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Trump is indicted on 4 counts related to efforts to overturn the 2020 election

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The latest indictment against Donald Trump, the third against him, results from what Attorney General Merrick Garland called the largest investigation in the Justice Department's history following the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Trump is now facing four felony charges stemming from his efforts to overturn the vote in 2020.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

He did that, the indictment says, by repeatedly and knowingly lying about the election's outcome in order to hold on to power. He's accused of then exploiting the violence on January 6 to delay the election certification. And special counsel Jack Smith, who was leading the investigation - and after the indictment was unsealed, he addressed the nation.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JACK SMITH: The attack on our nation's capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. As described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies, lies by the defendant targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. government.

FADEL: For more on this, we turn to, as we always do, NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

Hi, Carrie.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So more than a thousand people have already been charged with crimes related to January 6. Now Donald Trump is among them. We know Trump has been indicted twice before. But Carrie, just give me a sense of how unprecedented and serious this indictment is.

JOHNSON: This is really as serious as it gets. As you mentioned, hundreds of people who entered the Capitol have gone through the court system. Many of them say they were motivated by former President Donald Trump. And now Trump himself is charged with four felonies, leading a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government he once led and conspiring to derail the congressional session to certify the votes. This indictment says Trump took advantage of the violence at the Capitol to advance his own personal goals.

FADEL: Serious charges that really accuse him of trying to undermine the democratic process, how is Trump responding?

JOHNSON: You know, Trump, who is the front-runner in the GOP field for the 2024 presidential nomination, calls this election interference. He's name-calling the special counsel, Jack Smith, and asking why these charges didn't come two and a half years ago, even though cases of this scale can take a long time to put together. He also says he was relying on his advice from his lawyers at the time, and that may come up in court proceedings moving forward.

FADEL: Right. There were some co-conspirators mentioned, unnamed. We've been anticipating what this indictment might say about the former president and his role in the attack on the Capitol. For weeks now, you've been reporting on this, waiting for this. Was there anything that surprised you?

JOHNSON: Well, it was surprising to me that Trump is the only person who's named in this indictment, the only defendant so far. But as you mentioned, there are six people who are labeled as co-conspirators. Their names are not included, but there's plenty of biographical information about them in the court papers. And many are lawyers who helped promote these bogus election fraud claims. Their descriptions line up with people we know who are of interest to investigators. These are people like Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, and the former Justice Department lawyer Jeffrey Clark. So we'll have to see what the special counsel does next with them.

FADEL: OK. So what happens now, Carrie?

JOHNSON: Special counsel Jack Smith says his investigation is continuing. Former President Trump is due in court here in Washington on Thursday for an initial appearance. And moving forward, the case has been assigned to Judge Tanya Chutkan. She's an Obama appointee and a former public defender. She's known as a tough sentencer on January 6 defendants.

FADEL: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson. I'm sure we'll be speaking to you a lot more in the future on this. Thank you.

JOHNSON: Thanks so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.

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