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Opinion | A President Accused of Betraying His Country

It’s the third criminal indictment of Mr. Trump, and it demonstrates, yet again, that the rule of law in America applies to everyone, even when the defendant was the country’s highest-ranking official. The crimes alleged in this indictment are, by far, the most serious because they undermine the country’s basic principles.

The prosecution’s list of false voter fraud claims made by Mr. Trump and his associates is extensive: that 10,000 dead people voted in Georgia, that there were tens of thousands of double votes in Nevada, 30,000 noncitizens voting in Arizona and 200,000 mystery votes in Pennsylvania, as well as suspicious vote dumps and malfunctioning voting machines elsewhere.

After presenting this list, the indictment makes its case with 12 simple but searing words: “These claims were false, and the defendant knew that they were false.” Mr. Smith points out how many people told Mr. Trump that he was repeating lies. He was told by Vice President Mike Pence that there was no evidence of fraud. He was told the same thing by the Justice Department leaders he appointed, by the director of national intelligence, by the Department of Homeland Security, by senior White House attorneys, by leaders of his campaign, by state officials and, most significantly, by dozens of federal and state courts. The indictment emphasizes that every lawsuit filed by Mr. Trump and his allies to change the outcome was rejected, “providing the defendant real-time notice that his allegations were meritless.”

Demonstrating Mr. Trump’s knowledge that he was lying will be central to the prosecution’s case when it comes to trial, because Mr. Smith wants to make clear that Mr. Trump wasn’t genuinely trying to root out credible instances of voter fraud. The indictment doesn’t charge him with lying or speaking his mind about the outcome of the election, and it notes that he had the right to challenge the results through legal means. But the charges show in detail how, after all those methods failed, his “pervasive and destabilizing lies” set the table for the criminal activity that followed, specifically fraud, obstruction and deprivation of rights. As much as defense lawyers are trying to frame the case as an attack on Mr. Trump’s free speech, the indictment makes clear that it was his actions after Election Day that were criminal.

That “criminal scheme” began, the indictment says, on Nov. 14, 2020, when Mr. Trump turned to Rudy Giuliani (acknowledged by his lawyer to be “co-conspirator 1”) to challenge the results in the swing state of Arizona, which Mr. Trump had lost. “From that point on,” the charges state, “the defendant and his co-conspirators executed a strategy to use knowing deceit in the targeted states,” which also included Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In an example cited in the charges, Mr. Giuliani sent a text to the Senate majority leader in Michigan on Dec. 7 demanding that the legislature pass a resolution saying the election was in dispute and that the state’s electors were not official. That demand was refused, but Mr. Trump continued to claim that more than 100,000 ballots in Detroit were fraudulent.

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