Last summer, Donald Trump was charged by Special Counsel Jack Smith for his role in the Capitol insurrection on January 6, 2021. The statute that he is charged with violating dates back to the Civil War Reconstruction era.

Smith charged Trump with violating three criminal statutes that he allegedly violated as a result of efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

Trump’s legal team was expecting two of the statutes: conspiracy to defraud the government and obstruction of an official proceeding.

However, the third statute cited was from Section 241 of Title 18 of the U.S. Code, which makes it a crime for people to “conspire to injure, oppress, threaten or intimidate any person” in the “free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States.”

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The modern application of the law indicates that the former president could not only be charged for disrupting the election but for actually rigging it himself. This has been precedented in 20th-century cases involving ballot box tampering and casting fake votes.

Congress approved the statute after the Civil War, hoping to grant federal agents the authority to go after Southern whites who engaged in terrorism to prevent African Americans from voting.

Various lower and upper court decisions over the years have held that, by perpetuating voter fraud conspiracies and attempting to strip Americans of their Constitutional right to select state and federal officials, the perpetrator has engaged in a criminal act punishable by jail.

Smith has been gathering evidence of Trump’s involvement in theories of election fraud and in the events of January 6 for years. He has acquired recordings of phone conversations between Trump and his allies, wherein the former president tried to bully officials into “finding” enough votes to beat President Joe Biden.

The federal election fraud case was scheduled to begin in March but that is on hold as the Supreme Court is set to decide a number of Trump’s appeals.

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