Trump pleads not guilty amid evidence of phone call to VP Pence

APTOPIX Trump Indictment

Former President Donald Trump.

Former U.S. President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday to federal charges that he orchestrated an unprecedented plot to try to overturn his 2020 election loss.

His plea in a Washington courtroom half a mile (1 km) from the U.S. Capitol, scene of the riot he caused, comes as court documents reveal how he pressured vice-president Mike Pence to decline certifying President Joe Biden’s victory.

The indictment describes a phone call in which Pence told Trump there was no legal basis for the theory that Pence could block certification of the election.

“You’re too honest,” Trump responded, according to prosecutors.

Although Pence repeatedly told Trump he lacked the authority to reject electoral votes from certain states, Trump kept repeating the claim.

On Jan. 6, as he spoke to his supporters before they attacked the Capitol, Trump said: “If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.” Some rioters at the Capitol later chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!”

Trump’s not-guilty plea, the third in four months – kicks off months of pretrial legal wrangling that will unfold against the backdrop of the presidential campaign, in which Trump is seeking a rematch against Democratic President Joe Biden.

In a 45-page indictment on Tuesday, Special Counsel Jack Smith accused Trump and his allies of promoting false claims the election was rigged, pressuring state and federal officials to alter the results and assembling fake slates of electors to try to wrest electoral votes from Biden.

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Smith was seated in the front row as Trump, wearing a blue suit and red tie, entered his plea before U.S. Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya. Trump sat with his hands folded while awaiting the judge’s entry.

Trump, 77, faces four counts, including conspiracy to defraud the U.S., to deprive citizens of their right to have their votes counted and to obstruct an official proceeding. The most serious charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.

Trump has portrayed the indictment, as well as the other criminal cases against him, as a “witch hunt” intended to derail his White House campaign. In a series of social media posts since Tuesday, he has accused the Biden administration of targeting him for political gain.

He previously pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he retained classified documents after leaving office and New York state charges that he falsified documents in connection with hush money payments to a porn star.

Trump may soon face more charges in Georgia, where a state prosecutor is investigating his attempts to overturn the election there. The Atlanta-area prosecutor, Fani Willis, has said she will file indictments by mid-August.

“I NEED ONE MORE INDICTMENT TO ENSURE MY ELECTION!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social media platform ahead of his Thursday court appearance.

Many of the allegations in Tuesday’s indictment had been well-documented in media reports and the investigation conducted by a U.S. House of Representatives select committee.

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