Trump Pleads Not Guilty to Conspiring to Overturn 2020 Election

August 3, 2023 by Tom Ramstack
Trump Pleads Not Guilty to Conspiring to Overturn 2020 Election
A critic of former President Trump makes her feelings known in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol building, scene of a deadly siege carried out by angry Trump supporters. (Photo by Tom Ramstack)

WASHINGTON — It was, without a doubt, not the return to Washington, D.C., that former President Donald Trump has been dreaming about since he left the city in defeat in late January 2021.

On Thursday afternoon, inside a federal courthouse within walking distance of the U.S. Capitol his angry supporters laid siege to on Jan. 6, 2021, the only president in American history to be arraigned on felony charges pleaded not guilty to four additional charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.

Trump appeared somber as he departed his personal jet Thursday and headed, via motorcade, to the courthouse on Constitution Avenue NW.

Outside the courthouse, thousands of Trump supporters, detractors and curiosity-seekers gathered close to barricades, craning their necks past a police line to try to catch a glimpse of the former president.

However, there was nothing for them to see other than a heavy police presence and a few protest signs with slogans like “Lock the Traitor Up” or “Free the J6rs” in a reference to protesters arrested after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

About three blocks away from the Capitol, Trump’s motorcade arrived 45 minutes before the 4 p.m. arraignment in cars with heavily tinted windows. They entered an underground parking lot at the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse before taking an elevator to an upstairs courtroom.

“I’m here for President Trump,” said a man sitting outside the courthouse in a lawn chair holding a sign that said, “Save the Constitution.”

He gave the name “USA” but like other people in the crowd was reluctant to identify himself further.

“I don’t want to give my real name,” he told The Well News.

Referring to Trump’s allegations that the 2020 election was stolen from him by voter fraud, his supporter said, “He won.”

Supporters and detractors of former President Donald Trump gathered outside the federal courthouse in Washington for his arraignment of felony charges related to his alleged efforts to undo the 2020 election. (Photo by Tom Ramstack)

Nearby, a woman who did not like Trump walked through the crowd saying in a loud voice, “Lock him up.”

Most of the crowd consisted of onlookers who wanted to witness a historical event, often taking video with their mobile phones.

“We wanted to see what’s going on,” said a 19-year-old college sophomore who gave the name “Vic.”

Some protesters brought microphones for rambling discussions about Trump or the Biden administration. One man blared a loud recording complaining about his divorce proceedings.

By this time, Trump was standing before Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya, who oversaw the roughly half-hour hearing.

When she asked for his plea to the four counts he’s facing, the former president answered softly, “Not guilty.”

Upadhyaya then quickly wrapped up the nearly half-hour proceedings by ordering Trump not  to communicate about the case with any witnesses or potential witnesses except through counsel or in the presence of counsel. 

She then set the date for the first hearing before the trial judge, Tanya S. Chutkan, for Aug. 28.

This chagrined Trump attorney John Lauro, who told Upadhyaya that he would need more time to fairly defend his client. 

Upadhyaya responded by telling him he’d have to take the matter up with Chutkan, and she told prosecutors that they will have five days to respond to Lauro’s filing.

Trump’s appearance in court came nearly six weeks after his arraignment in Miami, Florida, on federal charges of mishandling government documents after he left the White House and seeking to stymie investigators’ efforts to retrieve them from his home and resort in Palm Beach, Florida.

In both cases, law enforcement officials extended the former president the courtesy of not having his mugshot taken.

Just as Trump was entering his plea inside the courthouse, a woman across the street from Constitution Avenue blasted a siren and whistles.

Media trucks crowd the sidewalk in front of the federal courthouse in Washington. (Photo by Tom Ramstack)

The noise prompted one man to criticize the protesters.

“I think we could make more progress if we talked more quietly to each other,” said Kenny Knoxville, 40, an engineer from Newport News, Virginia, as rain clouds darkened the sky.

Trump left the court about 5 p.m. in the same unceremonious motorcade he arrived in for a trip to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, where his private plane waited to take him back to his home and golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey.

The former president is also facing 34 felony counts in a New York state case in connection with a hush-money payment to a pornographic actress before the 2016 election. 

And he could face more legal trouble soon, as a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, is awaiting word from a grand jury about charges related to his efforts to undermine the 2020 election in that state.

Last week, orange barricades were set up outside the entrance to the Fulton County Courthouse, a sign that an additional indictment of Trump could be imminent.

In a statement issued last Thursday, a spokeswoman for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office said the agency is coordinating with local, state and federal law enforcement to enhance security ahead of “high-profile legal proceedings.”

On Tuesday, Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat said if the former president is indicted in Georgia, he would not receive special treatment, and would be booked and photographed like any other defendant.

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