Former US President Donald Trump has been indicted by a federal grand jury for his wide-ranging efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat, the third time the former US president has been criminally charged as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024.
The 45-page indictment was filed in Washington, DC, by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who has led investigations into the former president on behalf of the US Department of Justice.
The four-count indictment charges the 77-year-old Republican with conspiring to defraud the US, conspiring to disenfranchise voters, and conspiring and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding.
"Despite having lost, the defendant was determined to remain in power. So for more than two months following election day on November 3, 2020, the defendant spread lies that there had been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that he had actually won. These claims were false, and the defendant knew that they were false," the indictment reads.
The indictment was issued by a grand jury of citizens in the District of Columbia and sets forth the crimes charged in detail. It caps an inquiry into events surrounding the January 6, 2021 riot at the US Capitol.
"The attack on our nation's capital on January 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. As described in the indictment, it was fueled by lies," said Special Counsel Smith.
"Lies by the defendant targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the US government, the nation's process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election," he said.
While the indictment affirms Trump's right to free speech, it claims the former president "pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results".
According to the indictment released by the Department of Justice, the former president is charged with a conspiracy to defraud the US "by using dishonesty, fraud and deceit to obstruct the nation's process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election."
The second count charges him of "a conspiracy to impede" the January 6, 2021, congressional proceeding where the election results were certified.
Federal prosecutors charge him with "a conspiracy against the right to vote and to have that vote counted."
The indictment identifies six co-conspirators, four attorneys, a political consultant, and "a Justice Department official who worked on civil matters," ABC news reported.
Trump, currently the leading candidate for the Republican Party's 2024 nomination, has been summoned to appear before a federal district court on August 3. Six unnamed co-conspirators were also included in the indictment, one of whom is believed to be Rudy Giuliani, who served on Trump's legal team.
Trump in a statement to his supporters said that he did nothing wrong and the charges against him were politically motivated.
Trump, who is again running for president, denies wrongdoing. On social media, he called the case "ridiculous".
"As you know, I did nothing wrong. It's well-documented that I told Americans to act 'peacefully' and discouraged the use of any violence. This is nothing but an egregious act of Election Interference and a final act of desperation from crooked Joe as he crashes in the polls," Trump said in a statement after he was charged on four counts.
Trump's campaign put out a statement decrying the investigation and called the counts "fake charges."
This is Trump's third indictment but marks the first time that he has been formally held accountable for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the run-up to the violent riot by his supporters at the US Capitol.
The former president has repeatedly criticised special counsel for the Department of Justice Smith, who is investigating Trump for several cases.
Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the charges alleged in this indictment are very serious and must play out through the legal process, peacefully and without any outside interference.
"Like every criminal defendant, the former President is innocent until proven guilty. Our founders made clear that, in the United States of America, no one is above the law not even the former President of the United States," she said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said that the insurrection on January 6, 2021 was one of the saddest and most infamous days in American history, personally orchestrated by Trump and fueled by his insidious big lie in an attempt to undermine the 2020 election.
"In a deadly effort to overturn the will of the American people and block the peaceful transition of power, our nation's Capitol the very symbol and home of American patriotism and democracy fell under attack to thousands of vicious and violent rioters," the two top Democratic leaders said.
Schumer and Jeffries said that the third indictment of Trump illustrates in shocking detail that the violence of that day was the culmination of a months-long criminal plot led by the former president to defy democracy and overturn the will of the American people.
"This indictment is the most serious and most consequential thus far and will stand as a stark reminder to generations of Americans that no one, including a president of the United States, is above the law. The legal process must continue to move forward without any outside interference," they said.
In April, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump on charges related to payments in 2016 to porn star Stormy Daniels. In June, Trump was indicted in Miami for allegedly retaining White House documents, including classified documents.