Jan. 6 charges against Trump would add to his mounting legal peril as he campaigns for 2024

Jul 19, 2023, 11:06 AM

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks with supporters at the Westside Conservative Breakfast,...

FILE - Former President Donald Trump speaks with supporters at the Westside Conservative Breakfast, June 1, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. A federal judge upheld a $5 million jury verdict against Donald Trump on Wednesday, rejecting the former president’s claim that the award was excessive and that a jury in a civil case vindicated him by failing to conclude that he raped a columnist in a luxury department store dressing room in the 1990s. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Hush-money payments. Classified records. And now, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election that led to the Capitol attack. Already facing criminal cases in Trump faces increasing legal peril as investigations into his struggle to cling to power after his election loss appear to be coming to a head.

possible prison time while vying to reclaim the White House as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination.

Smith’s wide-ranging probe into the chaotic weeks between Trump’s election loss and his supporters’ sworn in this month in Georgia will likely consider whether to charge Trump and his Republican allies for their efforts to reverse his election loss in the state.

Trump has denied wrongdoing in all the cases and dismissed the prosecutions as a malign effort to hurt his 2024 campaign.

Here’s a look at the Jan. 6 investigation, Trump’s legal cases and what could happen next:


The team led by Smith, who was appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland in November, has questioned a host of former White House officials, Trump allies, lawyers and state election officials both in voluntary interviews and before the grand jury that has been meeting behind closed doors in Washington. Those who have testified before the grand jury — which would ultimately hand down any indictment — include Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence, who has spoken extensively in public about the former president’s efforts to pressure him into rejecting President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Smith’s team appears to be interested in a late night Dec. 18, 2020, White House meeting one aide has called “unhinged” in which Trump’s private lawyers suggested he order the U.S. military to seize state voting machines in an unprecedented effort to pursue his false claims of voter fraud. In videos shown by the U.S. House Committee that investigated the Jan. 6 attack, one White House lawyer said he thought the idea was “nuts.” Judges — including some appointed by Trump — uniformly rejected his claims of voter fraud.

Smith has also questioned witnesses about schemes by Trump associates to enlist electors in battleground states to sign certificates claiming that Trump — instead of Biden — had won their states. The fake electors’ certificates were mailed to the National Archives and Congress, where some Republicans used them to try to justify delaying or blocking certification of the election.

Smith’s team has also shown interest in the story of a Georgia election worker, Ruby Freeman, who along with her daughter has recounted living in fear following death threats after Trump and his allies falsely accused them of pulling fraudulent ballots from a suitcase in Georgia. That interest is according to a person familiar with the investigation who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal probe.


It’s unclear when Smith’s investigation may wrap up. Trump said he was invited to appear before the grand jury this week, though targets of investigations don’t have to testify and rarely agree to do so. The grand jury, which meets in secret, would ultimately vote on whether there is enough evidence to charge him with a crime. Federal grand juries are made up of about 16 to 23 people, and at least 12 must agree in order to hand down an indictment.

Among the potential charges legal experts have said Trump could face are conspiracy to defraud the United States and more than 1,000 people accused of federal crimes in the Jan. 6 riot have been charged with the obstruction offense, which carries up to 20 years in prison.

If charged in the Jan. 6 case, Trump could face a challenging jury pool in overwhelmingly Democratic Washington, whose residents — many of whom work on Capitol Hill — had a front-row seat to the chaos that unfolded after Trump urged his supporters to “fight like hell.”

Many Jan. 6 rioters have tried unsuccessfully to get their trials moved out of the nation’s capital, saying Trump supporters can’t get a fair trial there. Only two defendants have been acquitted of all charges after trials, and those were trials decided by a judge, not a jury. In the most serious Jan. 6 cases brought so far, juries have convicted the leaders of two far-right extremist groups — the Proud Boys — of seditious conspiracy and other charges for what prosecutors described as plots to block the transfer of power from Trump to Biden. More than 600 other Jan. 6 defendants have pleaded guilty to federal crimes.


Trump heard arguments on Tuesday over whether that trial — which would take place in Florida — should happen before or after the 2024 election. While prosecutors are seeking a December trial date, Trump’s lawyers have pushed for an indefinite delay, arguing he can’t get a fair trial while he’s campaigning for president.

In New York state court, a trial is scheduled to begin in March — in the thick of primary season — in another Trump case during court arguments last month that was unlikely to happen.

In Georgia, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who has been investigating Trump and his allies for their efforts to overturn his election loss in that state, is expected to present her case before one of two grand juries seated earlier this month. Willis has suggested that any indictments the panel’s foreperson has said without naming names that the special grand jury recommended charging multiple people.

Meanwhile, in Michigan on Tuesday, the state’s attorney general filed felony charges, including forgery against 16 Republicans who acted as fake electors for Trump in 2020, accusing them of submitting false certificates that said they were legitimate electors despite Biden’s victory there.


Richer reported from Boston.

More on Donald Trump-related investigations:

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Jan. 6 charges against Trump would add to his mounting legal peril as he campaigns for 2024