It’s the third time Donald Trump has been arraigned this year, even as he is the only former US president in history to face criminal charges. Each time, Trump and his supporters, as well as detractors, have moved to gain from his time in court.
Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday in a Washington federal court to three counts of conspiracy and one count of obstruction in a plot to subvert the results of the 2020 election. He similarly denied his guilt in March over hush money payments to adult film actor Stormy Daniels, and then in June for illegally hoarding classified documents at his Florida resort.
A handful of Republicans, though competing with Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination, fired off statements as the ex-president left the courthouse and returned to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey. The biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy posted a video message filmed outside the federal courthouse calling the January 6 indictment “politicized persecution.” He earlier vowed to pardon Trump if elected.
After Trump was indicted on Tuesday, the former vice-president Mike Pence – whom Trump allegedly called “too honest” after he refused to reject electoral votes according to the indictment – used the arraignment as fodder for his own campaign, including to sell merch. “[A]nyone who puts himself over the constitution should never be president of the United States,” Pence said in a statement.
Trump has also moved to profit from each of his own indictments, blasting supporters with a barrage of fundraising requests after his court appearances in Miami and New York. Minutes after Trump left Washington, his son, Eric Trump, sent out a fundraising email with language calling the city “the belly of the beast”, according to NBC News. His campaign pulled in nearly $4m after his first arraignment in March and considerably less but still more than $1m after his arraignment in June, according to the New York Times.
Trump earlier said being arrested was “a great honor” in a post on Truth Social, his social media platform. He also posted Thursday ahead of his arraignment: “I NEED ONE MORE INDICTMENT TO ENSURE MY ELECTION!” A district attorney, Fani Willis, is due to hand down a fourth indictment, related to election interference in Georgia, in the coming weeks. Conservative media outlets largely heaped praise on Trump while blasting the current probes against President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden. When asked by a CNN reporter if he would follow the indictment as he was cycling on vacation, the president said: “No.”
Fox News host Jesse Watters downplayed Trump’s January 6 charges on air while applauding Trump for his “calm demeanor” during the arraignment, according to Mediaite. “By this January 6th indictment, we’re kind of tired of it,” Watters said on Thursday evening. Trump has seemingly grown more comfortable with each indictment, according to NBC News’ Garrett Haake, who has covered each indictment from the ground.While Trump appeared “tight and tense” on his March court date in Manhattan, he was joking with his attorneys in Washington, Haake told MSNBC Thursday evening. “He seemed so much more comfortable and practised at this.”
For many, the federal charges against Trump for his role in inciting the violence at the US Capitol were the first steps to finally holding the ex-president accountable for the deadly attack over which 1,000 individuals have been charged. A US Capitol police officer, Sgt Aquilino Gonell, was in the courtroom where Trump appeared for his arraignment, along with two other officers who were overwhelmed by rioters.
“On that day, I risked my life defending everyone regardless of their political affiliation,” wrote Gonell in a statement released after Trump left the courthouse. “Our democracy is worth fighting for. Not prosecuting is far riskier than having no consequences for the alleged power grab attempts. Justice and the rule of law must win for our democracy to survive.”
Adam Schiff of California, a member of the House January 6 select committee, signed a letter along with dozens of other Democratic lawmakers urging the district court to publicly broadcast the trial proceedings. “It is imperative the conference ensures timely access to accurate and reliable information surrounding these cases and all of their proceedings, given the extraordinary national importance to our democratic institutions and the need for transparency,” the letter said.
After the Tuesday indictment, Schiff said in a statement posted online the law “must” be enforced against a former US president and candidate for “the sake of our democracy”.
Trump attorney John Lauro, who joined the legal team after special prosecutor Jack Smith informed the ex-president he was a target in the January 6 case, suggested moving the trial to West Virginia, which he called a more “diverse area” than DC in an interview with NPR ahead of the arraignment. Former federal prosecutors and legal experts said there was no basis for doing so.
The Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, who is the strongest contender for the Republican nomination after Trump, though trailing by a wide margin, said in a statement released after the Tuesday indictment that he would “end the weaponization of government, replace the FBI director, and ensure a single standard of justice for all Americans”.
DeSantis did not, however, refer to Trump by name, and said he did not read the indictment.
Source: The Guardian