Wyoming Delegation Blasts Justice Department Over Trump’s Jan. 6 Indictment
The latest charges draw similarities to Cheney-led Jan. 6 investigation
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Aug 03, 2023
Former President Donald Trump was indicted on Tuesday for his alleged role in orchestrating a conspiracy to overturn the results of the 2020 election. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
By Jacob Gardenswartz
Special to the Wyoming Truth
WASHINGTON — Former President Donald Trump was indicted by a grand jury on Tuesday for his alleged role in perpetuating three criminal conspiracies tied to his attempts to cling to power and overturn the results of the 2020 election leading up to and during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Though the newest charges represent the third indictment brought against Trump in recent months — the other two pertaining to his alleged mishandling of classified documents after leaving office and campaign finance violations and business fraud allegations in New York — they serve as the first opportunity for him to face true accountability for his alleged role in the Capitol attack. Trump, thus far, has avoided any formal rebuke stemming from his efforts to overturn the election, ducking a subpoena for testimony from a House panel investigating the insurrection and narrowly avoiding conviction in his second impeachment trial.
In brief remarks at the Department of Justice Tuesday evening, Special Counsel Jack Smith — tapped by U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland last year to independently oversee two preexisting investigations into the former president — took direct aim at Trump. The Jan. 6 attack, Smith said, was “an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy,” adding that Trump’s “lies” were “targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. government, the nation’s process of collecting, counting, and certifying the results of the presidential election.”
Noting Trump is presumed innocent until proven guilty, Smith added his office would seek a “speedy trial.” The case was randomly assigned to Judge Tanya Chutkan, known for her tough sentences against other Jan. 6 defendants.
Trump continues to maintain his innocence and claims the prosecution was political in nature. In social media posts Tuesday evening, he described Smith as “deranged” and equated his prosecution to that of “Nazi Germany.”
President Joe Biden has claimed independence from DOJ investigations and declined to comment on his former — and likely, soon-to-be — challenger’s case.
What’s in the charges — and why Cheney’s influence looms
Trump is charged with four felony counts: conspiracies to defraud the U.S., obstruct and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding and subvert Americans’ free exercise of Constitutional rights — in this case, the right to vote and have their votes counted.
“[F]or 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,” the 45-page document states. “These claims were false, and the Defendant knew that they were false.”
Smith’s indictment draws upon much of the evidence elucidated from the House Select Committee’s investigation into the Jan. 6 insurrection, with many sections mirroring focuses of the primetime hearings. Smith digs into Trump’s use of false slates of electors to overturn the will of voters in contested states, attempts to use his Justice Department to bolster his false claims of fraud, significant pressuring of then–Vice President Mike Pence to illegally halt the certification of Biden’s victory and refusal to call off the violent mob that breached the Capitol.
These actions were taken, per the indictment, as a part of Trump’s effort “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.”
Former Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), whose role as vice chair of the Jan. 6 investigatory panel all-but-doomed her reelection prospects, has stayed mum on the charges. But after the indictment was unsealed, her spokesman was quick to highlight the degree to which the committee’s final report laid out a roadmap for prosecutors to follow.
Though much of the evidence included in the charges had previously been made public through contemporaneous news reporting and in the Jan. 6 committee hearings, some new details were revealed.
According to the indictment, after Pence refused to agree to one of Trump’s many attempts to pressure him to violate the law and reject Biden’s electoral victory, the former president told his number two: “You’re too honest.”
During one of many conversations about the possible political and logistical outcomes of such an unprecedented situation, a White House official noted there would be “riots in every major city in the United States” if Trump were declared the winner. A top Trump advisor, one of six unnamed co-conspirators referenced in the indictment, responded: “that’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.”
As for evidence that Trump was repeatedly informed his voter fraud allegations were false, the indictment cites an email from a top campaign aide describing his view of the former president’s allegations: “[I]t’s all just conspiracy s–t beamed down from the mothership,” the person wrote.
Wyoming officials blast prosecution, but don’t defend Trump’s content
Wyoming’s congressional delegation was quick to criticize the indictment.
“The American people have lost faith in Biden’s Justice Department,” Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said in a statement. “They are uncomfortable watching the current president weaponize the justice system against his political opponent.”
“It’s becoming increasingly apparent that President Biden is weaponizing the Department of Justice to go after his political opponents. This is something you’d expect in a third world country, not the United States,” Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.) echoed.
“Joe Biden is abusing his power using his Justice Department to persecute his main political adversary. It’s corrupt and fundamentally against the very founding of our Nation,” posted Rep. Harriet Hageman (R-Wyo.), a top Trump defender. “I’m heartbroken for our Country.”
Chief among the GOP lawmakers’ critiques were supposed differences between how Trump’s case was handled and an ongoing case against Biden’s son Hunter; the younger Biden was set to plead guilty to federal tax charges in what many Republicans claimed was a “sweetheart” deal, though the agreement was indefinitely suspended amid questioning from a federal judge.
But unstated in the Wyoming leaders’ statements were any defenses of Trump’s conduct itself. Asked whether they believed the former president, as described in the indictment, acted honorably, they declined to comment.
On the campaign trail, Trump’s 2024 GOP primary rivals were split on how to approach the charges.
Some, like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, attacked the DOJ: “As President, I will end the weaponization of government, replace the FBI Director, and ensure a single standard of justice for all Americans,” he wrote, noting he had yet to read the indictment itself.
Others, like former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, leaned into the accusations. “The events around the White House from election night forward are a stain on our country’s history & a disgrace to the people who participated. This disgrace falls the most on Donald Trump,” he posted online.
But no candidate was more harsh in his assessment than Pence. Since leaving office, Pence has mostly shied away from criticizing his former boss despite Trump’s alleged nonchalance about the mob seeking to murder him on Jan. 6.
“Today’s indictment serves as an important reminder: anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be President of the United States,” Pence wrote in a campaign statement. “On January 6th, Former President Trump demanded that I choose between him and the Constitution. I chose the Constitution and I always will.”