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Trump Pleads 'Not Guilty' at Arraignment - Is This a Free Speech Case, or Something Else?

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Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate in the 2024 presidential race, faces the prospect of being on trial while running for office. Thursday, the former president pled 'not guilty' to four charges that he attempted to overthrow the 2020 election.

Protestors on both sides faced off outside the federal courthouse in Washington where he was arraigned. Trump entered the courthouse through an underground garage. His attorney Alina Habba called the charges a political witch hunt.

"There only has to be proof that, number one, President Trump believes that this election was not completely honest," said Habba. "And number two, Jack Smith has opened himself up to a can of worms that we can look at and really examine."

The arraignment was described as routine, but it was the third time in four months that Trump has been booked and processed. He pleaded not guilty to all the charges against him.

Those charges include:

  • Conspiracy to obstruct the United States.
  • Conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding – specifically, the January 6th proceeding of the presidential results.
  • Obstruction of and attempt to obstruct an official proceeding.
  • and Obstruction of Rights.

Altogether, the maximum potential penalties add up to more than 50 years. 

The judge ordered Trump not to discuss the case with any potential witnesses. Before boarding his plane for New Jersey, the former president contended the indictments are all an attempt to interfere with the 2024 election. 

"When you look at what's happening, this is a persecution of a political opponent – this was never supposed to happen in America," said Trump.

WATCH: Legal analyst, and former Assistant Federal Prosecutor for northern California, John O'Connor, suggests it may be impossible for Donald Trump to get a fair trial in D.C.

Trump's legal team will likely argue his actions are protected as free speech under the First Amendment. However, Dr. John Vile, dean and professor of political science at Middle Tennessee State University, told CBN's Faith Nation that argument does not necessarily apply.

"Speech is protected, action – well, illegal action is not," said Dr. Vile. "The emphasis here is not on speech – it's on action. It's on conspiracy. It's on obstruction." 

The next court date for this case is August 28th, just five days after the GOP's first primary debate. 

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About The Author


Brody Carter has been reporting and anchoring at CBN since 2021. In his time at CBN, he has found his stride in national news, including political and foreign affairs, extreme weather, and in-depth faith-based reporting. Brody frequently covers news for The 700 Club, Faith Nation, Newswatch, and Christian World News. Brody is passionate about news and displays standout dedication and work ethic in the field. Since starting at CBN, Brody has not only grown as a journalist but also as a person of faith thanks to close family, friends, co-workers, and the church body in Virginia Beach. He