Former US President Donald Trump pleads ‘not guilty’

Picture source - AP
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Donald Trump filed a not-guilty plea on Thursday in response to allegations that he planned a scheme to try to retake the 2020 election, which US prosecutors claim was an unprecedented attempt by the then-president to undercut the foundations of American democracy.

Trump submitted his plea before US Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya as Special Counsel Jack Smith, who has been in charge of the federal investigation, watched from the front row of the courtroom.

Trump emphasized the first word of his sentence: “Not guilty.”

The courthouse where the arraignment, which lasted approximately 30 minutes, was held was in Washington, half a mile (1 km) from the US Capitol, which Trump’s supporters invaded on January 6, 2021, to prevent Congress from recognizing his defeat.

With months of pretrial legal battle anticipated against the backdrop of the 2024 presidential race, in which Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nominee to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden, it was the third time since April that Trump entered a not guilty plea.

Smith charged Trump and his aides with pushing false claims that the election was rigged, pressing state and federal officials to change the results, and putting together bogus slates of electors to steal electoral votes from Biden in a 45-page indictment released on Tuesday.

Trump is charged with four counts, including obstruction of justice, conspiracy to defraud the US, and denying individuals the opportunity to vote. The maximum prison time for the most serious offense is 20 years.

Trump will not be compelled to appear at the upcoming hearing on August 28 before US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, according to Upadhyaya. At that time, Chutkan plans to schedule a trial date, according to Upadhyaya.

John Lauro, Trump’s attorney, raised a preemptive objection, claiming that the scope of the case and the volume of papers required might take a long time.

Thomas Windom, the prosecutor, argued in opposition that the case should proceed normally, even with a quick trial.

Trump was free to go when he was released. One of the terms of his release is that he is not permitted to speak with any witnesses about the case without his attorneys present.

Trump has characterized the indictment and the other legal proceedings against him as a “witch hunt” meant to thwart his bid for the presidency.

Trump’s legal troubles haven’t done anything to diminish his position as the front-runner among Republicans. Following the indictment on Tuesday, a new Reuters/Ipsos survey found that 47% of Republican voters would back him, increasing his lead over the second-place Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who was at 13%.

Republicans, who make up the majority of the party, agreed that the accusations were “politically motivated,” demonstrating how popular Trump’s contention that he is the target of political persecution is with his supporters.