Former U.S. President Donald Trump sits next to his attorney Todd Blanche as he faces charges before Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya that he orchestrated a plot to try to overturn his 2020 election loss, at federal court in Washington, U.S. August 3, 2023, in a courtroom sketch.
Seated between two attorneys, looking somber and occasionally clenching his hands on the table in front of him, former President Trump listened as Judge Moxila Upadhyaya of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia arraigned him on four charges related to his alleged attempt to subvert the 2020 presidential election.
Those allegations were detailed in an indictment announced earlier this week by Jack Smith, a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland. In a separate case, Smith has also indicted Trump on 40 counts related to his handling of classified documents after his presidential term concluded.
The hearing had political ramifications, as well as legal ones. Trump is in the midst of consolidating his front-runner status in the Republican primary for the 2024 presidential nomination.
For a short spell on Thursday, however, he was not a presidential candidate but instead a defendant in a criminal case. He sat between two attorneys, John Lauro and Todd Blanche. The former president rose to be sworn in, then listened as Upadhyaya read the charges against him.
Trump entered a plea of “not guilty.”
Throughout the 27-minute-long hearing, Trump seemed to listen intently, at times leaning in the judge’s direction. There was little evidence of the animated performer who could captivate crowds of thousands of supporters.
The hearing took place at the E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse, a short walk from where pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol on Jan 6., 2021, in an attempt to keep Joe Biden’s victory in the previous year’s presidential race from being certified by Congress.
Smith’s indictment charges that Trump knew he had lost the 2020 election, but spread the lie that victory had been “stolen” from him. The president’s supporters have countered that he was merely exercising his First Amendment rights by voicing his opinion about that election’s outcome.