Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Thursday to charges he orchestrated a plot to try to overturn his 2020 election loss in what US prosecutors call an unprecedented effort by the then-president to undermine the pillars of American democracy.
Special Counsel Jack Smith, who has overseen the federal investigation, looked on from the courtroom’s front row as Trump entered his plea before US Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya.
“Not guilty,” Trump said, emphasizing the first word.
The arraignment, lasting about half an hour, took place in a Washington courthouse half a mile (1 km) from the US Capitol, the building Trump’s supporters stormed on Jan. 6, 2021, to try to stop Congress from certifying his defeat.
It was the third time Trump has pleaded not guilty since April, with months of pretrial legal wrangling expected against the backdrop of the 2024 presidential campaign, in which Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination to take on Democratic President Joe Biden.
In a 45-page indictment on Tuesday, 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.
Trump, 77, faces four counts, including conspiracy to defraud the US, to deprive citizens of their voting rights and to obstruct an official proceeding. The most serious charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
The next court date in the case will be Aug. 28 before US District Judge Tanya Chutkan, though Upadhyaya said Trump would not be required to attend. Chutkan intends to set a trial date at that time, Upadhyaya said.