onald Trump is facing another high-octane court showdown over charges of plotting to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
The former president is due to appear in a Washington court on Thursday after he was hit with a bombshell new indictment. It follows the investigation into his alleged involvement in the January 2021 Capitol riots.
Mr Trump, 77, faces four charges including conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights.
The indictment announced on Tuesday night produced new evidence not detailed in the final report of the official January 6 Committee that investigated the riot , listing conversations in which Mr Trump attempted to persuade his vice-president Mike Pence to delay certification of the 2020 election result or reject it.
Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith said the attack on the Capitol was “fuelled by lies” from Mr Trump.
In a brief statement in Washington after the indictment was released, he said: “The attack on our nation’s capital on January 6, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy.”
Mr Smith said he would seek a speedy trial for the ex-president, who is due to appear before US district judge Tanya Chutkan tomorrow, though experts say it may be delayed.
Meanwhile Mr Pence unleashed his strongest condemnation yet of his former boss following news of the latest charges.
Mr Pence, who is among the Republican contenders running against Mr Trump for the party’s nomination in the 2024 election, said the charges serve as a reminder “anyone who puts himself over the constitution should never be President of the United States”.
In the third criminal case against him, Mr Trump has been charged by the US Justice Department over alleged schemes to subvert the transfer of power and keep him in office despite his loss to Joe Biden.
In London, Cabinet minister Grant Shapps told Sky News: “You wake up to these things most mornings, it seems to me. I leave it to the American judicial system.”
But he added: “The main point to make really is that actually our relationship with the US goes way beyond any individual or any particular adminstration. It’s been in place for many, many decades, indeed centuries now. So I will stick to the overall relationship rather than one individual.”
Mr Pence criticised Mr Trump’s actions surrounding the riot in Washington, which forced the vice-president to hide as some in the mob chanted “Hang Mike Pence”.
He said: “Our country is more important than one man. Our constitution is more important than any one man’s career.” He declined to testify before the committee investigating the riot but did testify before the federal grand jury investigating Mr Trump.
Judge Chutkan, who has been among the toughest punishers of people charged over the January 6 attack, refused Mr Trump’s request to block the release of documents to the House of Representatives committee by asserting his executive privilege.
In her ruling, she wrote: “Presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not President.”
Mr Trump denies doing anything wrong, with the indictment focusing on the two months between the November 2020 election and the Capitol riot. Federal prosecutors say he knew his alleged lies about his loss in the election were false and that he spread lies to create an “intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger” and “erode public faith in the administration of the election”.
Shortly before the new indictment, Mr Trump accused Mr Smith’s team of trying to interfere with the election with what he called “yet another fake indictment”.
Mr Trump’s campaign issued a statement calling the third indictment of the former president “nothing more than the latest corrupt chapter” in what the campaign characterised as a politically- motivated “witch hunt”.
The mounting criminal and civil cases against Mr Trump are unfolding in the heat of the 2024 race but a conviction would not prevent him from running again for the White House or serving as president.
New York state prosecutors have charged him with falsifying business records about a hush money pay-off to adult film star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election. That trial begins in late March.
In Florida, the Justice Department has brought more than three dozen felony counts against Mr Trump, accusing him of illegally possessing classified documents after leaving the White House and concealing them from the government. The trial on those charges begins in late May.
Prosecutors in Georgia are also investigating alleged efforts by Mr Trump and his allies to reverse his election loss. Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis has indicated she plans to bring charges in that case within the next three weeks.
Mr Trump denies any wrongdoing.
After serving as president from 2017 to 2021, he now leads a crowded field of Republican presidential candidates as he seeks a rematch next year with Joe Biden, 80.
Many Republicans, both elected officials and voters, have rallied behind him, portraying the charges against him as a Democratic plot to destroy him politically.
But strategists said while the indictments could help him solidify support within his base and win the Republican nomination, he may struggle to win over more sceptical moderate Republicans and independents in a showdown with Mr Biden.