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Trump charged with 4 felony counts for attempt to overturn the 2020 election

Then-President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives to speak at a rally in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021.
Jacquelyn Martin
/
AP
Then-President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives to speak at a rally in Washington, on Jan. 6, 2021.

Former President Donald Trump was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury on four counts related to efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, according to court documents.

Trump was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, witness tampering, conspiracy against the rights of citizens, and obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding.

The charges were unsealed two weeks after the former president said he had learned he may be indicted by a federal grand jury investigating the siege of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. That's when protesters loyal to Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempt to prevent then-Vice President Mike Pence from performing his ceremonial role of certifying the presidential election in favor of the winner, Joe Biden.

Tuesday's development is the latest in a series of legal troubles that are likely to loom over next year's presidential election. Trump is the front-runner among Republicans for his party's nomination. He also faces separate federal charges over allegedly obstructing an investigation into classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort.

In addition to these federal charges, Trump is facing criminal charges over the accounting of hush money payments in Manhattan; a defamation lawsuit filed by writer E. Jean Carroll; and a grand jury investigation in Georgia over his attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in that state.

Tuesday's unsealed indictment lays out a case against Trump and those around him as he scrambled to try to hold on to power even after losing the 2020 presidential election by 74 votes in the Electoral College and more than 7 million in the popular vote.

Trump's refusal to acknowledge the results began on election night, when he took to the stage at his campaign headquarters and claimed that he was the rightful winner and that the election was being stolen through fraud.

It was a false allegation that he would push repeatedly and continues to push.

In the weeks following the election, Trump's campaign pursued dozens of lawsuits in states where Trump lost. Courts repeatedly rejected the Trump team's election fraud claims.

Yet Trump refused to acknowledge what even his own top advisers were telling him at the time: There was no evidence of widespread fraud that would change the election's outcome.

Instead, he continued to push his false claims of fraud and raise money off them. According to the House Jan. 6 Committee, Trump raised nearly $250 million between Election Day and Jan. 6, 2021.

As 2020 came to a close, Trump began to turn up the pressure on Pence, seeking his help to remain in office.

Lawmakers in Congress were set to meet on Jan. 6, 2021, to certify the Electoral College count and Joe Biden's victory.

Trump, leaning on legal theories proposed by outside attorney John Eastman, wanted Pence to refuse to count certain Electoral College votes — a theory that Pence rejected as unconstitutional.

Eastman is currently fighting to retain his law license. The State Bar of California opened a case against him in June and has argued that Eastman knowingly and willfully pushed false allegations of voter fraud during the 2020 election.

Meanwhile, Trump advisers were pursuing a fake-elector scheme, pushing Republican officials in states like Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia to put forward an alternate slate of electors even though Biden had won those states.

Ultimately, Pence rebuffed Trump's pressure and refused on Jan. 6, 2021, to block the certification of Biden's election win.

But as Congress was meeting on Capitol Hill, Trump was hosting a rally down by the White House. In a long, rambling speech, he repeated his claims of election fraud and told the crowd to "fight like hell" and march to Congress.

Thousands of Trump supporters did just that. They marched from the Ellipse to the Capitol, where they fought through police lines, stormed the Capitol and sent lawmakers fleeing for safety.

About 140 police officers were injured defending Congress that day, according to the Justice Department.

Law enforcement regained control of the Capitol hours later, allowing lawmakers to return and finish certifying Biden's victory.

The Justice Department immediately launched a nationwide investigation — one of the largest in the department's history — to track down those who broke into the Capitol and to hold them accountable. So far, more than 1,000 people have been arrested in connection with the attack.

This is a developing story. For the latest updates, follow NPR's digital live coverage.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.
Ryan Lucas covers the Justice Department for NPR.