Former U.S. President Donald Trump arrives for his arraignment at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 04, 2023, in New York City.

These Three Revealing Lines From the Trump Indictment Are Truly Chilling

After two impeachment trials, the extensive hearings conducted by the House Select Committee on the January 6 attack, and numerous court filings, you might not think there’s anything shocking left to learn about former President Donald Trump’s attempts to abuse power or gut democracy. And yet. And yet! Every reveal adds new, disturbing, and well-documented dimensions to his anti-democratic rampage.

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Jack Smith, the independent special counsel leading the federal investigation, announced late Tuesday that the grand jury voted to indict Trump on four criminal charges: Conspiracy to Defraud the United States, Conspiracy to Obstruct an Official Proceeding, Obstruction of and Attempts to Obstruct an Official Proceeding, and Conspiracy Against Rights. For those keeping track at home, the former president is now up to three indictments and 78 charges this year, including New York’s case relating to an alleged hush-money payment, the federal indictment in the classified documents case, and now this hairy business about an attempted coup.

As bad as that all sounds, it gets worse the farther you read into the 45-page indictment. For anyone not adding this important document to their summer beach read list, here are three of the most disturbing lines:

“It’s all just conspiracy shit beamed down from the mothership.”

Most non-MAGA Americans knew the Trump team’s claims of massive voter fraud were garbage nonsense. Thousands of dead people did not vote, ballots filled out with Sharpie markers were not voided, no one changed or delete votes from Dominion machines, and there was nothing nefarious about the early-morning “ballot dumps” (aka when a populous county finishes counting votes and announces the results, as happens in every election ever). We also figured the Trump team knew all that as well, and the House committee hearings confirmed that multiple people explained to Trump multiple times that he had lost the election.

Still, it’s wild reading the following excerpt from an email sent by a campaign adviser, identified by CNN as Jason Miller, quoted on pages 13 and 14 of the indictment:

When our research and campaign legal team can’t back up any of the claims made by our Elite Strike Force Legal Team , you can see why we’re 0-32 on our cases. I’ll obviously hustle to help on all fronts, but it’s tough to own any of this when it’s all just conspiracy shit beamed down from the mothership.”

“Conspiracy shit beamed down from the mothership”! Yes, someone put those words in writing. All of history’s more successful fascists just rolled over in their graves, grumbling about amateur hour.

The document is filled with similar, if less colorful, conversations between Trump, his lawyers, campaign advisers, and other Republican allies openly discussing the fact that there was no evidence of fraud on a scale that would have changed the results, all while many of them were flagrantly lying to the American people and working to keep their guy in office anyway.

If only we could make this required reading for the one-third of Americans who still believe the 2020 election was stolen, according to polling earlier this summer.

“You’re too honest.”

If anyone in Trump’s camp could be said to be a true believer in the Big Lie that the 2020 election was stolen, it would be Trump himself. So entrenched in his own lies, he has simply refused to engage with anyone who challenges him on the evidence. So it was startling to see this short sentence, allegedly spoken by Trump to Vice President Mike Pence, seemingly demonstrating some brief self-awareness.

Pages 33 and 34 of the indictment detail multiple phone calls and meetings in which Trump repeated false claims of fraud and pressured Pence to overturn the election results on January 6, according to notes taken by the vice president at the time and shared with investigators. The two argued, with Pence asserting that he had no authority to change the outcome.

On January 1, the Defendant called the Vice President and berated him because he had learned that the Vice President had opposed a lawsuit seeking a judicial decision that , at the certification, the Vice President had the authority to reject or return votes to the states under the Constitution. The Vice President responded that he thought there was no constitutional basis for such authority and that it was improper. In response, the Defendant told the Vice President, “You’re too honest.”

If Trump thought Pence was “too honest,” the implication is that he knew that he himself was not being honest—a rare and telling chink in his seemingly impenetrable armor of alternate reality. In another conversation, Pence pointed out that Trump’s own legal counsel was telling him that Pence did not have the power to reject legitimately cast electoral votes. “The Defendant responded, ‘That’s okay, I prefer the other suggestion’ of the Vice President rejecting the electors unilaterally.” It seems Trump knew full well that what he was doing was wrong; he just didn’t care.

“That’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.”

We all know that January 6 was a close call for our democracy. As a violent mob invaded the Capitol and elected officials seemed poised to throw out our election results in favor of installing a dictator, the fate of our republic apparently rested on the very questionable shoulders of Mike Pence. Talk about terrifying. But chilling new details of Trump’s alleged plot to stay in office show just how close the country came to disaster.

According to the indictment, Trump pressured Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to send officials in several states a formal letter, “thus giving the Defendant’s lies the backing of the federal government and attempting to improperly influence the targeted states to replace legitimate Biden electors with the Defendant’s.” Rosen refused, but Trump enlisted help from Co-Conspirator 4, who has been widely identified as Jeffrey Clark. The two continued to coerce Rosen, threatening to replace him with Co-Conspirator 4 if he did not comply, according to the indictment.

Amidst this pressure campaign, a deputy White House counsel, who had previously told Trump, “There is no world, there is no option in which you do not leave the White House on January 20th,” argued with Co-Conspirator 4 about the plot:

The Deputy White House Counsel reiterated to Co-Conspirator 4 that there had not been outcome-determinative fraud in the election and that if the Defendant remained in office nonetheless, “there would be riots in every major city in the United States.” Co-Conspirator 4 responded, “Well, [Deputy White House Counsel], that’s why there’s an Insurrection Act.”

The Insurrection Act allows the president to deploy military forces within the United States to suppress rebellion. In the words of Jon Favreau, co-host of Pod Save America, “The plan was to stage a coup and then use the military to put down any protest that ensued.” Their plans apparently fell apart only when the entire Justice Department threatened to resign.

Trump is due to be arraigned in court on Thursday. The trial, expected to occur sometime next year and conclude before the election, cannot come fast enough.

(featured image: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)


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Erika Wittekind
Erika Wittekind (she/her) is a contributing writer covering politics and news and has two decades of experience in local news reporting, freelance writing, and nonfiction editing. Her hobbies and special interests include hiking, dancing in the kitchen, trying to raise empathetic teen boys, and keeping plants alive. Find her on Mastodon at @erikalyn.newsie.social.