None of this week's grand jury counts related to the 2020 election directly accuse former President Trump of responsibility for the violence his supporters committed on Jan. 6, 2021. The indictment said that Trump “exploited the disruption” on Jan. 6 to further his goal of stopping the election certification, but it didn’t charge him with actually encouraging or inciting the mob that stormed the Capitol, the New York Times reports. The charging document made clear that a group of aides and lawyers surrounding Trump were aware that he was playing with fire by pushing forward with his plan to pressure his vice president, Mike Pence, to throw the election his way during the Jan. 6 congressional proceeding.
In one scene described in the indictment, a senior adviser to Trump warned lawyer John Eastman days before the Capitol was attacked that his plan to have Trump strong-arm Pence was “going to cause riots in the streets.” Eastman “responded that there had previously been points in the nation’s history where violence was necessary to protect the republic.” In December, the House committee investigating Jan. 6 recommended that the Justice Department charge Trump with several federal crimes, including inciting insurrection. Smith’s prosecutors did not include that charge in the indictment. Instead, they focused on counts that detailed Trump’s attempts to remain in power in the weeks leading up to the attack and how he took his time in issuing a plea for calm to his supporters once the attack was underway. Trump’s lawyers have signaled that he intends to use a First Amendment defense against the charges.