- The House of Representatives says it has evidence that Trump violated two federal laws related to the January 6, 2021 uprising.
- But legal experts say Trump may have strong legal protections.
- The Commission used a series of public hearings to present evidence in support of its allegations.
When the House of Representatives elected committee began its 10-month investigation into the January 6 uprising, lawmakers set out to uncover and present evidence of the first interruption of the peaceful transfer of power in American history.
Now that the committee is in the midst of its June hearings, another goal is in sharper focus: to diligently show why they believe former President Donald Trump violated several federal laws in the events leading up to and after the uprising; a federal judge ruled in March that Trump “probably” committed a crime.
The commission has explicitly stated that it has evidence that then-President Trump and his campaign staff made “illegal” and “unconstitutional” attempts to thwart congressional elections, attesting to Joe Biden’s victory and being involved in a criminal conspiracy to defraud. United States”. states. “
“President Trump’s advisers knew what he was saying was untrue and told him directly and repeatedly,” said Liz Cheney, deputy chairman of the committee, in a video released by the committee Wednesday before the third hearing.
The commission has no power to prosecute the former president. But he can refer the matter to the Justice Department and appear to be exposing a methodological case that could harm Trump’s political stance and provide information on a future criminal case against him.
Three legal experts told Insider how the Justice Department could build its case to bring charges against Trump, but noted that the former president may have strong legal protections.
Government Conspiracy Conspiracy
A House of Representatives selection committee said in court documents from March 2 that there was evidence that Trump and his campaign team had violated a federal law by participating in a “criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.”
If the Justice Department, possibly through the U.S. prosecutor in Washington, accuses Trump of violating the law, federal prosecutors will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the former president deliberately agreed with others to try to obstruct the certification process. Congress through fraud or dishonesty, said John K. Barrett, a former associate independent adviser in the Iran-Against investigation.
“The challenge for prosecutors, of course, is to prove every element of the crime. And one element of these various charges is the defendant’s criminal intent, mental state and guilty mind,” said Barrett, a law professor at St. John’s University in New York.
If federal prosecutors receive evidence that Trump has personally admitted to his proxy or in a written statement that he honestly lost the election, that would strengthen the case.
Legal experts told Insider that the biggest challenge for the Justice Department in prosecuting Trump will be to dispel the idea that he sincerely believes that election fraud occurred during the 2020 presidential election, allegations that officials and aides testify that they told Trump they were groundless and “nonsense.” “If prosecutors cannot prove that there was an ‘intention to defraud’ beyond a reasonable doubt, their case will not continue.
The commission tried to illustrate that Trump had violated the law by releasing video testimonies of former Trump advisers who told the president not to declare victory early, as he did, and that there was no evidence of electoral fraud. The commission has not uncovered any evidence that Trump may not have believed the conspiracies he is pursuing.
Even without this evidence, a case could rely on the concept of “deliberate blindness”, which can be used against an accused who is trying to avoid or ignore facts that may involve him. This approach was proposed by former US Attorney Barbara McQuaid.
“Obstruction of official proceedings”
The House of Representatives election commission also claims that Trump violated another law by allegedly trying to “obstruct, influence or obstruct a formal United States procedure.”
Prosecutors could prove he violated the law by pressuring then-Vice President Mike Pence to suspend the process of certifying congressional elections or telling his followers that the election was “criminal” and heading to the Capitol, where certification is about to begin. Prosecutors may also use evidence of Trump trying to pressure Georgia election officials to overturn election results by claiming he violated that law and another Georgia law by engaging in “criminal incitement to committing electoral fraud ‘.
This is the strongest legal argument they can make against Trump compared to other charges because they have amassed a lot of evidence, Renato Mariotti, a former federal prosecutor, told Insider.
“The commission has provided a lot of evidence that Donald Trump has been told there is no election fraud and that he has lost honestly and fairly, but he has chosen to reject that,” he said. “And it is well established that the counting of votes on January 6 was an official proceeding.”
Federal prosecutors have accused many rebels of violating the law, making it likely that Trump will face the charge if he is eventually indicted, legal experts told Insider.
Since the January 6 uprising, federal authorities have detained more than 800 people in connection with the attack on the Capitol. More than 280 of them are accused of “obstructing corruption, influencing or obstructing official proceedings” as of June 8th, according to the Ministry of Justice.
The possible defense of Trump
Mariotti told the Insider that Trump could plead not guilty to trying to obstruct or obstruct a formal process in the United States and simply follow the advice of his legal counsel, John Eastman, who has repeatedly urged Pence to reject voters from some states that Trump is lost to throw elections.
“It is difficult to convince the jury that someone who followed the lawyer’s advice acted corruptly,” he said.
Some legal experts have hinted that Trump could plead not guilty to insanity to avoid prosecution if convicted. Former Attorney General William Barr testified before the commission that Trump had “broken away from reality”, citing Trump’s belief that there was voter fraud, although his advisers told him there was none. But other legal experts warn that this would be extremely unlikely.
“I don’t think it’s very likely that if the indictment and trial are accepted, Donald Trump will defend himself as insane or mentally ill and therefore not criminally guilty,” Barrett said. “I think Trump would have largely defended himself the way he behaved. He would say I won. It was a theft. You know, bad things happen to prevent me from taking office.
The House Election Commission has interviewed more than 1,000 people, including members of Trump’s family such as his daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner. He also issued several subpoenas and reviewed thousands of documents related to the January 6 uprising. Legal experts told Insider that these public hearings could put more pressure on the Justice Department to decide whether to prosecute Trump.
Earlier this week, Attorney General Merrick Garland told reporters that he and federal prosecutors working on the Jan. 6 investigation are watching public hearings in Congress.
Shannon Wu, a former federal prosecutor in Washington, told Insider that there were likely concerns in the Justice Department that a possible accusation of the former president could exacerbate growing political tensions in America.
“I think he is really worried that such an explosive, unprecedented case could lead to accusations from the Ministry of Justice that he is political,” Wu said.
But Wu added that the lack of accusations against the former president could have much worse consequences.
“If you don’t try to hold Trump accountable,” Wu added, “then you’re really threatening the whole foundation of the country and the judiciary.”