Trump Returns to Washington. This Time to Face Criminal Charges

Roads will be closed and barriers erected near the federal courthouse in Washington Thursday for Donald Trump’s return — this time as a criminal defendant.

(Bloomberg) — Roads will be closed and barriers erected near the federal courthouse in Washington Thursday for Donald Trump’s return — this time as a criminal defendant.

The former president will make his first appearance there at 4 p.m. local time on the new indictment charging him with conspiring to obstruct the 2020 election. He is expected to be fingerprinted, asked for his Social Security number and other personal information and may enter an initial plea.

Security will be tight at the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse, which faces the US Capitol building, where a mob of Trump’s supporters rioted on Jan. 6, 2021 as Congress sought to certify that Joe Biden won the presidency.

To some in the nation’s capital, Trump’s indictment resulting from an investigation by Special Counsel Jack Smith’s team is welcome news.

“Just because someone has been president of the United States doesn’t give you a license to break the law,” former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat who was in the Capitol on the day of the riot, said in an interview on CNN Wednesday night. 

Trump and his supporters, meanwhile, have denounced the prosecution. Trump’s campaign has said the Washington indictment involved “fake charges” brought by Biden’s “weaponized Department of Justice” to interfere with the 2024 election. Trump is now the leading candidate for the Republican nomination. Biden is also seeking reelection.

Washington’s law enforcement agencies have been coordinating on plans to maintain security for Trump’s court appearance.

Emergency “no parking” signs were posted on both sides of the road on the side of the courthouse, effective from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday. The Secret Service issued warnings on social media that there may be “traffic implications due to protectee movements.”

There will be two overflow courtrooms available for the public to view the proceedings on a live video feed, according to an advisory from the court. The two courts will have space for about 150 people. 

Trump won’t be placed under arrest, according to US Marshals Service spokesman Drew Wade. In accepting the indictment Tuesday, US Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya issued a summons for his appearance, not an arrest warrant. 

The summons was issued by Upadhyaya, so the expectation is he’ll appear before her, but the case has been assigned to US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who was appointed by former President Barack Obama.

During the hearing, Trump’s lawyers will likely do most, if not all, of the talking. Smith’s prosecutors didn’t ask to put Trump in pretrial custody in Florida after the former president was indicted in June over his handling of classified documents. There’s no expectation they will ask for that in Washington either.

If prosecutors want the judge to impose any conditions on his release, however, they could make those requests, and Trump’s lawyers would have a chance to object.

In Florida, prosecutors asked that Trump be restricted from contacting witnesses about the case unless it was through his lawyers. 

In the new indictment Trump is accused of knowingly spreading lies about the 2020 election being rigged in order to undermine faith in the vote and to remain in power. Trump is charged with conspiracy to defraud the US, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding, and conspiracy against the right to vote and have that vote counted.

A third criminal case is pending in New York, where Trump was charged with falsifying business statements to hide alleged hush-money payments to an adult film actress who claimed she had a sexual encounter with him.

Trump pleaded not guilty in New York and Florida.

The pending federal and state criminal charges don’t create any legal barrier to Trump running for president. Legally, a conviction doesn’t prevent a person from holding public office.

The case is US v. Trump, 23-cr-00257, US District Court, District of Columbia (Washington, DC).

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