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Why this indictment is the one that matters

Special Counsel Jack Smith and Donald Trump

Donald Trump’s third indictment, for trying to overthrow the 2020 election, is the “most consequential of them all”, says Luke Broadwater on The Daily. Federal prosecutors allege that for more than two months, the then president spread “knowingly false” lies about voter fraud. They’re clear that the issue wasn’t his initial conduct – he had a right to legally challenge the results, which he did, through 60 separate lawsuits. But after these failed and Trump knew the election had been fair, he didn’t have a right to launch a “criminal conspiracy” and push the vice president, Mike Pence, not to certify Joe Biden’s victory. “He didn’t have a right to lie.”

What followed, allegedly, was a slew of illegal actions. Trump’s lawyers put pressure on electors in states that had been won by Biden to sign documents saying the votes had been improperly counted. One Trump official fabricated a letter suggesting the Justice Department had uncovered evidence of fraud. The pinnacle, of course, was the January 6 riots, when prosecutors say the former president “essentially encouraged” supporters to physically block Congress from operating. If found guilty, he faces up to 50 years in prison. What’s more, the indictment is currently only 45 pages long, so it’s likely investigator Jack Smith has “more shoes to drop”. One possibility is a charge of insurrection, which could lead to Trump being constitutionally banned from holding public office. Just as likely is that he will be re-elected before any verdict comes down. That could lead to a truly bizarre scenario: the president pardoning himself.

🗳🇺🇸 It’s too early to tell how the indictment will affect Trump’s 2024 chances, says Nate Cohn in The New York Times. But no candidate who has led their nearest rival in the polls by 20-plus points at this stage has gone on to lose the primary – and before the charges were announced, Trump was leading Ron DeSantis by nearly double that. As for the general election, the first Times/Siena poll of the 2024 cycle put Biden and Trump tied, each with 43%.