Takeaway as Jan. 6 panel watches Trump’s ‘criminal conspiracy’

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The House panel investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, uprising on Capitol Hill presented some of its findings in a filing in federal court, and investigators said for the first time they have enough evidence to suggest then-President Donald Trump. crimes committed.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Trump will be charged, or even that the Justice Department will investigate. But the legal document offers a first glimpse to some of the panel’s likely findings, which are expected to be presented in the coming months. The committee interviewed more than 650 witnesses as he investigates the violent siege by Trump supporters, the worst attack on the Capitol in more than two centuries.

In the 221-page filing, the panel said it had evidence that the defeated Republican president and his associates engaged in a “criminal conspiracy” to prevent Congress from certifying Democrat Joe Biden’s election victory. Hundreds of Trump supporters violently fought their way past police that day and sent lawmakers into hiding, halting but not stopping certification.

The filing came in response to a lawsuit by John Eastman, a lawyer and law professor who consulted with Trump as he tried to overturn the election and is trying to withhold documents from the committee.

Eastman’s attorney, Charles Burnham, responded to the legal filing by defending Eastman’s efforts to protect his documents through solicitor-client privilege. Investigating lawmakers argue there is a legal exception allowing a lawyer to disclose communications when they might relate to ongoing or future crimes.

Takeaways from the January 6 committee court filing:

A CASE OF FRAUD AND TRAINING

The committee says it has evidence of three crimes, all of which are linked to Trump’s activity and coordination with Eastman on the eve of the insurgency.

In a “conspiracy to defraud the United States,” the committee argues that the evidence it has gathered supports the conclusion that Trump, Eastman and several other allies of the former president “entered into a deal to defraud the United States.” United “.

The panel says Trump and his allies interfered in the election certification process, spread misinformation about voter fraud, and pressured state and federal authorities to help with the effort.

The panel also claims that Trump obstructed a formal procedure, the joint session of Congress where Electoral College votes are certified. The committee said Trump attempted or succeeded in obstructing, influencing or obstructing the Jan. 6 ceremonial process and “did it in a corrupt manner” by pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to try to overturn the results then that he chaired the session. Pence refused to do so.

The final charge brought by the committee is “common law fraud” or misrepresentation of facts knowing they are false. Trump has embarked on a full-scale campaign to convince the public and federal judges that the 2020 election was fraudulent and that it was he, not Biden, who won the Electoral College tally. Election officials and courts across the country, as well as Trump’s attorney general, have dismissed those claims.

As an example of such fraud, the committee noted that a Justice Department official told Trump directly that a Facebook video posted by his campaign “purporting to show Georgian officials pulling suitcases of ballots vote under a table” was wrong, but the campaign continued to run. this. Georgian officials have also repeatedly denied this claim.

“The president continued to rely on this allegation in his efforts to nullify the election results,” the filing said.

LEGAL ARGUMENTS, NOT CHARGES

While the document marks the committee’s most formal effort to link the former president to a federal crime, Congress lacks the power to initiate criminal charges.

Still, members of Congress can officially refer crimes to the Justice Department, if they think they have enough evidence. It’s unclear whether the committee will take that step, and federal prosecutors already have much of the information.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democratic member of the panel, said Thursday, “The department shouldn’t wait for our committee.” Schiff urged the Justice Department to be more aggressive in its investigations into the insurgency.

The department is already investigating and prosecuting hundreds of rioters who broke into the Capitol. Attorney General Merrick Garland has repeatedly said prosecutors will follow the facts and the law wherever it takes them, stopping short of saying whether Trump is under investigation.

UNDER PRESSURE

Much of the committee’s brief focuses on Eastman’s expansive, ultimately unsuccessful efforts to convince Trump and the White House that there was a viable legal avenue for his baseless voter fraud allegations. In a series of memos before Jan. 6, Eastman urged Pence to step into his ceremonial role and stop certification of electoral votes, a step Pence had no legal authority to take and refused to attempt.

In an attempt to establish that Eastman was planning a crime, the committee included excerpts from witness transcripts in which former White House aides and other officials discussed Eastman’s efforts.

In an interview, Pence’s chief counsel described a meeting with Eastman at the White House on January 5.

“He came in and said, ‘I’m asking you to turn the voters out,'” Greg Jacob told the committee, adding that he took notes of the meeting at the same time. “That’s how he opened the meeting.”

A ‘SNAKE IN THE EAR’

On January 6, as Pence presided over the session of Congress and later hid inside the Capitol from rioters calling for his hanging, Eastman and Jacob exchanged a series of heated emails.

The emails provide an extraordinary window into the extent of the pressure campaign – which continued into the evening, even after the rioters were driven out and the exhausted Congress reconvened to certify the results .

As rioters stormed the Capitol, Pence’s chief counsel Jacob wrote to Eastman that “I respect your heart” but that the legal framework he was proposing was “essentially entirely made up.”

He added: “And thanks to your bulls – – we are now under siege.”

Eastman angrily replied that “the ‘siege’ is because YOU and your boss failed to do what was necessary.”

Jacob, who was sheltering with Pence in the Capitol at the time, apologized. But he didn’t let go.

“The advice provided has, intentionally or not, run like a snake in the ear of the President of the United States, the most powerful office in the entire world,” Jacob Eastman wrote. “And here we are.”

As Congress reconvened that evening, Eastman wrote to Jacob “implying” that Pence adjourn the count to delay certification. That didn’t happen, and Congress certified Biden the winner in the early hours of January 7.

Still, Eastman made it clear that there would be no hard feelings.

“When this is over we should have a nice bottle of wine over a nice dinner somewhere,” Eastman wrote in the middle of the exchanges.

NEW QUESTIONS FOR LEGISLATIVES

While Eastman repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights during his interview with the committee, members and staff still asked him hours of questions. The resulting transcript provides new clues about what lawmakers are investigating.

One of the biggest unanswered questions about Jan. 6 concerns what role GOP lawmakers may have played. The committee asked several House Republicans for information about their communications with Trump that day, and the transcript also shows interest in GOP senators.

Investigators asked Eastman if the senses. Ted Cruz of Texas and Josh Hawley of Missouri — the two senators who officially opposed the count that evening — had been asked to speak at the president’s rally on the morning of Jan. 6, at which Trump told angry crowd to “fight like hell”. And they asked if Eastman knew why the senators didn’t speak at the rally.

They also asked Eastman if he had any conversations with Cruz “regarding efforts to change the outcome of the 2020 election,” and about a conversation he previously said he had with the US senator. UtahMike Lee.

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Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

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