Trump Indicted – For What Exactly?

Former President Trump has been indicted on three counts of conspiracy and one count of obstruction for attempting to overturn the 2020 election results and the events leading up to the January 6th riot.  

The 45-page indictment, which was released to the public on August 1, 2023, reads like a New York Times op-ed piece.  Unless the prosecution comes up with much more than this at trial, it’s unimaginable that this will result in a conviction.  

You can read the full text of the indictment here.  But be forewarned, the redundancy and the fact that you won’t find anything you didn’t already know will make it difficult to get through without falling asleep.  

The indictment drones on and on about what Trump “attempted” to do (attempted and obviously failed), and that Trump “knowingly” made false statements (some public) about election fraud.  

Apparently Trump “knew” these statements were false because some official told him so.  An objective reading of the indictment makes it clear that Trump was getting advice and information from multiple sources (including his lawyers) and that he believed the advice and data that he wanted to believe (confirmation bias). 

It is equally clear that he believed the wrong advisors.  In any case, as a matter of law, it seems to me that it is very difficult to prove what someone “knew” at any given moment in time.

  Conspiracy is a rather complicated legal topic – at least from what I read.  There has to be an agreement to commit a crime.  If I say to my friend Tom “Hey – let’s go rob that liquor store” and he says “Bullshit – I’m having nothing to do with that” then there is no conspiracy because there is no agreement. 

Trump tried to talk Pence into rejecting the election results, but Pence didn’t agree – and it never happened.  All of the conspiracy charges in the indictment look very weak to me.  There are numerous references to what Trump “said” or “attempted” to do but he was met with disagreement and no actions were taken to actually carry out the so-called conspiracy.  

The obstruction charge stems from the events of January 6th.  Trump is accused of obstructing an official proceeding (certifying the election).  This charge is even weaker than the conspiracy charges.  This charge relies entirely on Trump’s rhetoric between the election and January 6th.  I see nothing in the indictment that Trump was in communication with, led, planned, or issued orders to the rioters that breached the Capitol on J6. 

The claim in the indictment is that Trump “knowingly” made false claims about the election and that these claims called into question the integrity of the election process.   At the end of the day, the entire indictment is predicated on Trump making false claims about the election.  I may have missed something, but as it stands right now that is all I see.  

The editors over at National Review seem to view this indictment much the way I do.  

If a politician “knowingly” making false statements in public is a crime under federal law, this is going to get quite interesting – don’t you think?  

Joe Biden has publicly stated (more times than I can count) that his administration has created 13 million jobs.  This has been publicly refuted – people going back to work after the pandemic is not “creating” jobs.  He “knew” this statement was false – because Twitter community notes told him so. (Yes – I’m being a smart-ass – because this is exactly how the indictment spells out how Trump knew his statements were false – because he was told so by someone – someone that may or may not have known what they were talking about).  

Joe Biden has publicly stated multiple times that “assault weapons” must be banned to save lives.  He knows this is false.  The 1994 ban didn’t work according to reports by the federal government.  Rifles of all kinds are used in about 2% of homicides (FBI data).  Joe knows this is false yet he repeats it every chance he gets.  He is also “conspiring” with thousands of others that repeat this false statement.  He’s conspiring with thousands to deprive American citizens of their rights under the Constitution.  

Vice President Harris has “knowingly” and repeatedly made false statements about Florida school curriculum.  She states that Florida schools intend to teach that slavery benefitted slaves.  The curriculum in question is publicly available and many “officials” have told her (publically) that this claim is false.  She persists nonetheless.  I’ve read the Florida school curriculum myself – it makes no such statement.  Harris is lying, and she knows she’s lying, she’s doing this for partisan political reasons.  

That politicians lie – knowingly lie – is not particularly new information.  This is not a defense of Trump; I personally am quite put off by his actions and rhetoric in the wake of the 2020 election.  Trump and company had every opportunity to present their “mountains of evidence” in court and didn’t, and after that could have presented it to the public and didn’t.  What did he “know” vs. what was he simply told and believed, I have no way to know.  But in any event, it seems clear to me that it was wrong.  

The statements made by Biden and Harris are no less “knowingly false.”   While I did not write a piece on it at the time, I found the Trump indictment over classified documents strong and compelling – “damning” in a word.  In that indictment evidence and testimony were presented in support of the charges.  Not so in this one.  

This indictment seems to rely solely on the idea that officeholders making false statements is a crime.  Well, I’m fine with that – let’s apply that standard to the current and all future administrations.  


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