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August 02, 2023

Trump indictment details his alleged attempt to overturn Pennsylvania's 2020 election results

The charging document also references 6 unnamed co-conspirators; one of them is believed to be Northeast Philadelphia-native Jeffrey Clark

Former President Donald Trump was indicted on felony charges Tuesday for his alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the months that led up to the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. 

Trump is expected to appear in federal court in Washington. The four-count indictment, delivered by a grand jury, is the third criminal case against Trump. It adds to the allegations made last year during the public hearings held by the House select committee tasked with investigating the insurrection.

The indictment alleges Trump attempted to obstruct an official proceeding – and conspired to do so – and conspired to violate Americans' right to vote and defraud the United States. It details an alleged campaign in which Trump and people close to him lied about voter fraud, attempted to interfere with the election results and exploited the violence at the U.S. Capitol to delay the vote certification and transition of power, the Associated Press reported. 

Though the indictment notes that Trump retained his First Amendment right to spread falsehoods about the election results and file lawsuits challenging them, it alleges that Trump also pursued "unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes" in order to subvert the election results. 

Here are three takeaways from the indictment: 

Trump and his allies are accused of knowingly peddling misinformation about Pennsylvania's election results

The indictment names Pennsylvania as one of seven states where Trump and his allies allegedly attempted to overturn the results of the presidential election. In the weeks following the election, Trump made false claims that 205,000 more votes than voters were counted in Pennsylvania, despite Department of Justice officials telling him that it was false. 

About a week after election, Trump "publicly maligned" then-Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt for stating on a news broadcast that there was no evidence of widespread fraud in the city's election, the indictment says. Schmidt detailed the death threats that he and his family received during his testimony to the Jan. 6 committee last year. 

The indictment also details an event at a hotel in Gettysburg on Nov. 25, 2020, in which Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani falsely claimed that Pennsylvania had issued 1.8 million absentee ballots and received 2.5 million in return. The event was held the day after then-Gov. Tom Wolf certified Pennsylvania's electors.

In December 2020, Republican legislators in Pennsylvania signed a letter explaining that the General Assembly lacked the authority to overturn the popular vote and that doing so would be a violation of the state Constitution and Election Code. Trump later retweeted a post calling those legislators "cowards."

Trump's allies allegedly attempted to convince the people who would have been Trump's electors in Pennsylvania to send false certifications to Congress and then-Vice President Mike Pence despite their concerns about falsely representing themselves as electors. 

Under that plan, the false electors were to create a controversy at the certification proceedings led by Pence. Trump allegedly wanted Pence to replace the legitimate electors with the false electors. On Dec. 14, 2020, the same day that the Electoral College met, 20 false electors signed on in support of Trump. 

One of the unnamed co-conspirators is believed to be Philadelphia-native Jeffrey Clark

In detailing the charges against Trump, the indictment references six unnamed co-conspirators, none of whom have been charged with a crime. CNN reported that the list includes former Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman and Sidney Powell, as well as Jeffrey Clark, a former assistant attorney general. 

Clark, a Northeast Philadelphia native, is described in the indictment as a Justice department official who "worked on civil matters" and allegedly attempted to "open sham election crime investigations and influence state legislatures" with false claims of election fraud. 

Clark was introduced to Trump by U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, who represents Harrisburg and is a long-time ally of the former president, in December 2020. Perry participated in several conversations with Mark Meadows, the former White House chief of staff, about installing Clark at U.S. Attorney General. The final report from the Jan. 6 Committee included several texts between Clark and Meadows in the days before the insurrection, including a countdown to the "inauguration." 

The indictment cites a draft letter that Clark allegedly proposed sending to state officials in Georgia, instructing the legislature to appoint pro-Trump electors. Clark briefly considered a role as acting attorney general in the days leading up to the Capitol riot, but the plan was scrapped after multiple senior Justice department officials threatened to resign, according to the indictment, the Inquirer reported. 

Since leaving the Justice department, Clark has been working as director of litigation and senior fellow at the Center for Renewing America, a conservative think tank. 

Former Vice President Mike Pence took detailed notes of his interactions with Trump after the 2020 election

Former Vice President Mike Pence did not comply with the grand jury subpoena until a federal judge ruled that he was required to testify. 

Pence's detailed notes of his conversations with Trump in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 riot provided the basis for the information in the indictment. There were several private phone calls between Trump and Pence in late December 2020 and early January 2021 in which Trump allegedly peddled falsehoods about the election results and directly pressured the vice president to use his role to overturn the election results, which Pence resisted. 

On Jan. 1, Trump allegedly called Pence after he discovered that the vice president had opposed a lawsuit claiming that Pence had the authority to reject or return votes during the certification process. When Pence explained that he didn't believe there was a constitutional basis for that claim, Trump allegedly told him, "You're too honest." 

The day before the U.S. Capitol riot, Trump told his supporters that Pence had the authority to unilaterally overturn the election results, the indictment says. In a private conversation that day, Trump allegedly told Pence that he would publicly criticize him for refusing to overturn the results, which prompted Pence's chief of staff to alert the head of his Secret Service detail. 

During the attack on the U.S. Capitol, Trump supporters could be heard shouting, "Hang Mike Pence," though the vice president already had been moved to a secure location. He was able to certify the election results in the early morning of Jan. 7. 

Pence is one of several Republicans running for president in 2024. Speaking to reporters in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Pence said that Trump "listened to crackpot lawyers" who told him what he wanted to hear and that "anyone who puts themself over the Constitution should never be president."