Special Counsel Jack Smith filed charges against former President Trump Tuesday on multiple charges, including conspiring to defraud the United States, obstructing an official proceeding, and conspiring to injure, oppress, threaten a person in the “free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States.” The charges mark a significant milestone in the story of Trump’s years-long effort to deny the legitimacy of the election he lost and to overturn Joe Biden’s victory.
The indictment amounts to another in a series of emphatic rejections of election denial since the 2020 election.
Judges were the first to reject Trump’s particular brand of election denial. In the weeks after the election, the Trump campaign and political allies filed 62 lawsuits challenging the results in various states. All of them failed to affect any election result, rejected by state and federal judges appointed by members of both parties — including some by Trump himself. Some of the lawsuits were so flimsy — based on clear falsehoods and no evidence at all — that they lead to disciplinary sanctions for the lawyers who filed them. (The only claim that held up — that Pennsylvania voters who didn’t provide proper identification at the poll couldn’t go back and fix the issue more than three days later — didn’t come remotely close to changing the result in the state and wouldn’t have favored any particular candidate regardless.)
The people themselves then had their say. Voters last year repudiated Trump’s election denial. In the 2022 elections, many candidates echoed Trump’s claims that the presidential election was stolen, including in battleground-state races for senator and governor. Some, running for offices that will oversee future elections like secretary of state, centered their pitch to voters around the Big Lie. But it was not a winning strategy.
Early on, election denial seemed to give candidates an advantage in both fundraising and votes in Republican primaries. But in the general election, candidates who cast doubt on President Biden’s win fared poorly. Election deniers underperformed other candidates from the same party in their state, especially in races for secretary of state, which in most states is the official in charge of elections. In fact, while some election deniers won in deep red states, across all battleground states, every election denier running for statewide office lost.
A federal prosecutor has now weighed in, charging that the actions Trump took under the pretext of election denial were criminal. These charges are yet another confirmation that no widespread fraud took place in the 2020 presidential election. Every recount, law enforcement investigation, and serious journalistic inquiry across the nation has reached the same conclusion. And it’s been revealed that Fox News hosts pushing this conspiracy theory didn’t even believe the claims, according to text messages obtained in defamation lawsuit against the company brought by Dominion Voter Systems and settled for a punishing sum.
Over the last two years, election denial has been proven false so many times that another debunking is unremarkable — this one, however, is historic in that it comes with charges against a former president.