US in extraordinary position as Trump conviction would not bar him from presidency

If found guilty, the former president could face up to 20 years in prison on some of the charges

The United States is in the extraordinary position where the likely candidate of one of the main political parties for the White House next year faces prosecution by the federal government for unlawfully seeking to retain power the last time he held office.

A 45-page indictment by a grand jury released on Tuesday states that former president Donald Trump was defeated in the 2020 presidential election.

Despite having lost, it says, he was determined to remain in power. It claims he spread lies, sought to discount legitimate votes and took actions to subvert election results.

It contends that Trump engaged in a criminal conspiracy aimed at overturning the legitimate results of the 2020 presidential election, and that he sought to defraud the US, to obstruct an official government proceeding and to deprive people of civil rights.


Trump is also charged with obstructing an official proceeding.

If found guilty, the former president could face up to 20 years in prison on some of the charges.

However, the indictment, or even a subsequent conviction, would not bar him under the US constitution from becoming president if elected in November 2024.

The former president is by far the front-runner to secure the nomination of his Republican Party to be its candidate for the White House next year.

Polls also put Trump neck and neck with current president Joe Biden, the expected Democratic Party nominee for the presidential election.

The indictment released on Tuesday means Trump will now likely face at least three separate criminal trials in the months ahead as he attempts to return to the White House.

Despite his legal troubles, which have built up over recent months, Trump’s core support among his base remains very strong. He is, on average, more than 30 points ahead of his rivals in the polls for the Republican Party presidential nomination.

Most senior figures in the party continue to back him, although some in the contest to be the Republican candidate have urged him to drop out.

Trump says the charges being brought against him are politically motivated to prevent him becoming president for a second time. He claims the US Department of Justice is being “weaponised” against him in a form of electoral interference.

On Tuesday he claimed his predicament was “reminiscent of Nazi Germany in the 1930s, the former Soviet Union, and other authoritarian, dictatorial regimes”.

Republican speaker of the US House of Representatives Kevin McCarthy alleged the grand jury indictment was aimed at distracting attention from allegations of corruption his party has levelled at Biden and his son Hunter.

The indictment paints a picture of Trump in the aftermath of the 2020 election as being determined to hold on to power and embarking on a strategy of lying, making false claims about election fraud and seeking to manipulate the electoral college system as a means of staying in office.

The indictment says that in the aftermath of the election, Trump spread lies that there had been fraud which essentially cheated him out of winning. “These claims were false, and the defendant knew that they were false”, it says.

It says he “repeated and widely disseminated them anyway – to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election”.

The indictment points to, for example, claims about thousands of dead people or non-citizens voting in states such as Georgia and Arizona when he had been told by authoritative sources that these were untrue.

Special counsel Jack Smith, who headed the investigation that led to the grand jury indictment, said on Tuesday that the attack on the US Capitol in Washington on January 6th, 2021, by supporters of the former president had been fuelled by Trump’s lies.

Smith said the former president tried to obstruct “a bedrock function of the US government” – the certification of the presidential election results.

The indictment says Trump was assisted by six co-conspirators whom it does not identify publicly, although information in the document suggests one is the former president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.

On foot of the indictment Trump is due toappear in court on Thursday later for an arraignment process that will now be familiar to him. The charges will be formally set out and he will be asked to plead. He will then be released pending future hearings.

Trump has already been arraigned in Miami in a separate prosecution brought by Smith regarding the handling of classified documents. The former president pleaded not guilty.

He also faces trial in a state court in New York on charges of falsifying business records in relation to alleged hush money payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. In this case he also pleaded not guilty.

Trump could also face further charges in Georgia arising from allegations that he sought to interfere with the outcome of the 2020 election result in the state.

The New York trial is scheduled for next March while the case in Florida is listed for next May.

The potential jury pool for the classified documents case in Florida is likely to be drawn from an area where Trump is popular. However, any trial over alleged attempts to overturn the 2020 election would almost certainly be held in Washington DC, where voters are far less supportive of the former president.