Former US President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to criminal charges that he conspired to overturn his 2020 election defeat during an arraignment in a federal court here.
Trump was arrested and released on his cognisance, as he has been twice before in the last four months in connection with cases in New York City and Florida on Thursday.
The former President appeared before Magistrate Moxila A. Upadhyaya, an Indian-American born in Gujarat. She won’t, however, handle the trial.
Further proceedings in the case will be conducted by US District Judge Tanya Chutkan. And the first hearing is scheduled for August 28.
“As to counts one to four, how does Trump plead?” Judge Upadhyaya asked Trump as he stood at the defence table, flanked by his lawyers, according to published accounts of the arraignment.
“Not guilty,” he answered, raising his head.
The proceeding lasted less than 30 minutes and Trump was back on his way to the airport to fly back to his golf course home in Bedminster, New Jersey.
Trump’s earlier two arrests were in connection with a New York city regarding the payment of hush money to an adult film star who has has claimed to have had an affair with him and a federal case in Florida for mishandling of officials papers from his presidency, including taking home some that were stamped with varying degrees of confidentiality.
All together in the three cases, he is facing 78 criminal charges. Another indictment is expected any day now in the state of Georgia, which is investigating his attempts to change the 2020 election outcome in his favour. He also lost a civil defamation case against a woman who has alleged he raped here decades ago.
To top it all, Trump has the unmatched infamy of being the only American President impeached twice, once for forcing Ukraine to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden, and, the second time, for inciting a mob of supporters to attack the US Capitol, home to the US Congress and democracy, to prevent a joint session of lawmakers from certifying Biden as the winner of the 2020 presidential election.
The 45-page indictment handed by a grand jury on Tuesday, based on the investigation by Special Prosecutor Jack Smith, charges Trump and six unidentified co-conspirators with four new counts for conspiracy to defraud the US; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of, and attempt to obstruct, an official proceedings; and conspiracy against rights.
They cover an entire gamut of efforts by Trump and his team to overturn his electoral defeat in swing states Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, leading up to, and including, the attack on the US Congress by the mob of Trump supporters to prevent lawmakers from certifying the election of Joe Biden as the next President.
Trump claimed he was being persecuted because he is a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination and because he leads President Biden in polls. He is the leading Republican in the fray, but he is not leading the president although some polls show them tied.