Former President Donald Trump was indicted again this week, on new federal charges related to his alleged involvement in trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power following the 2020 presidential election.
In the wake of the indictment being handed down – and Trump being formally arraigned on the charges – his lawyer, John Lauro, said the indictment was an “unprecedented criminalization of political speech.”
The lawyer further said that his client first noticed “the rules being changed” while the 2020 election was underway.
Just a day following the grand jury’s indictment of his client, Lauro appeared on the “CBS Mornings” program and said:
“This is the first time that political speech has been criminalized in the history of the United States. It’s the first time where a current president is using the criminal process to attack a former president on policy issues.
“We are in a constitutional abyss right now. We’ve never seen this … the president wants his day in court. Most importantly, he wants to get to the truth, which we will do in this case.”
The indictment handed down this week includes four new felony counts – all of which are related to the efforts Trump allegedly made to stay in power even after the election results came in showing he lost to President Joe Biden.
The investigation that led to the grand jury was headed up by Jack Smith, a special counsel appointed by the Biden administration. The indictment includes six co-conspirators – none of whom were officially named in the indictment – who tried to help Trump overturn the victory Biden secured, which eventually led to the Capitol riot that happened on January 6 of 2021.
The charges being levied against Trump are obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States, and conspiracy against constitutional rights – in this case, voting rights.
Before this indictment was handed down, Trump was already facing separate federal criminal charges over how he allegedly mishandled classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in New York. Plus, he was arraigned on New York state criminal charges for business fraud earlier this year.
In all three cases that have been formally brought against him so far, he has pleaded not guilty.
In regard to the federal indictment from this week, Lauro said the actions that Trump took fall under First Amendment protections because the former president was just speaking out about concerns he had over the process of the election.
Beyond just the charges themselves, the newest indictment will certainly amplify the relationship between Trump and his second-in-command, former Vice President Mike Pence. Trump fully expects that Pence will be called as a witness in this case, according to Lauro, though the lawyer doesn’t believe Pence thinks Trump did anything illegal.
As he explained:
“Not once did he [Pence] say, ‘Mr. Trump, what you’re asking me is criminal. Don’t do that.’”
Trump was formally arraigned on the charges on Thursday in Washington, D.C., federal court. Lauro said that it’s possible that the defense team could end up seeking a venue change to West Virginia to ensure a fair trial for their client.