Trump in court today on charges he tried to overturn 2020 election

Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Erie, Pa (Sue Ogrocki, AP)
Republican presidential candidate, former President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally in Erie, Pa (Sue Ogrocki, AP)

Donald Trump is due in federal court on Thursday to answer charges he sought to overturn the results of the 2020 US presidential election.

He is facing a judge just blocks from the US Capitol his supporters stormed to block the peaceful transfer of power.

In what has become a familiar but nonetheless stunning ritual, Mr Trump is expected to be processed by law enforcement, be officially taken into custody and enter a not guilty plea in front of a judge before being released 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 charged Mr Trump with four felony counts.

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FILE – Special counsel Jack Smith arrives to speak about an indictment of former President Donald Trump at a Department of Justice office in Washington (Jacquelyn Martin, AP Photo)

They related to his efforts to undo the presidential election 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 lengthy prison sentence in the event of a conviction.

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

The indictment chronicles how Mr Trump and 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 since 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 the last six months.

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Insurrectionists loyal to President Donald Trump breach the US Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021. (Jose Luis Magana, AP)

He was charged in New York with falsifying business records in connection with an alleged hush money payment to a porn actor 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.

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

Pprosecutors 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.

His 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 election in which the former president is the front runner to claim the Republican nomination.

Mr Smith said in a rare public statement 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.