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Trump pleads not guilty at arraignment on federal charges in 2020 election probe

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Trump pleads not guilty after Jan. 6 indictment
Trump pleads not guilty following Jan. 6 indictment 03:20

Washington — Former President Donald Trump appeared in a federal courtroom Thursday for his arraignment on four felony charges accusing him of trying to overturn the 2020 election results, pleading not guilty in the latest case brought by special counsel Jack Smith.

Trump appeared before a magistrate judge in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to deny the charges, which are the most serious criminal allegations he is facing. While cameras were not allowed in the courtroom, CBS News reporters were on the scene to document the proceeding.

When the arraignment got underway shortly after 4 p.m., the former president stood to be sworn in, stating his name and age. Judge Moxila Upadhyaya then formally read the charges and reminded him of his rights. He said he understood, and entered his plea of "not guilty." Smith was present for the hearing, the second time he and Trump have come face to face in a federal courtroom.

The judge agreed to release Trump under the conditions that he not violate federal law and appear in court when required. He is also barred from discussing the facts of the case with any potential witnesses, except through attorneys. The arraignment lasted about a half an hour. The next hearing is set for Aug. 28 before a different judge who will now oversee the case, but Trump will not be required to attend.

A federal grand jury hearing evidence in Smith's investigation approved a historic indictment on Tuesday charging Trump with four felony counts: conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding; and conspiracy against rights. 

The 45-page charging document accuses Trump and six co-conspirators of pursuing several schemes to block the transfer of power to Joe Biden after Trump lost the 2020 election, culminating in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. The indictment alleges Trump knew his claims of widespread voter fraud were false but "repeated and widely disseminated them anyway — to make his knowingly false claims appear legitimate, create an intense national atmosphere of mistrust and anger, and erode public faith in the administration of the election."

The former president traveled from New Jersey on his private plane for Thursday's hearing. His motorcade made its way into D.C., weaving through downtown traffic on its way to the courthouse near the Capitol. Trump has denounced Smith's probe as politically motivated and denies any wrongdoing.

This was Trump's third arraignment on criminal charges in four months. In April, he was booked and processed in New York on state charges related to an alleged "hush money" payment to an adult film star in 2016. In June, he appeared in court in Miami to face federal charges in Smith's parallel investigation into his handling of classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago resort. He pleaded not guilty in those cases, as well.


Trump speaks after arraignment: "A very sad day for America"

Former President Donald Trump speaks before he boards his plane at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, in Arlington, Virginia.
Former President Donald Trump speaks before he boards his plane at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023, in Arlington, Virginia. Alex Brandon / AP

The former president spoke briefly to reporters on the tarmac in Virginia before he departed. He reiterated much of what he has said for months, insisting President Biden and his allies are trying to damage him politically.

"A very sad day for America," the former president said, standing under an umbrella in the rain. "And it was also very sad driving through Washington, D.C., and seeing the filth and the decay and all of the broken buildings and walls and the graffiti. This is not the place that I love. It's a very sad thing to see.

"When you look at what's happening, this is a persecution of a political opponent," he continued. "This was never supposed to happen in America. This is the persecution of the person that's leading by very, very substantial numbers in the Republican primary and leading Biden by a lot. So if you can't beat him, you persecute him or you prosecute him. We can't let this happen in America. Thank you very much."

Taking no questions, Trump climbed the stairs to his plane and boarded.

By Caitlin Yilek

How strong is the case against Trump? Lawyers weigh in

Former Trump attorney Tim Parlatore says the special counsel's case will come down to what Trump knew about false claims of fraud following the 2020 election, as well as the testimony of witnesses including former Attorney General Bill Barr. Parlatore predicted the case will "totally die" in front of a jury. 

But CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman and former federal prosecutor Scott Fredericksen disagreed with his assessment of the case. 

"Bill Barr will hit it out of the park," Fredericksen said.

Watch their full comments in the video below:

Former Trump attorney Tim Parlatore says case against former president will "totally die" in front of a jury 08:16

Trump exits courtroom after hearing concludes

Trump has now left the courtroom. 

Moments before, the judge ordered the Justice Department to submit a brief about how long the case will take, including a proposed trial date, ahead of the next hearing. Trump's team must respond. 

Trump attorney John Lauro said his team might need more time to gain an "understanding of the magnitude of discovery … and the degree to which there is exculpatory evidence." 

Prosecutor Thomas Windom said that once a protective order is issued, they are ready to begin handing over the evidence.

"I can guarantee everybody that there will be a fair trial," the judge responded.

By Robert Legare

Next hearing set for Aug. 28

Trump's first hearing before U.S. District Judge Chutkan, who now takes over the case, is scheduled for Aug. 28 at 10 a.m. Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya said she had consulted with Chutkan and they agreed to waive Trump's appearance for that date. 

By Robert Legare

Trump, prosecutors agree on conditions for release

Both the prosecutors and the defense agreed to the conditions for the former president's release pending trial. Trump cannot violate federal law, must appear in court as required and sign an appearance bond. He is also not allowed to communicate about the facts of the case to anyone he knows to be a witness, except through attorneys. 

The judge also reminded Trump it is a crime to intimidate a juror, bribe anyone or obstruct the administration of justice, a standard disclaimer in a criminal case. Asked if he understood, Trump responded that he did. 

By Robert Legare

Trump pleads not guilty

A sketch of former President Donald Trump appearing in court to plead not guilty to federal charges in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023.
A sketch of former President Donald Trump appearing in court to plead not guilty to federal charges in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023. William J. Hennessy, Jr.

Trump stood at the end of the defense table as his attorney John Lauro went to the podium. 

Trump said he pleaded "not guilty" to the charges.

By Robert Legare

Trump is read his rights and formally hears charges

When prompted, Trump stated his name and age to the judge. 

The judge read the four charges and potential penalties Trump faces, including the 20-year maximum sentence for the charge of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and obstruction of an official proceeding. 

Trump looked at the judge as she slowly read the charges and potential penalties. 

The judge read Trump his rights, including his right to remain silent and right to an attorney. He responded that "yes," he understood. 

By Robert Legare

Judge enters courtroom as arraignment gets underway

Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya entered the courtroom about 20 minutes after Trump arrived.

Trump and the rest of the courtroom stood in attention and then were seated again as the proceeding began.

The clerk announced the case name — United States of America v. Donald J. Trump — and the former president stood, raised his hand and was sworn in.

Trump is to Upadhyaya's right, and prosecutors are seated to her left. 

Before the judge came in, Trump was flanked by his attorneys, chatting primarily with Todd Blanche. His hands were mostly folded on the wooden table. 

By Robert Legare

Trump arrives in courtroom, seated with attorneys

Trump arrived in the courtroom as the arraignment prepared to get underway. He walked slowly over to the prosecution table and sat down. He is now seated between his attorneys John Lauro to his left and Todd Blanche to his right. 

He was speaking back and forth with his attorneys and at times looking around the room at the gallery, with his hands clasped.

Jack Smith, the special counsel, is also on hand for the proceeding.

By Robert Legare

Costa: Special counsel still investigating behind the scenes

The special counsel's office is still continuing its investigation behind the scenes, CBS News chief election and campaign correspondent Robert Costa said on a CBS Special Report. He noted there is "a lot of work simultaneously going on inside the Justice Department."

The indictment only tells part of a story, and investigators likely have more evidence, Costa said. 

By Kathryn Watson

Trump's motorcade arrives at D.C. courthouse

The motorcade of former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives at the Elijah Barrett Prettyman Courthouse on Aug. 3, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
The motorcade of former President Donald Trump arrives at the Elijah Barrett Prettyman Courthouse on Aug. 3, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

The former president's motorcade has arrived at the federal courthouse in Washington, the same courthouse where hundreds of defendants have been prosecuted for their roles in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Aides and allies spotted emerging from Trump's plane with him included Alina Habba, the general counsel for Save America PAC, and top campaign advisers Susie Wiles, Chris LaCivita, Jason Miller and Steven Cheung. Political and legal adviser Boris Epshteyn was also on the plane. 

By Kathryn Watson

Who is Moxila Upadhyaya, the judge overseeing Trump's arraignment?

Trump will appear before Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya for his arraignment.

As a magistrate judge, Upadhyaya's role in the case will be brief. In federal cases, defendants appear before magistrate judges for their initial hearings, where they formally hear the charges against them and typically enter pleas. The magistrate judge decides whether the defendant will be released as the case proceeds, and under what conditions.

The case will then be taken over by U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan, who was randomly assigned to oversee it.

Upadhyaya was appointed as a magistrate judge on Sept. 7, 2022, according to her D.C. District Court biography

She was born in Gujarat, India, and raised near Kansas City, Missouri. She graduated from the University of Missouri and went on to receive her law degree from American University, Washington College of Law. 

She clerked for two years for Judge Eric Washington, former chief judge of the D.C. Court of Appeals, and then joined law firm Venable LLP, practicing commercial and administrative litigation. She also was the first law clerk for Judge Robert Wilkins during his tenure as a district judge. 

As part of her pro bono practice, she represented indigent clients in post-conviction proceedings. 

Venable named her its pro bono lawyer of the year in 2006 and the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project awarded her its Defender of Innocence Award in 2009.

By Caitlin Yilek

Trump touches down outside D.C.

The former president's plane has touched down at Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington.

From there, his motorcade is expected to go straight to the federal courthouse in D.C., a short drive away.

It's not yet clear if the president will speak to supporters or the press at any point in the day. 

By Kathryn Watson

Trump plane takes off from New Jersey en route to Washington

Former President Donald Trump's personal plane prepares to take off from Newark, New Jersey, en route to Washington, D.C., for his arraignment on federal charges.
Former President Donald Trump's personal plane prepares to take off from Newark, New Jersey, en route to Washington, D.C., for his arraignment on federal charges. WCBS

Trump left his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, on Thursday afternoon to travel to Washington for his court appearance. 

A news helicopter flying near the club spotted the former president getting into a black SUV, and his motorcade soon departed with a police escort. Golfers watched as the vehicles winded their way toward the exit and onto the main road.

After a short ride to the airport in Newark, the former president boarded his Trump-branded personal plane at 1:23 p.m. The plane took off shortly after 2 p.m., and he is now on his way to Washington for his arraignment. 

By Kathryn Watson

Scenes from the D.C. courthouse where Trump will be arraigned

Journalists line up to enter the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse on Aug. 3, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
Journalists line up to enter the Elijah Barrett Prettyman Courthouse on Aug. 3, 2023, in Washington, D.C.  Roberto Schmidt / Getty Images

The Elijah Barrett Prettyman U.S. Courthouse in Washington is usually one of the busiest federal courts in the country. But on Thursday, all the courtrooms are quiet, as those in the block-long building prepare for Trump's arraignment.

Inside, dozens of reporters are waiting for the hearing to begin. Few will be allowed to attend in person, with a lottery system used to determine which members of the media will be let inside the courtroom. Those who don't win the lottery will watch on monitors in overflow rooms as Trump enters his not guilty plea.

Outside the court, media and news trucks may outnumber supporters and critics of Trump who made the trip to the courthouse, just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

But what they lack in crowd size, they make up for in fervor, bellowing into bullhorns and waving flags and signs. During Trump's previous two arraignments — in June, on charges in the Mar-a-Lago documents case, and in April, on New York state felony charges related to alleged falsification of business records — there were larger crowds, and perhaps more noise.

Wednesday's hubbub can barely be heard at the National Gallery of Art across the street, where tourists are perusing the paintings and drawings of 20th century modern art giant Philip Guston.

By Graham Kates

Trump says he's heading to D.C. for arraignment

Trump said on his social media platform Truth Social that he is heading to Washington for his arraignment. The former president has been staying at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he spends the summer.


Soon after the 2020 election, officials in Trump's own administration said it was the safest and most secure in history.

The Trump indictment acknowledged that he "had a right, like every American, to speak publicly about the election and even to claim, falsely, that there had been outcome-determinative fraud during the election and that he had won." But it also alleged that he "pursued unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes and subverting the election results."

By Kathryn Watson

Law enforcement officials see no specific threats ahead of arraignment

Several law enforcement officials involved in security said they have seen no increase in threats against Judge Tanya Chutkan since the Trump indictment was unveiled on Tuesday.

A magistrate judge is overseeing Thursday's arraignment, and Chutkan has been assigned to oversee the prosecution moving forward.

Chutkan has presided over numerous Jan. 6-related cases, and has received threats in the past. But officials have not seen any specific threats, and have not identified planned protests by organized groups.

There have also been no specific threats identified against prosecutors or law enforcement, officials said. Law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshals and Secret Service, have increased security ahead of Thursday's arraignment.

Smith, the special counsel, has a security detail assigned specifically to him. 

By Pat Milton

Trump attorneys likely to seek delay of trial

What to expect from Trump's third criminal arraignment 10:35

The former president's legal team is already inundated with their review of documents in the case over Trump's handling of classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago, and is still dealing with the New York case over alleged "hush money" payments.

Citing those legal burdens, his attorneys are expected to argue in the coming weeks that any trial over Trump's handling of the 2020 election aftermath needs to be delayed, according to conversations with people familiar with the investigation. 

They are expected to argue that a full, extensive discovery process in the Jan. 6 investigation could take months as their client deals with multiple cases. The trial in the classified documents case is scheduled to begin in May 2024.

Trump's legal team in the Jan. 6 case includes Todd Blanche, John Lauro and Evan Corcoran.

His lawyers also plan to push for a change of venue, and the former president will keep calling for the case to be moved to conservative West Virginia. But sources said this is likely more of a political talking point than a legal strategy that could yield a change in venue. Inside Trump's broader circle of allies, there is little to no expectation that this will happen.

Smith, the special counsel, is expected to be in the courtroom this afternoon, like he was when Trump was arraigned in Miami in June.

By focusing intensely on Trump, Smith and his team are hoping for a speedy trial and for others involved in the alleged scheme to cooperate further with the government. "They want to break the co-conspirators and aren't ruling out indictments of them," one source said.

By Robert Costa

Trump indictment portrays Pence as crucial figure in special counsel's case

How Mike Pence factors into the Jan. 6 probe, charges against Trump 02:27

The Trump indictment makes clear that former Vice President Mike Pence is a critical witness in the prosecution's case against the former president.

In the indictment, Pence is portrayed as the central figure resisting Trump and his co-conspirators' alleged schemes to delay the transfer of power before and on Jan. 6, 2021, repeatedly rebuffing Trump's demands that he reject the Electoral College results while overseeing a joint session of Congress.

Pence's actions in the lead-up to Jan. 6 have been well-documented, including by the House committee that investigated the attack and by Pence himself. He recently wrote a memoir that described his experience after the 2020 election and on Jan. 6.

But the indictment provides new insight into just how crucial Pence's recollections and "contemporaneous notes" were to special counsel Jack Smith and his investigators as they built a case that resulted in Tuesday's historic indictment. Pence appeared before the grand jury hearing evidence in Smith's investigation for seven hours in April after initially resisting a subpoena for his testimony.

Read more about what the indictment says about Pence here.

By Kathryn Watson

Trump won't have his mugshot taken, official says

A U.S. official tells CBS News that Thursday's arraignment will mirror the process that unfolded before his first arraignment on federal charges in Miami in June. That appearance came after Smith filed charges related to his parallel investigation into the discovery of classified documents at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home after he left the White House.

On Thursday, Trump will be "processed" by U.S. Marshals at the federal courthouse in Washington before appearing in court, the official said. His fingerprints will be taken digitally and his information will be collected, but he won't have to sit for a mugshot, according to this official.

The judge overseeing Thursday's arraignment is Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya. District Judge Tanya Chutkan was randomly selected to oversee the prosecution moving forward.

By Robert Legare

Trump attorney vows strong defense, may seek change of venue

Former President Donald Trump's attorney John Lauro on special counsel's Jan. 6 indictment 06:48

Trump's attorney John Lauro characterized the second federal indictment of his client as an unprecedented criminalization of political speech.

"This is the first time that political speech has been criminalized in the history of the United States," Lauro told "CBS Mornings" on Wednesday.

"We are in a constitutional abyss right now. We've never seen this," he said. "The president wants his day in court. Most importantly, he wants to get to the truth, which we will do in this case."

Lauro said the defense team may seek a change of venue to West Virginia or another part of the country to ensure a fair trial.

Read more here.

By Analisa Novak

Who are the co-conspirators in the Trump indictment?

Six unnamed co-conspirators are described in the Trump indictment. The document doesn't identify them, but based on details in the indictment, past reporting and sources close to the investigation, their alleged actions — and sometimes their own words — appear to match these identities. At least five of them are lawyers, according to the indictment.

Photos of possible co-conspirators in Trump indictment
Photos of the possible co-conspirators in the Trump indictment. CBS News

Read more about the co-conspirators, and who they may be, here.


Read the full text of the Trump indictment

The indictment was returned by the federal grand jury on Tuesday and charges Trump with four felony counts. Read it in full here:

By Stefan Becket
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