World

Donald Trump arrives at courthouse to face charges he tried to overturn election

The first vehicle in the motorcade carrying former president Donald Trump (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
The first vehicle in the motorcade carrying former president Donald Trump (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Former US president Donald Trump has arrived at the federal courthouse in Washington DC to surrender to authorities on charges he plotted to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election.

The early frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination will appear before a magistrate judge on charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States.

The courthouse sits within sight of the US Capitol that his supporters attacked on January 6, 2021, to stop Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory.

The motorcade carrying Mr Trump as it left Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport
The motorcade carrying Mr Trump as it left Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

It is the third criminal case filed against Mr Trump this year, but the first to try to hold him criminally responsible for his efforts to cling to power in the weeks between his election loss and the Capitol attack that stunned the world as it unfolded live on TV.

Mr Trump’s motorcade made its way through the US capital’s crowded streets, using lights and sirens – a journey documented in wall-to-wall cable news coverage.

Mr Trump has said he did nothing wrong and has accused special counsel Jack Smith of trying to thwart his chances of returning to the White House in 2024.

An indictment on Tuesday from Mr Smith charges Mr Trump with four felony counts related to his efforts to undo his presidential election loss in the run-up to the January 6, 2021, riot at the Capitol, including conspiracy to defraud the US government and conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.

The charges could lead to a prison sentence of several years in the event of a conviction.

Media and protesters gather at the E Barrett Prettyman US Federal Courthouse
Media and protesters gather at the E Barrett Prettyman US Federal Courthouse (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Republican former president was the only person charged in the case, though prosecutors referenced six unnamed co-conspirators, mostly lawyers, they say he plotted with, including in a scheme to enlist fake electors in seven battleground states won by Mr Biden to submit false certificates to the federal government.

The indictment chronicles how Mr Trump and his Republican allies, in what Mr Smith described as an attack on a “bedrock function of the US government”, repeatedly lied about the results in the two months after he lost the election and pressured his vice president Mike Pence, and state election officials to take action to help him cling to power.

This is the third criminal case brought against Mr Trump in less than six months.

He was charged in New York with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment to a porn actress during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Mr Smith’s office has also charged him with 40 felony counts in Florida, accusing him of illegally retaining classified documents at his Palm Beach estate, Mar-a-Lago, and refusing government demands to give them back.

Supporters of Donald Trump rally outside court
Supporters of Donald Trump gather outside court (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

He has pleaded not guilty in both those cases, which are set for trial next year.

And prosecutors in Fulton County, Georgia, are expected in coming weeks to announce charging decisions in an investigation into efforts to subvert election results in that state.

Mr Trump’s lawyer John Lauro has asserted in television interviews that Mr Trump’s actions were protected by the First Amendment right to free speech and that he relied on the advice of lawyers.

Mr Trump has claimed without evidence that Smith’s team is trying to interfere with the 2024 presidential election.