arrests and now this indictment. Maybe the plan from the beginning wasn’t to use violence to achieve Trump’s goals, but along the way, the idea of doing so seems to have swiftly and disturbingly become acceptable. And prosecutors made clear they believe Trump encouraged and incited his supporters to invoke violence as a solution.
This indictment begins with Smith setting the stage with a brief description of where the alleged crimes took place and the main players, including Trump’s alleged co-conspirators. But after that brief scene setter, Smith opens the floodgates: