August 3, 2023 Trump pleads not guilty on 2020 election interference charges

By Aditi Sangal, Matt Meyer, Maureen Chowdhury, Elise Hammond and Tori B. Powell, CNN

Updated 8:27 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023
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8:27 a.m. ET, August 4, 2023

Here are some key takeaways from Trump's arraignment

From CNN's Tierney Sneed

Court sketch of moment Donald Trump plead "not guilty," with special counsel Jack Smith seen on the far left.
Court sketch of moment Donald Trump plead "not guilty," with special counsel Jack Smith seen on the far left. Sketch by Bill Hennessy

Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in a Washington, DC, federal courthouse Thursday to federal criminal charges stemming from his plots to overturn the 2020 election, in a 27-minute proceeding where the first flashes of the defense’s tactics emerged.

It was the third occasion that Trump was arraigned on criminal charges this year, and the hearing marked the public debut of the team of lawyers in special counsel Jack Smith’s office who will be leading the prosecution.

Here are key takeaways from the hearing:

Conflicts about the case schedule are emerging: In the classified documents case that Smith has also brought against the former president in June, the Trump team has sought to slow-walk the schedule for the proceedings. There were hints of a similar strategy in the first hearing in the election subversion case.

Much of Thursday’s hearing was staid and to-script. But the tone sharpened when the judge said the prosecutors should file recommendations for the trial date and length in seven days, and that the Trump team should respond within seven days after that.

Trump attorney John Lauro told the judge that they would need to look at the amount of evidence they’ll be receiving from the government — which he said could be “massive” — before they could address that question.

“There is no question in our mind, your honor, that Mr. Trump is entitled to a fair and just trial,” Lauro said, nodding both to Trump’s right to a speedy trial as well as his right to due process.

Prosecutor Thomas Windom previewed that the special counsel would propose this case unfolding under a normal timeline under the Speedy Trial Act, which sets a time limit —unless certain exemptions are sought — for criminal cases to go to trial.

Trump’s court and campaign calendar is growing crowded: There’s likely to be more added to the pile of legal problems on the former president’s plate.

In Georgia, in the coming weeks, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is expected to bring charges in her election subversion probe and it’s possible that Trump will be indicted in that.

And then there’s the other case from Smith alleging Trump mishandled classified documents from his White House and then obstructed the probe into the materials.

That case is currently scheduled to go to trial next May, and there will be regular pre-trial proceedings (at which, Trump is not required to appear) before that. There’s also the criminal case that Manhattan prosecutors brought against Trump for a 2016 campaign hush-money scheme, currently slated for trial in March.

This court calendar is overlaid against his 2024 campaign schedule as well. The first Republican presidential debate, for instance, is on August 23.

Read more takeaways here

CNN’s Hannah Rabinowitz, Holmes Lybrand and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

9:17 p.m. ET, August 3, 2023

Trump was in a sour and dejected mood following his arraignment, sources say

From CNN's Kaitlan Collins

Trump arrives to board his plane at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Thursday, August 3, in Arlington, Virginia.
Trump arrives to board his plane at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Thursday, August 3, in Arlington, Virginia. Alex Brandon/AP

Former President Donald Trump left the Washington, DC, courthouse Thursday in a sour and dejected mood after pleading not guilty, multiple sources familiar with his mindset told CNN.

Trump was “pissed off” after he motorcaded through traffic, the sources said.

After the 27-minute legal proceeding, the former president did not take questions as he had planned to do at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport before his return flight to New Jersey.

Trump did speak briefly to the media, criticizing the charges and claiming he was being persecuted because he was running for office.

Trump had been fingerprinted and processed at the E. Barrett Prettyman Courthouse before he pleaded not guilty to four criminal charges related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

One aspect of the hearing that irked the former president — who is still referred to by his former title when at his Bedminster golf club or Mar-a-Lago resort — was when Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya referred to him as simply “Mr. Trump.”

9:24 p.m. ET, August 3, 2023

Speaker Kevin McCarthy falsely compares Trump's stolen election claims to Clinton and Gore

From CNN's Morgan Rimmer and Manu Raju 

McCarthy speaks to reporters in his district on Thursday, August 3.
McCarthy speaks to reporters in his district on Thursday, August 3. From Speaker McCarthy’s Offic/Youtube

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy falsely compared the former president's "stolen" election claims to actions taken by Democrats Hillary Clinton and Al Gore after they lost their White House bids.

Even though Clinton and Gore both conceded their losses and didn't take the array of actions detailed in special counsel Jack Smith's case against Trump, McCarthy tried to say that Trump was being unfairly prosecuted for his "thoughts," which he compared to Gore and Clinton after their losses.

"But were any of them prosecuted? Were any of them put in jail? Were any of them held with no response to be able to get out? The answer is no," McCarthy said, speaking to reporters in his district after Trump's arraignment in federal court Thursday.
"You are entitled to raise a question. You're entitled to question whether it was honest or not. That's the uniqueness of the First Amendment. That's the uniqueness of America, but you know what, you shouldn't be prosecuted for your thoughts," the speaker added.

Trump — unlike Clinton and Gore — continued to perpetuate the false claim that he actually won the 2020 election, took a series of steps aimed at pressuring state and federal officials to keep him in power and called on his supporters to hold a rally on January 6, 2021, which ultimately led to the insurrection at the US Capitol.

7:02 p.m. ET, August 3, 2023

Trump pleaded not guilty to 4 criminal charges in federal court. Here's what happened

From CNN staff

A courtroom sketch shows Trump standing between his attorneys Todd Blanche and John Lauro as he takes an oath before Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya in federal court on Thursday, August 3.
A courtroom sketch shows Trump standing between his attorneys Todd Blanche and John Lauro as he takes an oath before Magistrate Judge Moxila A. Upadhyaya in federal court on Thursday, August 3. Sketch by Jane Rosenberg/Reuters

Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to four counts in federal court in Washington, DC, on Thursday afternoon.

He was indicted in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election leading up to the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

This is Trump's third arrest in four months.

Here's what to know about today's events:

  • What happened: Trump traveled from his Bedminster, New Jersey, resort to Washington, DC, with two of his lawyers. When he arrived at the courthouse, he was placed under arrest and processed. During the arraignment, after Trump was sworn in, the judge asked him a few questions, including his name and his age. When asked how he pleaded to the counts in the indictment, Trump pleaded not guilty to the four charges. He was released from custody pending trial.
  • What it was like in court: Special counsel Jack Smith was present in the courtroom. He and Trump were seated about 15 feet apart and exchanged several glances as they waited for the hearing to start, according to sources inside. More than 50 members of the press, public and court staff were also in the room along with Secret Service and other security. Seven judges from the court observed the proceedings in the back row.
  • What Trump said: After leaving the courthouse, Trump gave brief remarks to reporters on the tarmac before boarding his plane back to New Jersey. He criticized the latest charges and said the indictment was “persecution of a political opponent." He added, "This is a very sad day for America." It was the first time he spoke publically since the indictment was handed down on Tuesday.
  • The judges: The former president appeared before Magistrate Judge Moxila Upadhyaya. Handling the case going forward will be federal District Judge Tanya Chutkan who has repeatedly spoken out in very strong terms against the efforts to overturn the election and disrupt the transfer of power. She was randomly appointed to oversee the special counsel’s criminal case but is no stranger to January 6 litigation.
  • Security: Security was tight outside and inside the federal courthouse where Trump was arraigned. DC’s Metropolitan Police Department led security in the district while US Secret Service oversaw the protection of the former president and the US Marshals Service ran security inside the courthouse. After the arraignment, law enforcement officials continued to monitor protests but did not see any major issues.  
  • What's next: The next hearing in the election subversion case is set for August 28 at 10 a.m. ET. The proceeding will happen before Judge Chutkan who intends to set the trial date. The Trump team requested this day which was the latest of the three options offered by the magistrate judge.
7:21 p.m. ET, August 3, 2023

Key things to know about Trump's 3 indictments

From CNN's Dan Berman

Trump boards his plane at Reagan National Airport on Thursday, August 3.
Trump boards his plane at Reagan National Airport on Thursday, August 3. Win McNamee/Getty Images

It’s been eight years since he rode down the escalator in Trump Tower and more than two years since the January 6, 2021, insurrection, but the legal drama surrounding Donald Trump has never been more intense.

Here are key things to know about the former president's three indictments:

Hush-money payments: In New York, a hush-money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels resulted in Trump's indictment by a Manhattan grand jury over his alleged role in the scheme – the first time in American history that a current or former president was criminally charged. He was charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

The former president surrendered and was placed under arrest April 4, before he was arraigned in a historic and unprecedented court appearance, at which he pleaded not guilty.

Mar-a-Lago documents: Special counsel Jack Smith is overseeing the Justice Department’s criminal investigations into the retention of national defense information at Trump’s resort and into parts of the January 6, 2021, insurrection.

Trump was initially indicted on, and has pleaded not guilty to, 37 federal charges related to the investigation of documents that were allegedly mishandled when they were taken to Mar-a-Lago in Florida after Trump left office. Last week, Smith charged Trump with three additional counts in a superseding indictment.

A judge has set a May 2024 start date for the trial.

2020 election and January 6: Smith’s purview also includes the period after Trump’s 2020 election loss to Joe Biden and leading up to the insurrection at the US Capitol.

A federal grand jury indicted Trump on four criminal counts in the investigation: conspiracy to defraud the United States; conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding; obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding; and conspiracy against rights. Trump pleaded not guilty to the federal charges on Thursday.

The next hearing is set for August 28 at 10 a.m. ET.

Read more.

6:41 p.m. ET, August 3, 2023

Walt Nauta, co-defendant in classified documents case, greets Trump at airport

From CNN's Alayna Treene and Kaanita Iyer

Walt Nauta hands Trump an umbrella as he arrives to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on August 3, after his arraignment in court. 
Walt Nauta hands Trump an umbrella as he arrives to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on August 3, after his arraignment in court.  Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Walt Nauta, Donald Trump’s aide and co-defendant in the special counsel's case in Florida alleging mishandling of classified documents, was spotted at the airport following the former president’s arraignment. 

Nauta greeted Trump as he exited his motorcade and handed the former president an umbrella. Trump then made brief remarks. 

Nauta, a 40-year-old Navy veteran, is one of three defendants in the classified documents probe and has been accused of helping Trump hide classified documents from the federal government. Nauta served as a military valet in the Trump White House and traveled to Florida with Trump when he left office, eventually taking on the role of his personal aide. 

Nauta has pleaded not guilty to the charges, including obstruction. 

6:15 p.m. ET, August 3, 2023

The district judge assigned to preside over Trump's criminal case is no stranger to January 6 litigation

From CNN's Hannah Rabinowitz and Marshall Cohen

District Judge Tanya Chutkan
District Judge Tanya Chutkan From the Administrative Office of the US Courts

District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who's assigned to preside over former President Donald Trump’s criminal case in Washington, DC, has repeatedly spoken out in very strong terms against the efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and disrupt the transfer of power. 

In November 2021, Chutkan forcefully rejected Trump’s attempts to block the House select committee investigating January 6 from accessing more than 700 pages of records from his White House.

“Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President,” Chutkan wrote in her ruling.

Chutkan has been outspoken about the riot at several sentencing hearings – calling the violence an assault on American democracy and warning of future danger from political violence – and has repeatedly gone over what prosecutors have requested for convicted rioters’ prison sentences. 

At a December 2021 sentencing hearing, she looked ahead to the 2024 election, saying that “every day we are hearing about reports of anti-democratic factions, people plotting potential violence in 2024."

“It has to be made clear that trying to stop the peaceful transition of power, assaulting law enforcement, is going to be met with certain punishment,” she said. 

Chutkan has even tacitly referenced Trump during criminal sentencings, saying to one rioter that he “did not go to the United States Capitol out of any love for our country. … He went for one man.”

At a sentencing hearing on October 4, 2021, she acknowledged the nationwide attention on the Capitol riot cases. 

"The country is watching to see what the consequences are for something that has not ever happened in the country before,” she said, adding that the January 6 rioters “soiled and defaced the halls of the Capitol and showed their contempt for the rule of law."

At that same hearing, she also rejected comparisons between January 6 and the 2020 protests against racial inequality. 

"To compare the actions of people around the country protesting, mostly peacefully, for civil rights, to a violent mob seeking to overthrow the lawfully elected government is a false equivalency and downplays the very real danger that the crowd on January 6 posed to our democracy,” she said. 

Read more here.

5:48 p.m. ET, August 3, 2023

Authorities kept an eye on demonstrators outside the courthouse but did not report any security issues

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand

Following the arraignment of former President Donald Trump, law enforcement officials continue to monitor protests in Washington, DC, but have seen no major issues.  

Federal and local law enforcement — which are coordinating closely on security efforts — are keeping an eye on the situation around DC, but have not had to address any major threats or disturbances, sources familiar with the situation tell CNN. 

Protesters have largely left the courthouse as rain began to pour down. Some protesters let off small firecrackers before leaving.

Many in the crowds gathered around the building were simply observing the small groups of protesters and the large media presence.

6:39 p.m. ET, August 3, 2023

7 judges and 2 Capitol Police officers among hearing watchers

From CNN's Kaanita Iyer

Seven judges of the DC federal court observed former President Donald Trump's proceeding from the back row.

CNN’s Katelyn Polantz, who was in the courtroom, reports their appearance underlines the importance of the proceeding and how January 6, 2021, riot cases and special counsel investigations have become so core to the Washington courthouse.

Among the judges who attended: Chief Judge James Boasberg, who had weighed and rejected Trump's efforts to block former Vice President Mike Pence's grand jury testimony in the special counsel’s 2020 election interference probe, and Judges Amy Berman Jackson and Randolph Moss, who memorably sentenced criminal defendants in the Mueller investigation who had worked for Trump's campaign. 

Also in attendance at the courthouse Thursday were Harry Dunn, the US Capitol Police officer who was the target of racist slurs during the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, and former Capitol Police Sgt. Aquilino Gonell, who was injured that day. They watched the hearing from a room with live video of the proceedings. 

Nicole Reffitt -- the wife of the first January 6 defendant to go to trial and be convicted -- was spotted in the courthouse earlier in the day. Reffitt is often seen at the sentencing hearings and trials.

Trump’s arraignment drew several other members of the public, more than 50 journalists and court staff.