In a court in Washington, DC, former US President Donald Trump entered a not guilty plea to a charge of planning to rig the 2020 election.
He spoke gently during the brief arraignment to reaffirm his not-guilty plea, identity, and age, as well as the fact that he was not under the influence of any drugs.
Later, he told reporters that the case involved the “persecution of a political opponent”. This is the former president’s third court appearance as a defendant in four months.
On Thursday afternoon, Mr. Trump entered the courthouse through a back entrance in the heart of the US Capitol, just a few yards from the scene of the violence that is at the center of the prosecution’s case.
In the same courthouse, about 1,000 defendants who are accused of taking part in the seizure of Congress on January 6, 2021, have made their appearances.
The former president and Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing the inquiry, appeared to be exchanging glances across the bench.
As he waited for the hearing to start, Mr. Trump was observed fidgeting with his thumbs and shaking his head as the clerk called out the case number.
His not-guilty plea addressed all four counts in this most recent indictment: conspiracy to defraud the US, obstruction of justice, conspiracy against the rights of citizens, and conspiracy to hinder an official procedure.
The former president was instructed by the judge not to discuss the case’s details in public.
She cautioned him that disobeying the court’s orders could lead to an arrest warrant, the suspension of his parole terms, and accusations of contempt of court.
A quick trial would be beneficial in this case, the prosecution told the hearing.
However, Trump’s attorney John Lauro claimed that more time would be required for preparation. Given that the inquiry had lasted three years, he referred to the prosecution’s chronology as “somewhat absurd”.
A charge of “conspiracy to impair, obstruct, and defeat the function of the federal government through dishonesty, fraud, and deceit” is among the charges made in the indictment, or charge sheet, released on Tuesday.
While Joe Biden, a Democrat, defeated Mr. Trump in the 2020 election, he refused to accept defeat and He may meet Mr. Biden again as the current front-runner for the Republican presidential candidacy in 2024.
Speaking to reporters prior to boarding his private aircraft for the trip back to New Jersey, Mr. Trump described his arrest as a “very sad day for America.”
In an interview with reporters, he expressed his sadness at “the filth and the decay and all of the broken buildings and walls and the graffiti” in Washington, DC.
One of his attorneys discussed a possible defense plan outside of court. According to Alina Habba, the entourage of the former president gave him poor advice after the election.
“I think that everybody was made aware that he lost the election, but that doesn’t mean that that was the only advice he was given,” said Ms. Habba.
“He might not concur with Mike Pence,” she continued. “He might not concur with one of his attorneys.But that doesn’t imply that other people weren’t giving him completely the opposite advice. The president has the same right as the rest of us to consider various points of view before making a decision.”
Six unnamed co-conspirators who allegedly assisted Mr. Trump in his scheme to overturn his election loss are listed in the indictment.
The court hearing on Thursday was attended by three police officers who gave testimony to Congress regarding their confrontation with Trump supporters during the US Capitol brawl. There were also a few judges who were not in session.
Outside, a number of Trump opponents gathered along with supporters waving campaign banners.
The following hearing, which is scheduled for August 28th, is anticipated to be procedural. The judge can, however, choose a date for the trial.
The Republican has already been accused of manipulating business records to hide a hush-money payment to a porn star and handling confidential documents improperly in two other cases.
Five trials are currently scheduled for Mr. Trump: three in New York for the hush-money payment, two civil cases for business operations and one for alleged defamation of a rape accuser.
Florida will host the fourth trial on the allegedly improper handling of classified documents.