Jack Smith, Tanya Chutkan: Key players in Trump’s January 6 indictment

Former US president faces federal charges over efforts to overturn 2020 election. Here are the key players in the case.

Donald Trump faces federal charges over his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 United States election in the latest legal reckoning for the former president.

The 45-page indictment, which was filed in Washington, DC, on Tuesday by Special Counsel Jack Smith, is Trump’s third criminal indictment since March.

He faces four federal counts, including conspiracy to defraud the US and obstruction of an “official proceeding”, related to the storming of the Capitol by a mob of his supporters on January 6, 2021, as Congress was meeting to certify the results of the vote that Trump had lost.

Trump, the current frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024, has denied any wrongdoing. He has been ordered to make an initial appearance in federal court in the US capital on Thursday.

Here is a look at the key players in the case:

Jack Smith

Smith, the special counsel who filed the federal criminal indictment against Trump, was appointed in November by Attorney General Merrick Garland to take over two Department of Justice investigations involving the former president.

“It was fuelled by lies,” Smith said on Tuesday about Trump’s efforts to overturn his November 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden. “Lies by the defendant targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the US government: a nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.”

Smith had earlier filed charges against Trump in a federal court in Florida over allegations he mishandled classified documents.

Smith, a Harvard Law School graduate who is not registered with any political party, started as a prosecutor in 1994 at the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office under Robert Morgenthau, who was best known for prosecuting mob bosses.

US Special Counsel Jack Smith
Smith was appointed in November to lead two federal investigations involving Trump [File: Peter Dejong/AP Photo]

In 1999, Smith started working at the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, and in 2008, he left to supervise war crime prosecutions at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

He returned to the Department of Justice in 2010 to head its Public Integrity Section until 2015. More recently, Smith returned to war crimes cases in The Hague, winning the conviction of Salih Mustafa, a former Kosovo Liberation Army commander who ran a prison where torture took place during the 1998-99 independence conflict with Serbia.

Smith’s former colleagues say he is a dogged investigator who is open-minded and unafraid to pursue the truth. “If the case is prosecutable, he will do it,” said Mark Lesko, a lawyer at the firm Greenberg Traurig LLP who worked with Smith when both were prosecutors at the US Attorney’s Office in New York. “He is fearless.”

But Trump, who continues to proclaim his innocence, has attacked Smith on social media, calling him “deranged Jack Smith”.

“Why did they wait so long? Because they wanted to put it right in the middle of my campaign. Prosecutorial Misconduct!” the former president posted on his Truth Social website on Tuesday.

Tanya Chutkan

Chutkan, the judge assigned to oversee the federal election interference case against Trump, has previously ruled against the former president and sharply condemned the riot at the US Capitol by his supporters.

Chutkan was nominated as a federal judge by former President Barack Obama in 2013. She was unanimously confirmed by the Senate the following year although she did face some Republican opposition in an earlier procedural vote.

She previously served as a public defender in Washington, DC, representing poor defendants in criminal cases. Chutkan later joined the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, where she defended clients in white-collar cases and represented plaintiffs in antitrust class-action lawsuits.

US District Judge Tanya Chutkan
Chutkan was nominated as a federal judge by former US President Barack Obama [File: US Courts/Handout via Reuters]

The criminal case will not be Chutkan’s first chance to rule on a matter involving Trump and the Capitol riot.

She rejected a lawsuit brought by Trump in 2021 seeking to block the committee in the House of Representatives that was investigating the attack from obtaining White House records, citing the legal doctrine of executive privilege.

“Presidents are not kings, and plaintiff is not president,” Chutkan wrote in her ruling, which was later upheld by the Supreme Court.

Chutkan also has overseen several cases involving people accused of participating in the Capitol attack. She is among judges in Washington’s federal court who have spurned some recommendations from prosecutors for lesser punishments.

“There have to be consequences for participating in an attempted violent overthrow of the government beyond sitting at home,” Chutkan told one defendant in 2021 as she rejected the government’s recommendation of home detention.

Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1962, Chutkan was the third Black woman to serve as a federal judge in the Washington, DC, federal trial court when she was confirmed. She graduated from George Washington University and later the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

Accused co-conspirators

While Trump is the only defendant charged in Tuesday’s indictment, the document mentions six co-conspirators that are not explicitly named.

But the indictment includes details that make it possible to identify some of them. It is unclear why they weren’t charged or whether they will be added to the indictment at a later date.

The likely “Co-Conspirator 1” and “Co-Conspirator 2” are lawyers Rudy Giuliani and John Eastman. The indictment quotes from their remarks at the “Stop the Steal” rally prior to the riot in which they urge then-Vice President Mike Pence to throw out the votes of valid electors.

A third lawyer, Sidney Powell, who appears to be “Co-Conspirator 3”, filed a lawsuit in Georgia that amplified false or unsupported claims of election fraud. The indictment quotes Trump as privately conceding Powell’s claims sounded “crazy”.

Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official who championed Trump’s false claims of election fraud, is likely “Co-Conspirator 4”.

“Co-Conspirator 5” appears to be lawyer Kenneth Chesebro, who the indictment says “assisted in devising and attempting to implement a plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification proceeding”.

“Co-Conspirator 6” is an unknown political consultant who also assisted with the fake electors plan.

A supporter lifts a "Trump 2024" sign as the candidate speaks from the podium.
Trump remains the clear frontrunner in the Republican 2024 presidential nomination race despite his legal woes [File: Lindsay DeDario/Reuters]
Source: News Agencies