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Trump to be arraigned on charges connected to attempts to overturn 2020 election

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Former President Donald Trump is returning to Washington today, where he'll appear before a federal judge on new criminal charges related to the January 6 attack.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Trump faces four new felony counts stemming from his efforts to hold on to power after the 2020 election. At the same time, he's running for president.

FADEL: NPR White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez is here to talk about how he's trying to balance those objectives and to pay for them. Good morning, Franco.

FRANCO ORDOÑEZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Leila.

FADEL: So what do we expect to happen in court today?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, Trump's being charged with four crimes, including leading a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and obstructing an official proceeding. He's expected to plead not guilty to all of them. His lawyer, John Lauro, talked to our own Sacha Pfeiffer on All Things Considered yesterday. And he says that Trump is protected by the First Amendment and that the Justice Department is trying to criminalize free speech.

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JOHN LAURO: It's a very straightforward defense, that he had every right to advocate for a position that he believed in and his supporters believed in.

ORDOÑEZ: Of course, Leila, prosecutors paint a much different picture.

FADEL: Right.

ORDOÑEZ: In the 45-page indictment, they say Trump can advocate for his position. They say he can even lie about the results. But they say he can't use the tools of government and enlist co-conspirators to try and prevent a core function of democracy. That's the peaceful transfer of power.

FADEL: And this case against Trump is one of many, and defending himself can't be cheap. How is Trump paying all his lawyers while also funding an expensive presidential campaign?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, it's all tangled together, and defending these cases has been a drag on the campaign. Trump's leadership committee has spent more than $40 million on legal costs just this year, according to The Washington Post. But he's making a lot of money, as well. The campaign uses these challenges to really flood the inboxes of supporters to help fund the defense. And we've seen the numbers, and it's been pretty fruitful.

FADEL: So it's been fruitful to his finances. He's making money off it. But what about to his campaign? What's his messaging on this - his third criminal indictment?

ORDOÑEZ: Well, it's kind of just all added to the mix. I mean, Trump points to the charges to push his claims he's a political victim. He's been on social media, even this morning, tweeting about free speech. And I'm sure he'll bring it up in Alabama and South Carolina, where he's expected to speak later this week. Leila, one popular line that he likes to repeat - and I bet we'll hear it soon - is that federal prosecutors are not coming after him, they're coming after you - he means the voters, of course - and that he's standing in the way. And it's a line that often gets a lot of applause.

FADEL: You know, his rivals have been reticent to speak against him, some even defending him. But we did hear from former Vice President Mike Pence. Has this indictment changed those dynamics now?

ORDOÑEZ: Yeah, we did hear some of the sharpest language yet from Pence yesterday.

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MIKE PENCE: President Trump asked me to put him over the Constitution, but I chose the Constitution and I always will. I really do believe that anyone who puts themself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States.

ORDOÑEZ: It's interesting because Pence has been resistant to speak out against Trump, and most of his rivals continue to be. And that's because of Trump's popularity with the Republican base. Both Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Tim Scott, for example, they accuse the Biden administration of weaponizing government. So it's going to be interesting to see whether Pence benefits from the tough talk or is politically hurt by it.

FADEL: White House correspondent Franco Ordoñez. Thank you, Franco.

ORDOÑEZ: Thanks, Leila. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.