Trump en route to Washington to face charges he tried to overturn 2020 election
Donald Trump is on his way to Washington to answer charges he worked to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The former US president is set to appear in a federal courthouse just streets away from the US Capitol building that his supporters stormed to try to block the peaceful transfer of power.
Mr Trump departed from his Bedminster, New Jersey, golf club after 1pm to be flown by private plane to Washington.
In what has become a familiar but nonetheless stunning ritual, he will be processed by law enforcement and enter a not guilty plea in front of a judge.
He is expected to then be released as the case proceeds, enabling him to rejoin the campaign trail as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024.
An indictment on Tuesday from Justice Department special counsel Jack 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.
Mr Trump has denied all charges. Before taking off, he took to social media to again criticise the case as politically motivated and repeat his baseless claim that the 2020 election was “crooked”.
Law enforcement officials ramped up security outside the courthouse, including by setting up barricades.
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 Democrat Joe 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 star 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 Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago, and refusing government demands to give them back.
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 Mr Smith’s team is trying to interfere with the 2024 presidential election, in which Mr Trump is the early frontrunner to claim the Republican nomination.
Mr Smith said in a rare public statement this week that he was seeking a speedy trial, though Mr Lauro has said he intends to slow the case down so that the defence team can conduct its own investigation.
The arraignment will be handled before US Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadyaha, who joined the bench last year. But going forward, the case will be presided over by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, an appointee of former president Barack Obama who has stood out as one of the toughest punishers of the Capitol rioters.
Judge Chutkan has also ruled against Mr Trump before, refusing in November 2021 to block the release of documents to the US House of Representative’s January 6 committee by asserting executive privilege.