'Criminal scheme' to steal election: Takeaways from Donald Trump's 3rd indictment

Former President Donald Trump speaks at the 2023 Republican Party of Iowa Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday. File Photo by Tannen Maury/UPI
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the 2023 Republican Party of Iowa Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, on Friday. File Photo by Tannen Maury/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 2 (UPI) -- In Donald Trump's third criminal indictment since leaving office, Special Counsel Jack Smith found the former president "launched his criminal scheme" to steal the 2020 election shortly after Election Day.

A grand jury found that Smith's probe had sufficient evidence to show Trump and at least six unindicted co-conspirators methodically used false claims of voter fraud to attempt to get state and local officials to subvert legitimate election results and dismiss electors and swap them with fraudulent electors.


Simultaneously, Trump and his supporters pushed for sham investigations into the false claims of voter fraud and failed to recruit Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the vote of the Electoral College on Jan. 6, 2021 -- in what became the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

Here are key takeaways from the grand jury indictment returned on Tuesday.


Exploitation of Capitol violence

The indictment recalls much of the known narrative of Trump's actions after speaking to a crowd of supporters on Jan. 6 and his return to the White House.

"Mike Pence didn't have the courage to do what should have been done to protect our country and our constitution, giving states a chance to certify a corrected set of facts, not the fraudulent or inaccurate ones which they were asked to previously certify. USA demands the truth!" Trump tweeted at 2:24 p.m. that day.

A minute later, the U.S. Secret Service was forced to evacuate Pence from the congressional chambers to a secure location while rioters chanted, "Hang Mike Pence!"

The indictment pointed to how Trump called Rep. Kevin McCarthy, now House speaker, who was critical of the Trump indictment Tuesday. Trump told McCarthy, R-Calif., at the time that his followers were more upset about the results of the election than the Republican leader was.

Nevertheless, Trump allegedly tried to postpone the certification of votes in the aftermath of the violence as a co-conspirator, believed to be Rudy Giuliani, frantically called senators, according to the indictment.

Trump refused to allow the certification of votes even when asked by White House counsel.


In all, the attack on the Capitol obstructed and delayed the certification for about six hours. Joe Biden's election was confirmed.

Attempts in states

Trump's campaign attorneys conceded he lost the vote count in the state of Arizona on Nov. 13, 2020. That day, Trump's former campaign manager Bill Stepien -- who played a key role in House Jan. 6 committee hearings -- notified him that claims of fraudulent votes in the state were false.

The next day, Trump turned an unnamed co-conspirator, believed to be Giuliani, "whom he announced would spearhead his efforts going forward to challenge the election results," the indictment reads.

Trump and the co-conspirator called the speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives on Nov. 22 and made knowingly false claims of election fraud in a bid to interfere with voting by the state's electors, the indictment reads. Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers testified as such before the Jan. 6 committee.

Bowers, a Republican, asked the co-conspirator for evidence of the claims, which he did not have but claimed he would provide, the indictment reads. He never did so.

During the call, Trump and the co-conspirator allegedly asked Bowers to call the legislature into session to hold a hearing based on their claims of election fraud, and when he refused, asked him to "circumvent the process by which legitimate electors would be ascertained for Biden based on the popular vote, and replace those electors with a new slate," the indictment alleges.


Bowers asked the co-conspirator again for evidence of outcome-determinative election fraud when they met on Dec. 1.

"We don't have the evidence, but we have lots of theories," the co-conspirator responded, according to the indictment.

Days later, Bowers released a statement noting that he did not like the results of the election as a Republican but denounced Trump and his co-conspirator for suggesting he violate the law to change the outcome of the election.

In early January, ahead of the riot at the Capitol, a second Trump co-conspirator called Bowers to urge him to use the Legislature to decertify the state's legitimate electors.

That co-conspirator is believed to be John Eastman, who was then an attorney for Trump.

He directed Bowers to decertify and "let the courts sort it out," according to the indictment.

Eastman pleaded for Fifth Amendment protections against self-incrimination 100 times when questioned during a deposition for the Jan. 6 committee.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, a third Trump co-conspirator, believed to be Sidney Powell, was sent a document by Trump's executive assistant containing bullet points critical of a voting machine company. The company was not identified in the indictment, but was likely Dominion Voting Systems.


Powell, another Trump attorney, filed a lawsuit against Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp alleging "massive election fraud" accomplished through Dominion's voting machines. The lawsuit was later dismissed.

Trump promoted the lawsuit in a tweet before it had been filed despite knowing that the claims were unsupported and admitting that Powell sounded "crazy."

Days before the lawsuit was dismissed, Giuliani "orchestrated" a presentation to a judiciary subcommittee of the Georgia State Senate in which he and Trump falsely claimed that more than 10,000 dead people voted in the state. A senior adviser to Trump later texted Trump's chief of staff that Trump's team verified the number was not accurate and believed the actual number was 12.

Another of the co-conspirators then encouraged legislators to decertify the state's legitimate electors based on the false allegations of election fraud, according to the indictment.

The indictment also heavily references an instance in which Trump's team insinuated that election workers at State Farm Arena in Atlanta were counting "suitcases" of illegal ballots, which Trump amplified on Twitter.

Giuliani would later show a video purporting to show that incident to the Georgia House of Representatives' Government Affairs Committee, falsely claiming it was the "tip of the iceberg."


In that hearing, Giuliani allegedly cited two election workers by name, suggesting they were criminals who should have their homes searched for ballots. The workers later received death threats.

Trump, on Dec. 15, summoned his acting attorney general and other Justice Department officials, who told him that the activity shown on the tape was "benign." Trump spoke with them again on Dec. 27 and pushed them again about the alleged conduct in the State Farm Arena video.

Eastman, who was advising Trump in a lawsuit filed in his name against Kemp, acknowledged in an email on Dec. 31, 2020, that Trump had been made aware that some of the allegations were inaccurate and so that signing a new affirmation that the claims were true would also be inaccurate. The document was signed, nonetheless.

The indictment then references the infamous call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, whom he asked to "find" almost 12,000 votes to reverse Biden's victory in the battleground state. Raffensperger, a Republican, spoke to federal prosecutors last month.

"You're talking about the State Farm video. And I think it's extremely unfortunate that ... they sliced and diced that video and took it out of context," Raffensperger told Trump, according to the indictment.


Raffensperger then refuted multiple attempts by Trump to allege voter fraud, even directly telling the former president that "the data you have is wrong."

Trump insinuated that the Georgia secretary of state and his counsel "could be subject to criminal prosecution if they failed to find election fraud as he demanded," the indictment reads.

The next day, Trump falsely claimed Raffensperger had never addressed his allegations though he had, and, on Jan. 6, repeated that 10,300 dead people had voted in the state.

"At 6:31 in the morning, a vote dump of 149,772 votes came in unexpectedly," Trump said about alleged voter fraud in Michigan.

"We were winning by a lot. That batch was received in horror. Nobody knows anything about it. ... It's corrupt. Detroit is corrupt. I have a lot of friends in Detroit. They know it. But Detroit is totally corrupt."

A co-conspirator sent a text message to a Michigan lawmaker, similar to Arizona, seeking to reverse the ascertainment of the legitimate Biden electors by alleging that Georgia was considering changing the certification of votes.

"Help me get this done in Michigan," he said in the text, according to the indictment.

Days later, he directed Michigan lawmakers to claim that the state's electors are not the official electors for the state. The lawmakers did not follow through with his request. Yet, Trump reiterated his false claims on Jan. 6.


The indictment makes similar claims for the states of Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Fraudulent electors

As those plans failed, Trump plotted to install his own fake electors in the seven battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. The plan was to use these fake electors to create a controversy that would allow Pence to supplant legitimate electors.

This plan grew out of ideas presented in two memos drafted by an unnamed co-conspirator, according to the indictment. That is believed to be lawyer Kenneth Chesebro.

"The memoranda evolved over time from a legal strategy to preserve the [Trump's] rights to a corrupt plan to subvert the federal government function by stopping Biden electors' votes from being counted and certified," the indictment reads.

The co-conspirator wrote a memo on Dec. 6, 2020, outlining that alternate electors for Trump be used to prevent Biden from receiving the 270 electoral votes necessary to win the election. The grand jury found that was a "sharp departure" from a previous memo by him.

He doubled down in a later memo but noted that it could be "virtually impossible" for fraudulent electors to take the same steps as legitimate ones in some states.


Trump and another of the co-conspirators called Ronna McDaniel, chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, to ensure the plan was in motion on Dec. 6.

The co-conspirator told McDaniel it was "important" for the RNC to help the Trump campaign gather electors in targeted states.

The co-conspirator believed to be Giuliani received that memo on Dec. 7 and spoke with the sixth co-conspirator about lawyers who could help with the fraudulent elector scheme. The sixth co-conspirator called an attorney in Arizona on the list the following day.

"His idea is basically that all of us ... have our electors send in their votes, even though the votes aren't legal under federal law -- because they're not signed by the governor -- so that members of Congress can fight about whether they should be counted on Jan. 6," the unnamed Arizona lawyer said in an email, according to the indictment.

"They could potentially argue that they're not bound by federal law because they're Congress and make the law, etc. Kind of wild/creative -- I'm happy to discuss," the lawyer added.

"My comment to him was that I guess there's no harm in it, (legally at least) -- i.e. we would just be sending in 'fake' electoral votes to Pence so that 'someone' in Congress can make an objection when they start counting votes, and start arguing that the 'fake' votes should be counted."


The co-conspirators suggested that the Arizona lawyer file a petition for certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court as a pretext to claim that litigation was pending in the state, "to provide cover for the convening and voting of the Trump's fraudulent electors there."

The sixth co-conspirator explained that "it could appear treasonous" if Trump's fraudulent electors voted without a pending court proceeding. The scheme was carried out on Dec. 14, the day when electors from across the nation gathered to formally cast their votes for president.

"In many cases, however, as ... predicted in the fraudulent elector instructions, the fraudulent electors were unable to satisfy the legal requirements," the indictment reads.

Leveraging Justice Department

As part of this plot, Trump is accused of trying to use the Justice Department to back his false claims to the crucial battleground states in an attempt to give his allegations legitimacy and persuade the state officials to replace legitimate electors with frauds.

When that effort appeared to fail, he is accused in the indictment of trying to replace his attorney general with co-conspirator 4, who is believed to be Jeff Clark, a then-Justice Department employee.

The indictment states that starting in late December, Trump tried to have the co-conspirator persuade the Justice Department to sign off on a letter proposed for delivering to state officials in Georgia and the other battleground states that included false claims about the election, including that the Justice Department had "identified significant concerns that may impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states."


The letter also said the Justice Department urges those states' legislatures to convene a special legislative session to choose fraudulent electors.

The top brass of the Justice Department rejected the claims as false and instructed Clark to not meet with the White House as it is in violation of federal policy.

On Dec. 31, Trump convened then-acting Attorney General Jeffry Rosen and other DOJ officials, where he again raised false claims about election fraud. When told again that such claims were false, Trump suggested he might seek to change Justice Department leadership, the indictment states.

Then, the co-conspirator tried twice more to coerce Rosen and others to sign his draft letter containing the false election claims and they refused.

With three days before the certification of Biden as the 46th president of the United States, the co-conspirator, going against department policy, again met with Trump at the White House in private and accepted the president's offer to be named acting attorney general.

That afternoon, he met with Rosen and told the acting attorney general that he was to be replaced. Rosen allegedly then scheduled a meeting with Trump.

During the meeting, Trump reiterated his frustration with the department's failure to overturn the election and in the end decided against installing Clark as attorney general when informed that it would result in mass resignations of the Justice Department.


Enlisting Pence

In a final effort to overturn the election, Trump turned to his vice president in hopes he could persuade Pence to use his ceremonial role during Congress' Jan. 6 certification proceeding to alter election results.

The indictment states that though Pence had no legal power to do so, Trump through December and early January repeatedly called on him to reject electoral votes and overturn the election when the congressional hearing was to be held.

Two days before Jan. 6, Trump convened a meeting with Pence, Eastman and others for the purpose of persuading the vice president to either reject the electoral votes from the seven crucial states or send them back without counting them.

When Pence questioned the legality of the plan to send the electoral votes back to the states, a co-conspirator responded, "Well, nobody's tested it before."

Pence then turned to the president.

"Did you hear that?" Pence is quoted in the indictment of asking Trump. "Even your own counsel is not saying I have that authority."

"That's okay, I prefer the other suggestion," Trump responded.

On Jan. 5, another meeting was convened by Trump during which a co-conspirator is accused of advocating for Pence to unilaterally reject electors from the seven states.


He also allegedly told Pence's counsel during the meeting that he hoped to prevent judicial review of his plan, suspecting it would be rejected by the Supreme Court. Pence's counsel said the plan would create "a disastrous situation" where the election might "be decided in the streets."

Amid this effort to have Pence agree to overturn the election, Trump was encouraging supporters to descend upon the Capitol on Jan. 6, while tweeting that the vice president has the power to reject the chosen electors.

The same day the meeting was held, Trump met alone with Pence, and when the vice president again refused to go along with the plan, the president said he would publicly criticize him, the document states.

On the morning of Jan. 6, Trump called Pence and again pressured him to reject or return Biden's electoral votes, and when Pence refused Trump, Giuliani and Eastman later that day during a rally called on Pence to change the election outcome.

"I hope Mike is going to do the right thing," Trump is quoted in the indictment as telling the crowd at the rally. "All Vice President Pence has to do is send it back to the states to recertify and we become president and you are the happiest people."


Capitol violence, chaos

During the roughly six-hour delay caused by the siege of the Capitol building on Jan. 6, Trump is accused of using the time to try and persuade lawmakers to back his knowingly false claims of election fraud, the indictment states.

The court document explains that as Pence issued a public statement at about 1 p.m. Jan. 6, saying he does not have the authority over electoral votes, a crowd of Trump supporters began to converge on the Capitol, which they then breached.

Amid the early stages of the attack, Trump issued a tweet saying Pence lacked the "courage to do what should have been done to protect our country," which prosecutors in the charging document Tuesday said was intended to further obstruct the certification of the election results.

A minute after the tweet was published, Secret Service evacuated Pence to a secure location. At the Capitol, rioters were calling for Pence to be hanged.

In the preceding hours, Trump issued tweets suggesting the riots were peaceful and at 4 p.m., published a video to Twitter in which he repeated the false claim that the election was stolen before asking the rioters to leave the Capitol.

That evening, Trump and Giuliani are accused by prosecutors of making phone calls to lawmakers, trying to encourage them to further delay certification of Biden's election win.


At 7 p.m., White House counsel asked Trump to end his protests and allow the certification of electoral votes, which the president refused.

Even after the joint session of Congress had resumed at about 11:30 p.m., a co-conspirator is accused in the indictment of emailing Pence's counsel, urging them to consider having the vice president commit "one more relatively minor violation [of the ECA] and adjourn for 10 days to allow the legislatures to finish their investigations."

At 3:41 a.m. on Jan. 7, it was finally announced that the results of the 2020 presidential election were certified in Biden's favor.

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