TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The case against former President Trump is complicated. He’s been hit with a total of 78 felony counts in three separate cases. There’s a lot to break down.
Former prosecutor and 8 On Your Side Investigator Mahsa Saeidi talked to two local experts about the strength of Trump’s arraignment and where it goes from here.
No cameras were allowed in the courtroom Thursday, but reporters there say the judge was 15 minutes late. The mood was less tense than the prior arraignments but still, there is so much is on the line for the man crushing his 2024 GOP rivals.
The president went to court to face criminal charges for the third time, a scene, once unprecedented, now familiar.
Once again, he pled not guilty to all counts. Soon after, he told reporters it’s a sad day for America.
“This is a persecution of a political opponent,” Trump said. “This is a persecution of the person that’s leading by very very substantial numbers in the republican primary and leading Biden by a lot.”
But in 2020, Special Counsel Jack Smith says Mr. Trump lost to President Joe Biden. He knew it and yet, he allegedly plotted to stay in power.
Smith says you can lie, but you can’t pursue “unlawful means of discounting legitimate votes…” by, for example, pressuring your vice president to overturn the election.
Like Smith, attorney John M. Fitzgibbons, once worked at the DOJ’s Public Integrity Section.
“It’s a powerful indictment,” said Fitzgibbons.
Powerful, Fitzgibbons says, because it’s largely based on the testimony of those close to Trump.
The former president’s intent will be key.
“There are repeated and repeated and repeated witnesses that are described in the indictment as having told him, you’ve lost the election,” said Mr. Fitzgibbons.
Patrick Leduc is a criminal defense attorney who has represented a local Jan. 6 defendant.
“Their theory is that the President of the United States knew, in his mind, that he lost the election,” said Leduc.
Leduc says for a conspiracy charge, you must have an unlawful purpose, and if Trump believed he won the election, the case potentially falls apart.
“If we don’t start learning how to give one another grace and a little bit of forgiveness, we are going to tear ourselves apart.”
Mr. Fitzgibbons had this message for those who think this is a witch hunt.
“Well, at the end of the day, I hope that this trial will be televised so all of America can watch it.”
The first hearing for this case is set for Aug. 28.