Former U.S. President Donald Trump, who is seeking a return to the White House, faced federal court on Thursday, pleading not guilty to charges of conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
This marks the third criminal case against Trump, who has been indicted by the Justice Department (DOJ) for his alleged attempts to subvert the democratic process.
Trump on Tuesday called the DOJ’s move “nothing more than the latest corrupt chapter in the continued pathetic attempt by the Biden Crime Family and their weaponized Department of Justice to interfere with the 2024 Presidential Election, in which President Trump is the undisputed frontrunner, and leading by substantial margins.”
Exiting the federal courthouse in Washington, Trump maintained a serious demeanor, The Associated Press (AP) noted.
He had entered his plea in the same courthouse where over a thousand of his supporters have previously been charged for their involvement in the January 6, 2021 unrest at the U.S. Capitol, an event that disrupted the country’s certification process.
The conditions of Trump’s release stipulate that he must not discuss the case with any witnesses unless legal counsel is present.
“If you fail to comply with any conditions of your release, a warrant may be issued for your arrest,” warned Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya.
Throughout the hearing, Trump was seen taking notes and, at the end, he expressed his gratitude to the judge before exiting the courtroom.
The hearing was also attended by Special Counsel Jack Smith, who was seated in the front row of the courtroom gallery, a short distance from Trump and his defense team, per AP.
There was no apparent eye contact between Smith and Trump before or during the proceedings.
The subsequent hearing in Trump’s case has been scheduled for August 28, shortly after the first debate in the 2024 Republican presidential primary.
This upcoming hearing will be presided over by U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing the case brought by Special Counsel Smith.
Judge Upadhyaya indicated that Judge Chutkan is open to waiving Trump’s attendance at the hearing, where a trial date is expected to be set.
The timing of the hearing coincides with the first Republican presidential debate in Milwaukee, scheduled five days prior.
Despite Trump’s hints that he may not participate in the debate, he has not definitively ruled it out.
On Thursday, Trump entered a not guilty plea to federal conspiracy charges, which accuse him of scheming to undermine the will of voters and overturn his 2020 election defeat.
He was informed of the charges and potential penalties, with the most severe charges carrying a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
These charges, brought by Special Counsel Jack Smith, are the first attempt to criminally implicate Trump for his alleged efforts to obstruct the peaceful transition of power on Jan 6, 2021.
The charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruct Congress’ certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.
This court appearance follows Trump’s not guilty plea two months ago to numerous federal felony counts accusing him of allegedly mishandling classified documents and obstructing government efforts to retrieve them.
Trump, who is currently leading the 2024 Republican presidential primary, maintains his innocence.
His legal team has dismissed the latest case as an infringement on his right to free speech.